AWARDS have been given to people who work with criminals across the region to recognise their efforts to support rehabilitation and reduce re-offending.

Probation, prison officers and others who work with offenders attended the ceremony at Lumley Castle, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham.

The awards for helping prisoners turn their backs on crime after release are given annually by North East Prison After Care Society, NEPACS, which works with prisoners and their families.

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Helen Attewell, chief executive of NEPACS, said: “Many of the people held in our prisons, or who are supervised in the community, have experienced multiple problems in their lives.

“Many have addictions, have experienced homelessness, suffer poor mental health, or have themselves been victims of violent or sexual crime.

“These awards pay tribute to those dedicated professionals who work hard to support people to make changes and lead a crime free life.”

HMP Frankland’s library development worker Susan Robinson, was honoured for the development of the ‘Nostalgia Group’ in the Health Care Centre where over-60s meet to discuss aspects of the past.

Susan Cook, of the Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, won an award for her work in raising the profile of ‘Restorative Justice’ in County Durham, while Pat Horner and Debra Middleton of Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust were recognised for their community alcohol programme.

Stockton's Holme House Prison’s learning and skills manager Chloe Graham won an award for her creation and leadership of the ‘engagement centre’, which provides an area for prisoners to learn more sociable behaviour and work with supportive agencies.

North Tyneside Local Authority Children of Offenders Group, which is chaired by Richard Booth, was honoured for its work to tackle problems children of offenders face such as housing, finance, domestic violence, employment, education, drugs and alcohol.

Ms Attewell said: “The Criminal Justice System is going through major changes at the moment, leaving some professionals feeling insecure and demotivated.

“I hope that these awards will help remind them and the wider public of what a crucial job they do, and how greatly we value their contribution to society.”

Certificates of high commendation went to:

HM YOI Deerbolt

- Chaplaincy Department

- Diane Dickinson, of Shelter

- The Recovery Wing

- Officer Ben Taylor, for work with vocational training

HMP Durham

- Charlie Chomse, for developing the mentor course

- Lesley Dixon, for work with the mobilisation, transition and transformation team

- Fiona O’Neill, for her work as family links officer

Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust

- Stella O’Connor, for work in the Stockton Offender Management Unit

- Unpaid Work Team, Newton Aycliffe, for work with local businesses

HMP Holme House

- Beverley Gray, for her work as activities manager

- Debbie Shaughnessy, for her work as family Support Worker

HMP Kirklevington

- Sharon Bircumshaw, for her work as a family support worker

- The Training and Employment Group

HMP and YOI Low Newton

- Angela Armstrong, for her work towards public protection

- Michael Hands, for his work in health care

- Jeanette Hodgson, for her innovative work in the catering department

- Claire Okonkwo, for her work as visits booking clerk

- Sean Wilson, for his work with difficult and damaged prisoners

National Offender Management Service

- The Reducing Re-offending in the North East Project Team

North-East Psychological service nomination

- The Self Change Programme, Holme House

Northumbria Probation Trust

- Newcastle Integrated Offender Management Step Change Team

Long service certificates

Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust

- Doug West, senior probation officer at Teesside with 40 years service.

HMP Northumberland

- Dorothy Downing, head of offender management with 32 years service.