High Sheriff’s Award for lockdown letters
EDP’s Integrated Substance Misuse Team (ISMS) at HMP The Verne in Dorset were part of a team that were presented with the High Sheriff of Dorset’s Award in recognition of the invaluable support that was given to prisoners during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The High Sheriff of Dorset & the Governor of The Verne
Before the coronavirus pandemic, AA Volunteers were visiting Residents of HMP The Verne every fortnight to hold a fellowship group. These groups were attended by Residents who enjoyed the encouragement, support and fellowship these meetings provided.
When the country locked down for the first time, the valuable AA fellowship meetings stopped at all establishments. However, three Dorset-based AA volunteers made a commitment to regularly write in to the Residents of HMP The Verne who previously attended the fellowship meetings. These letters were facilitated by the EDP ISMS team with the emphasis being to encourage, support, offer wisdom and to remind Residents of the joys and freedom of abstinence. The commitment shown by the three AA volunteers in faithfully writing in every week to HMP The Verne has been outstanding and has been recognised by the High Sheriff of Dorset who made a special presentation at HMP The Verne in March 2021. The award ceremony was attended by Deputy Governor Andy Tanner as well as the Verne EDP ISMS team, Richard Homer, Lucy Bradley and Hatti Amos.
A year after the first national lockdown the letters are still being regularly sent in to encourage, support and challenge Residents in their recovery. Word got round the prison of these letters and now Residents who previously did not attend AA, both in or out of prison, are themselves wanting to embrace abstinence and asked to be on the list of letter recipients. From that small group of initial Residents attending the AA fellowship meetings at HMP The Verne, there are now more individuals that receive the letters than attended the initial meetings!
Naturally the AA volunteers do not write in for anything other than for a selfless purpose and to see people with alcohol problems in prison supported, but their commitment, particularly in these restricted times, has been outstanding and has positively impacted many people with alcohol issues at HMP The Verne. As such the High Sheriff of Dorset provided the Award in recognition of the collective and voluntary effort of the community in supporting those most in need during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Award will be displayed in the Visits hall at HMP The Verne.