The Open Gate project stems directly from the needs expressed repeatedly by the women in HMP & YOI Low Newton to the founder of the project, Elizabeth McGurk MBE who was a former chaplain in the prison.
The women simply wanted “someone on the out” to be there for them supporting their resettlement back into the community. Through determination and drive by Elizabeth the project received initial funding, and built on a community chaplaincy model used with great success in Canada. Open Gate has been operational since October 2005.
HMP & YOI Low Newton
Low Newton is a closed female prison for women aged 18 and over, located approximately three miles from the city of Durham. It has an operational capacity of 352. Low Newton serves the courts in the catchment area from the Scottish Borders across to North Cumbria and as far south as North Yorkshire.
Over half of women in prison have experienced domestic violence or other forms of abuse
Around one third of women prisoners lose their homes whilst in prison
The Governor of HMP Low Newton states…….
“All the evidence and available research shows that the main factors likely to help women leaving prison to integrate back into the community and reduce re-offending are access to family, housing, healthcare, employment or education. However, many women require a great deal of support and understanding before they can make that access, and nowhere is this more critical than immediately before and after release. It is there that the Open Gate project provides a distinctive and valued service, and I think we – both staff and prisoners – are very fortunate in having such a project.”