On 18th September 2019, Brunel University London hosted the first ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Programme (GUDTP) funded Forensic Mental Health Conference. Attracting UK and international experts, the conference focussed on the role of faith, difference and diversity in prisoner rehabilitation with Muslim men, and examined how best practice can be shared across fields. National and international speakers representing academia, applied and forensic practice shared their expertise.
Topics included the role of faith for men with sexual convictions across different faith groups, exploring the foundations of collaborative working, innovative ways in which current prisoners are being engaged for rehabilitative and treatment purposes, and the impact of the wider context and climate upon the individual. Individual and collective challenges that current and former prisoners face when returning to the community were highlighted with similarities of experiences at individual, family and community levels addressed throughout the day.
Following on from the conference, the organisers held a closed capacity development exercise with the conference contributors. This has now been developed further into a Capacity Building Document, outlining potential future directions for this work.
Muslim men are consistently overrepresented in imprisonment statistics. Post-release, they are routinely disempowered and often marginalised by their experiences of incarceration. This situation highlights the need for greater understanding and, thereafter, a holistic model of wellbeing that promotes empowerment through the creative potential of the individual spirit, and the reassurance of community belonging. In practical terms, capacity development is widely regarded as the driving force behind collective human potential.
As capacity development is an interactive, iterative process, it must pose credible questions, present realistic solutions, and examine potential outcomes through accurate measure of effect.
Following a one-day international conference and subsequent planning workshop concerning the challenges and opportunities facing male Muslim former prisoners, this Capacity Building Document (CBD) unites a range of community-based practitioners, global subject matter experts, and academic specialists.
We advocate a holistic strength-based approach that promotes long-term wellbeing amongst Muslim male former prisoners, their families, and their communities. Our method reflects a spiritually informed, culturally sensitive micro-meso-macro conceptual framework that locates the individual firmly at the centre of rehabilitative support network.
Consequently, a series of person-centred recommendations are presented as the foundation of an overall strategy to encourage desistance from crime and promote successful reintegration.
The CBD is intended to minimise the harmful social consequences associated with the overrepresentation of Muslim males in the Criminal Justice System. We maintain our recommendations would be most effectively realised by capitalising upon existing resources and pursuing a strengths-based approach. Thus, we advocate continual engagement with key stakeholders and the furtherance of collaborative, mutually responsive relationships. These stakeholders include but are not limited to: community-based grassroots organisations; faith-based practitioners; criminal justice professionals, and academic specialists.
Our recommendations follow a six-step approach:
- Engagement and partnership building with key stakeholders
- Develop outcomes measures
- Develop and implement pilot project
- Project expansion to additional cities
- Develop national guidelines
- Implementation of national project
We believe communities are sustained by the leaders they create from within. It follows; therefore, that with the benefit of enhanced wellbeing and the guidance of appropriate support mechanisms, the motivated individual can realise his/her capacity to become an empowered leader of change.
It is our intention to begin Step One (Engagement and Partnership Building) of the six-step approach by the end of 2020. Our success will be entirely dependent upon the relationships we sustain. And so, we encourage those organisations and individuals interested in learning more about our work and supporting this project to get in touch.
Our thanks to our Funders, and the Conference and Capacity Building Document Contributors: Dr Raymond Hamden, Professor Belinda Winder, Associate Professor Nicholas Blagden; Nancy Yamout, Maya Yamout, Imam Imran Vohra, Ferzana Dakri, and Dr Tariq Mahmood Awan.
Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project
- Rahmanara Chowdhury joined Brunel University London in October 2017 as a Doctoral Researcher in the College of Health and Life Sciences. She has been awarded a fully-funded ESRC scholarship on the Grand Union Doctoral Training Programme. She is supervised by Professor Louise Mansfield, Professor Belinda Winder (Nottingham Trent University) and Professor Tess Kay (Stirling University).
Her research is titled ‘Addressing health and well-being through alleviating domestic violence and abuse in the UK Muslim population’. Utilising interpretative phenomenological methods, she seeks to identify earlier points of intervention for addressing the issue of domestic violence and abuse within this population group. Rahmanara is actively involved in raising awareness within this field and is often involved in grassroots initiatives and providing cultural consultation and training services.