Ex-offender turned mentor receives award

An ex-offender has received a prestigious award from HRH The Princess Anne, in recognition of his outstanding dedication, skill and creativity in encouraging others to turn away from crime.

Howard Craven, from south Wales, turned his own life around after being involved with crime and substance misuse, and became a prison mentor. Now he has been recognised with a Butler Trust award for his work helping serving prisoners to tackle problems that he overcame in his own life.

Howard's colleagues at G4S-managed HMP Parc near Bridgend, nominated him, describing his work as "exceptional" and prisoners, who have come through custody and tackled their substance misuse, readily acknowledge that he has changed their lives.

Head of family interventions at the prison, Corin Morgan-Armstrong, said: "Howard spent prolonged periods of his early life on the opposite side of the criminal justice system, which sets him apart, not only in the changes he has achieved in his own life, but that he has succeeded in doing the same with so many others.

"He teaches by example, as his earlier life was so similar to many of those men he now works with. He has been stuck in dark places but is proof that a prisoner can turn his life around and rebuild what many others would think of as a lost cause.

"There are countless examples of prisoners who have disengaged only to have a 'quiet word' with Howard that in turn leads to an epiphany and the motivation to change is sparked. Howard manages all this with deeply disarming humility.

"Howard's work has won national accolades and he recently helped to establish Parc's Endeavour Unit – the first prison unit in England and Wales for ex-servicemen and first time in custody offenders – which was visited by the Head of the British Army. I'm delighted that it's now Howard's turn to receive the recognition he so richly deserves."

One prisoner, Paul, an ex-serviceman, said: "He really does care and will always do as much as it takes to ensure that any support I, or anybody else, needs is in place and most importantly… He has enabled me to change my life, how can I ever thank him?"

Howard Craven said: "Prisoners often engage with me first, rather than some of the traditional help available, because I have been there and done it. I see myself as a link between the prisoner and the outside world.

"Prisoners' families are often the unspoken victim of crime and at the same time can be a major support in preventing re-offending. I tell the men I work with that they are not alone and I encourage them to keep in touch and I try to be available when they need no matter what time of day or night.

"I am not the same person I was before. People can change. We are all on the same side, we all want a safer society. I would like us to work together more. I believe when you help one person in prison you are in reality helping many others in society."