HMP Holloway’s trailblazing mental health team to go it alone – a year on from closure of prison
PUBLISHED: 11:11 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:11 15 June 2017
A team of mental health professionals who ran a trailblazing psychological therapy service in Holloway Prison are going it alone a year on from its closure.
Charity Holloway United Therapies (Hut) is made up of 12 psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists who worked for years to help inmates through “forensic psychotherapy”.
The service overcame the prejudices towards prisoners when it was set up 25 years ago and gained a stellar reputation throughout the UK. And now the team want to continue their work to support women in the criminal justice system across London.
“For the last five years we had a really strong team,” psychotherapist Sabina Amiga told the Gazette. “We had the whole prison working together. The staff got why the women were in therapy – that it could help them become more truthful and understand emotions. When it closed we decided straight away to carry on.”
The team has more than 100 years of combined experience and at the prison some volunteered, while others had NHS contracts or were self-employed. They would even meet inmates after their release in the prison’s visitor centre to help them integrate and refer them to other services.
“Forensic therapy is different – it’s very thorough,” Sabina continued. “The focus is not just on understanding the person’s psyche but the crime and the meaning behind it.
“We’re now working with Clean Break, a charity in Kentish Town, but we need our own building.
“It’s helpful for the women to know there’s a service they can rely on. The dream is a centre of excellence because it doesn’t exist. It would be for therapy, but also for advice on housing, nutrition and employment.”
Sabina said inmates were distraught to learn Holloway was closing and many have lost touch with their children having been moved across the country.
“The prison was a home for many women,” she said. “A lot would come back, those committing low-level crimes. They’d get a roof over their head, detoxify and get fed. These are women who have nothing. The alternative is being outside, subjected to pimps, abusive relationships or poverty. Coming out is very daunting. They don’t have a house, a job, they have a criminal record. The transition from release to finding your feet is extremely fragile. A lot of women fail.”