Switchback is an intensive mentoring programme helping 18-30 year old male offenders – Trainees – make real, long-lasting change after their release from prison.

Switchback is a London based charity that runs an intensive one-to-one mentoring programme for 18-30 year old men being released from prison. The aim is to change the way offenders think about and participate in society, enabling them to lead stable, rewarding lives. Switchback Mentors - who are paid, full time and highly skilled - stick by their ‘Trainees’ as they move through the prison gate, encouraging and challenging them to take control of all aspects of their lives, no matter how long it takes. 

What are the issues?

It takes a huge amount of hard work and determination to change your life after prison and Trainees make an extraordinary choice to take the difficult journey with Switchback. All Trainees work through a complex matrix of challenges and many Trainees:

  • Face homelessness on or shortly after release
  • Have an addict’s relationship with crime
  • Have highly complex family relationships and young children of their own
  • Know very little about the workplace and society’s infrastructures and systems
  • Respond to new or challenging situations with aggression or anger 

How do Switchback tackle this?

Switchback Mentors stick by their Trainees as they move through the prison gate, encouraging and challenging them to take control and make a more stable life for themselves, no matter how long it takes. This is new territory for most Trainees – a frank, unconditional relationship with someone who is there for them on a daily basis. The average length of contact is 21 months.

Switchback helps make employment a realistic option for Trainees and uses catering as a vehicle to participation in society. Switchback’s approach is more holistic and long-term than just to ‘get people into jobs’, however, employability is the key focus of the programme.

  • 80% of Trainees who reach Switchback’s measure of ‘changing the way that they think about and participate in society’ go on to gain permanent jobs.
  • Since 2008, only 12% of Switchback Trainees have reoffended within a year of release – that’s less than a third of the national reoffending rate (46%).
  • Over the past two years, not one Switchback Trainee reoffended and returned to prison.

The Switchback website