Northern Ireland news

Hydebank inmates allowed to take part in popular parkruns

Hydebank Wood College in south Belfast has around 84 male inmates. Picture by Hugh Russell.

INMATES at a youth detention centre are being allowed out to take part in parkruns to help their rehabilitation.

A small number of risk-assessed and supervised young people have been participating in the popular 5K run series.

It is hoped this will help reduce the likelihood of reoffending and prepare them to re-integrate into society.

The move follows the launch last month of a parkrun inside Magilligan Prison in Co Derry.

Parkrun events typically take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and are free and open to everyone.

Prisoners at Magilligan were joined on their first weekly run in January by a group from Hydebank.

Those young men have since taken part in the Ormeau parkrun in south Belfast and there are plans to allow them to visit others.

Hydebank Wood in south Belfast re-branded itself as a college in 2015 after a critical inspection report. It was the first young offenders' institution in Britain and Northern Ireland to try such an approach.

It has about 84 male inmates, each of whom is either on remand or serving a sentence for a criminal offence. They share the site with about 61 women prisoners.

Governor Richard Taylor is credited with helping take a facility once dogged with problems to become one where prisoners are now called 'students', staff are called by their first names and almost all inmates spend their day involved in training or education.

Goats and sheep are kept and cared for by inmates in the grounds and this animal therapy, along with two chocolate brown Labradors donated to the prison, are credited with having a massive impact on the mental health of some of Hydebank's most troubled women.

Mr Taylor said students are allowed out on occasion to take part in a range of running activities including half marathons, parkruns and other invited events.

He said involvement in external activities helps support students' physical and mental wellbeing and continued resettlement work prior to release.

Further benefits include social inclusion, promoting positive community engagement and building self-esteem and confidence.

Mr Taylor said there are plans to continue engaging with parkruns, although locations "may be a considered factor for both staff and students".

"Each student is risk assessed for eligibility to participate in external events and in addition the sports and recreation staff recommend on fitness, motivation and suitability. Staff provide appropriate and reasonable supervision."

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