By Hugh Kay OUGLAS and Eliane Gibson's Circle Trust has opened its first club centre for discharged prisoners-thanks to a strong body of support initiated by CATtiouc HERALD readers. After this paper's appeal in 1962, they gave the best part of the first £1,000.
Once the project was off the
ground, help came from the Gulbenkian and the City Parochial Foundations, the City and Metropolitan Welfare Charity, the Goldsmiths, the L.C.C., the Pilgrims' Trust-and
premises were secured through the generosity of the Westminster City Council.
Loneliness is the greatest enemy of prisoners' rehabilitation. The club's programme is therefore geared to the needs which a twoyear survey of the long-term prisoner has revealed.
Says Douglas Gibson: "Habitual offenders and society are incompatible. so we intend setting up a .society in miniature' where the men w ill feel that the standards are not too high, and where they will understand rules they themselves have helped to formulate.
"The rehabilitation of the longterm prisoner, if at all possible, depends on a settled and secure background. We expect the club to provide this,"
But non-offenders, too, will be welcome members and guests- whether stable people or those who, for a variety of reasons, are ill adjusted to society. A strictly "prison community". says Eliane Gibson, "is the last thing we want; for this would not help the exprisoner to re-adjust himself to more normal living".
The club aims to provide the social surroundings of a home where the members will be free and able to relax in the comfort of a friendly atmosphere: to help them understand themselves and their problems through group discussion, and to offer them specialist help.
But the men are also to be helped to an awareness of their responsibility to society. to integrate themselves into the community through voluntary service, and to make restitution to society by helping others.
Society, say the Gibsone, must also be educated to understand the ex-prisoner's problems. They hope, among other things, to form an active group of sympathetic landlords and landladies so that the men can find congenial lodgings.
The club is at 16 Moreton Street. London, S.W.1. (Telephone: Victoria 8787). right in the heart of an area honeycombed with unhappy little single-roomed homes-if you can call them that.
For the moment the club will be open on Wednesday (6-11 p.m.), Thursday (6-11 p.m.), and Sunday (2-11 p.m.). Later, when a full-time secretary has been secured, the club vs ill open every day. Helpers are needed to attend the club and take an interest in the members.
There is a games room. television room, a kitchen and diningroom, and rooms for consultation and group discussion. Admissions are arranged by Mrs. Gibson as the secretary of the Trust. She told me on Sunday: "But for the readers of the CATHOLIC HERALD, we could never have started. Please tell them how grateful we are".
She also reported to me on the family the Carnotac HERALD readers were asked to help nearly two years ago-a young wife with several children in appalling living conditions, and the husband in prison, Two readers, a husband and wife, provided the family with a house, and many other readers sent gifts of money and in kind.
"The family is flourishing now." said Mrs. Gibson. "It is a story of unqualified success."