PACT: Dealt an ‘ACE’


Over the last 18 months, Pact has been piloting a new approach to supporting young men in prison at Brinsford Young Offenders’ Institution in Staffordshire.

Our ‘Dealt an ACE’ project provides specialist support for young men who have experienced significant trauma in their childhoods and who are exhibiting violent, harmful, or self-destructive behaviours.

Research shows that men in prison are much more likely than men outside to have suffered ‘adverse childhood experiences’ (ACEs). The lives of many of these young men have been incredibly tough and shaped by various forms of abuse, familial substance misuse, imprisonment of loved ones, experience of the care system, and educational difficulties.

Dealt an ACE offers men help and hope whilst serving their sentence, through a structured programme of individual support designed to build up their resilience and skills to navigate life’s challenges.

This is what Kyle* said about how the programme had helped him:

"This is my first time in prison. I asked Pact's Angie* for help when I saw her on the prison wing. My mental health wasn't great, and I felt angry all the time. I didn't know what to do with it. The best part of the support is how it makes me feel. It cheers up my day – I actually look forward to the sessions. There's a trust. We have good conversations about anger, stress, and relationships. It's helped me feel like I've got a plan, and I'm moving forward.”

“Angie brings Pact booklets, and we talk through them together – we've met regularly for three months. Now, I want to help as many people as possible to get ready to leave prison. I've been working on myself – I've done a drug misuse course, a forklift driving course, and I play in a football team. I've got a strong relationship with my parents. I ring them every week, and they visit when they can.”

“The hardest thing about coming to prison was hearing my mum say, 'I'll support you this time, but not again." That makes me want to change. I've seen my whole family struggle with me being in prison. I used to help my brother financially, but I can't in here.”

“I feel like since getting help from Pact, I appreciate things more. We've done work around managing my anger – I feel more mature, like I care about values and manners. I feel more focused on getting out, going home to my bed, and having beans on toast with my mum. I just wanted to say thank you. Keep doing this; it helps a lot.”

Through Pact’s Dealt an ACE project, we uphold the dignity and worth of the young men whom walk alongside in solidarity. Each journey is co-designed with the person we are supporting, in a spirit of subsidiarity. It is wonderful to see the fruits of this work which Kyle describes in his own words.

*names have been changed

Photograph by Andy Aitchison