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Jogging with Jody: After prison, can you build a new life on your own?

In this video, Dr Ruth Armstrong introduces the documentary 'Jogging with Jody' which is based on her research into the role of volunteer mentors.
My research looked at life post-release for 48 men released from prison in America. One of the things that they said was most important to them was the work of volunteer mentors. What I did was I looked at how volunteer mentors were trained, and then I looked at the reality of why, and when, and how their work was effective. And I saw that there was a distinction between what they were trained and told to do, by the criminal justice system, and what they actually did in practice. So I wanted to produce a film that showed the realities of what it looks like when someone comes alongside somebody in a way that can support what we know about the desistance process.
The main message that we can take away from the film, I think, is - David Hulme puts it best, obviously, and he says, “there is no chance of good without a risk of ill.” And so I think within the film, what you see is that Jody takes some risks to show Josh that she trusts him. I am not saying, go and do silly things. There are parameters to appropriate trust. But what she does is comes alongside him in his life and shows him by trusting him - not because he has proved himself to be trustworthy - but because she thinks that he has the potential to be trustworthy. So she just trusts him. She takes him running lots of evenings.
She says, I am there. Call me when things go wrong. Just because things have gone wrong, I’m not going to think you’re untrustworthy, and you don’t get my trust. So she comes alongside him, does the normal things in life. And then he moves into that trust. And the crucial thing that I think I wanted to show was that when someone has this platform of assumed trust, what it means they can do is that in those moments of desistance where things mess up - we know it happens - they can be honest about that and ask for help. It’s very difficult in the criminal justice system to put your hands up and say, I’ve messed up, or I’ve used drugs again.
I don’t think that mentoring does stop people reoffending. I think what mentoring does is provide somebody who can support someone moving into new areas of personhood and being, in a world that they might not be very familiar with.
At first, I was a bit nervous. And she put me so at ease. It was great. And we had so much in common. I don’t know. Before I met him, I just - I’m not going to lie. You have an image in your head of what you think they might look like. You are anxious, but it’s normal. It makes you a bit more excited. And I think if you didn’t feel that, then there’s something missing.
Insane, my ass. Kiss my ass. It’s just something new, that I’m going out running. The only time I do running is when I’m running from the police.
But I am like Linford Christie. But the white version. [LAUGHING] Who runs off with a chocolate bar. I feel really comfortable with Josh. I did as soon as I met him. Josh is a polite boy. He’s the kind of boy that will open the door for you, and he really cares about his mum. I remember going back to probation and saying to Hannah, “I really like him”, from the first meeting. And she said, “Wait a minute. Just remember what he’s capable of. Let me just bring you down a minute.” And I kind of went, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. True.” I was a good kid really, till about 13. My dad left my mum, which I found was a bit hard.
I was crying and everything because I used to go everywhere with my dad. I didn’t care what anyone said or done. Mum would try to tell me off. I would just jump out the bedroom window or whatever. You know what I mean? She couldn’t control it, even though she tried. And then I just got into loads of trouble and everything. Burgling houses and stuff like that, and just being a little terror on the estate. I had a few short prison sentences from when I was 16 to 18, just doing six months and four months. I wasn’t learning my lesson. But then I got eight years. Four year, two months I done out of it.
That made me realise, you’ve got to sort your life out and change now. You know what I mean? So I come here, got out and then started up with a mentoring thing. I grew up on a council estate. And I’ve seen good guys choose the wrong path. If I could be a part of somebody not going back to prison and creating an amazing life, a new, complete new path, then I will. And yeah, I think it’s a great opportunity. You ready to get beat? Oh! Did you just take it there? Yeah, I took it there. I went back to asking Josh about his offences one day. I don’t know what came over me, to be honest.
We were on a run, and we were having a bit of a laugh about some of the stupid stuff that he’s done. I said, “You should have picked something else because that’s clearly not - you’re not good at it!” You know, telling me when he’s ended up in ditches with nothing, and dogs sniffing him out, and losing his glasses. And I thought, you know what? Now is the right time to just ask him about his offence. But he then opened up and starting talked about what happened and whatnot. The main offence that I went in for is I robbed someone’s house while they were in. So we threatened them in the house.
I don’t know how I could do that to somebody. But at the time, I wasn’t bothered. It was just about getting some money for me. I didn’t care about anybody else. When I was that age then, I didn’t even care what happened to me. Anything could have happened to me. I didn’t care. So why should I care about anyone else if I don’t care about myself? Why should I care about anyone else? It was nice to know that he was comfortable enough to tell me.
I just listened really when he was speaking because I just thought, wow, for him to actually start saying all these things, he knows that I trust him and that I like him enough to know that I’m not going to judge him. And that’s important to me, to know that he knows that I’m not going to judge him. Before I met him, I was told that he was doing all right. But he took a dip. And in that dip, he’d been hanging about at houses where they’re taking drugs and drinking. And his test came back that he’d been taking drugs, and he just needs some sort of guidance kind of thing. I think it was Hannah, my probation.
It was her that made me realise that people do actually care. She heard a record about me that’s like, “He’s uncontrollable, he’s got a positive drug test.” If it was someone else, they would have just recalled me straight away. I think I knew that she cared because she didn’t want me to actually go back to jail. She just took the right step and said, “Look, why aren’t you going home? You’re going to get told off by your mum.” My mum found out. She went mad, she grounded me. Because I think she knew that I wanted to change, but I was just finding it hard. And I think that she took the right step.
As of today, I can obviously now tell you that… I’m no longer…? You’re no longer registered. That’s to your credit, Josh. It’s because of the hard work and effort that you’ve put in. And obviously, other agencies that worked alongside you to provide you with that support. But it’s now what you do going forward. And that responsibility that you’ve got to maybe give something back, contribute. [LAUGHING] You know? And live a better life. Josh started working. And unfortunately, he missed the date for a payday. He had to wait weeks until he got paid. And he kind of went on a little downward spiral, where he was calling me, saying, “Do they want me to reoffend? Because I’ve got no money.”
I thought, right, I need to see him because I don’t know what’s going on in his head. This day, my mate come and he was like, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna go out robbing something. Do you want to come?” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, sweet. I’m coming. I need some money, I’m on my arse, I need some money. I can’t survive out here with no money.” I said, “I understand. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had no money myself. I know how stressful it can be. But three weeks or six years in prison. What do you want?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, but…”
And it was literally - I felt like I had to kind of show him how far he’s come and award him on that. And he come back about half ten, it was, he come back. “Right are you coming now?” he said. I said, “Nah, I’m not coming.” He’s like, “Why?” I said, “What’s the point? If I do this, and then go back to jail for what? For a couple of hundred quid or something, couple of grand or something? And then I’m doing, what, at least double figures. So no, no chance I am doing nothing. I’m staying in my house tonight.” He’s like, “Oh, you’re a shitbag. You said that you’re going to go out, and now you’re not going out?”
I said, “I don’t care what you say. I’m not doing it.” And I said - I just said to him, “Did you just hear yourself?” I said, “Do you know how well you did to not even - to turn him away?” And all I could think of was just praising him on that, because to me, that’s the biggest thing ever. Do you know? Like, “You had it there to go and do it. And you said no. You made a choice.” And I’m trying to make him realise, “You made a choice, Josh. And you made a brilliant one.” And I think he was more concentrating on the fact that, “Oh, I slipped back into that kind of mentality.”
But I’m saying, “Do you know what? You gained something massive from this. You made a choice, and you made the right one. I’m so proud of you.” And it was so nice because we walked back, and I felt like he’d finally understood, you know? I’m used to just hanging about with friends that commit crime. I haven’t got friends that will go out and try new things. So the mentor thing, it’s getting me out and making myself more confident. I never knew working was so good. It just makes you feel good. Well, it makes me feel good anyway. So we’re all setting up a five-a-side team through work.
And it was Jody that made me realise that, I know if I go with people from work, then it’s straight to the gym and coming home. When you think about things to do, no one really thinks of the theatre. I mean, if they do, they think of musical theatre. I know a lot of the guys are like, “I’m not going to watch someone dancing around.” What I thought, coming to the theatre, I thought it was going to be like, I’m going to be bored. I’m just sitting here for an hour or something. When I got here, it was good. My mates used to say, when they used to see me, they’d be like, “Where you going?”
“Going out with my mentor.” “Who’s your mentor?” “A woman from probation.” “Why are you going out with her? Why are you doing that?” “Because I want to, innit?” What’s really hard is trying not to create a friendship as such. And I say that only because, when I leave Josh, I don’t want to feel like something’s missing. I want to feel like something’s gained. Do you know what I mean? So getting to that point where it’s like, right, you trust me. You’re comfortable with me. We have a good time together. We’ve made lots of progress. But wait a minute. I’m not your friend. This relationship won’t continue after we exit you.
I miss going to see Jody. But we do stay in contact. And if I do need anything or if I’ve ever got a problem, I can always call on her. If I still need her, she’ll always be there. This is the longest I’ve ever been out of jail. I don’t even think about committing crime anymore. I’m not trying to sprint it’s just my long legs.
One of the ways that the criminal justice system has been found to be most effective in helping people to stop offending is through mentoring. ‘Jogging with Jody’ is a short documentary based on Ruth Armstrong’s research into the role of volunteer mentors. In this step, you’ll have an opportunity to watch this documentary as well as hear from Ruth about the research that inspired its creation.
‘Jogging with Jody’ tells the story of Josh during his first year of release from prison. It focuses on the relationship he develops with his Community Led Initiatives mentor, Jody, and shows the struggles Josh faces as he tries to go straight.
Josh has served numerous prison sentences, the last of which was an eight-year sentence extended for public protection. He is registered as a priority prolific offender. The police advised his probation officer that she would probably recall him within three hours of release from prison. This is his story of the ups and downs of life after prison, how he started to work with a volunteer mentor, Jody, and how the trust they built helped him to be honest about his present and hopeful for his future.
After you have watched the film you may like to watch ‘Jogging with Jody – the experts view’ in which leading criminologists (including myself and Joanna Shapland), Josh’s employer and the people behind the mentoring scheme, comment on the issues that are raised in this story. You can find a link to this video at the bottom of this step under ‘SEE ALSO’.
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