History of Friends of Guys Marsh Prison (FOGM)
In 2004 a group of six people, who had previously been associated with the prison either as government appointed volunteers or employees, gathered to form a charity having recognised the need for independent people to improve prisoners’ rehabilitative prospects with initiatives that the prison’s budget could not provide. With the approval and encouragement of the Governor, FOGM was registered as a charity with the founding six interested people as trustees. Additional supporters of FOGM’s aims, joined as the ‘Friends of Guys Marsh’ by financially supporting the charity’s work with an annual subscription, and adding their weight to applications for grants made to other trusts.
Guided by their initial mission statement the importance of maintaining prisoners’ family ties was identified as a first priority focus. As HMP Guys Marsh lacks any public transport a return bus service for prisoners’ visitors arriving at Gillingham Station was decided on. Sufficient funding was procured to cover the Saturday visiting day and a financial arrangement was made with NORDCAT (North Dorset Community Transport) to cover this service. Unfortunately, funds never stretched to enable the transport provision for Fridays or Sundays.
Also, use of the small kitchen in the newly installed Visitor Centre was obtained to provide a warm welcome with drinks and biscuits to weekend visitors. A rota of volunteers was drawn up from the FOGM Friends who have since welcomed visitors on Saturdays whilst the local Mothers Union willingly undertook the same commitment for Fridays.
The trustees and the Governor held a monthly meeting to identify ongoing and future initiatives through sharing information and ideas. A small committee of other local people joined the meetings and more needs were determined with a variety of projects being set up over the years which changed and increased as circumstances required. The trustees and committee members altered over this time and a new structure was agreed upon to encourage greater support and the involvement of new trustees.
In 2016 FOGM changed its charitable status to become a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) primarily to give trustees better legal protection thus allowing new people to come forward to take on these shared responsibilities. In recent years, a number of new trustees with complementary professional backgrounds have been appointed to support the existing projects and bring with them new perspectives and fresh ideas. As a consequence of this ‘new blood’, the Friends of Guys Marsh is enjoying a period of new growth and seeing a range of different developments taking shape. The Governors regard the work we do as an invaluable addition to the prison’s rehabilitative work for those in custody. We continue to work hard to develop a strong partnership with prison staff in order to increase our collective effectiveness.