White Ribbon Day
White Ribbon Scotland
White Ribbon Scotland (WRS) is a registered charity working to educate men about violence against women in our society and recruit those who do not perpetrate violence against women as volunteers. They refer to their volunteers as 'Speakers'.
Speakers are trained to have a greater knowledge of what violence against women (VAW) entails and the fact that gender inequality is both a cause and consequence of VAW. Each Speaker attends a one-day training session delivered by WRS staff which covers a range of topics, including:
- What is VAW?
- Why Men must be involved.
- Why VAW affects men as well as women.
- Gender Equality and why it benefits men as well as women.
- The Background to the White Ribbon Campaign.
- The effects of Peer Pressure and how it can be used positively.
- Bystander Theory.
During the past year we engaged with two establishments which form part of the prison estate in Scotland. We renewed our existing links with staff at HMP Low Moss and we developed a new association with staff at HMP Kilmarnock. Both were keen to have staff members attend our Speaker training and both enquired if we could include prisoners in the training day. The prisoners in question were Peer Support Prisoners. These are prisoners entrusted to provide peer support to other prisoners who may be overcoming some difficult issues such as coming to terms with a first custodial sentence or coping with being incarcerated whilst dealing with family concerns.
At the respective training days three prisoners attended at HMP Low Moss and four attended at HMP Kilmarnock. All were trained alongside members of staff from the establishments and all were treated the same as staff members. The experience at the training events was that the prisoners were extremely interested in our campaign and participated throughout. At the end of the Speaker training participants are always advised to say what they think and withdraw from volunteering if they do not want to represent White Ribbon Scotland. None of the peer support prisoners withdrew and all expressed their enthusiasm for the role.
In discussions the prisoners outlined that they anticipated being in a position to deliver inputs to small groups and that the opportunity to address campaign messages on a one to one basis could arrive in a number of ways. It is clear that these prisoners are in a unique position to raise issues and have discussions with the wider prison population in a manner which White Ribbon Scotland staff cannot.
Peer support prisoners tend to be chosen from a cohort of prisoners who are serving lengthy custodial sentences. This means that they have been responsible for significant crimes. However all are potentially subject to release at some point in the future, which raises the issue of whether we would and indeed could continue to have them working as volunteers with our campaign on their release should they wish to do so. It is our intention that we would continue their role at that time and this is an issue we will discuss in due course with representatives of both the Scottish Prison Service and Criminal Justice Social Workers who in Scotland assume the traditional role of probation officers.