Creating Hope in Prisons: Clare McGregor on Coaching Offenders

In the final week of Lent term, CUAI welcomed Clare McGregor, Managing Director of Coaching Inside and Out (CIAO), a charity that offers life coaching to prisoners, to the Institute of Criminology where she gave a talk about criminal justice and the rights of offenders.

Clare began her talk by explaining that she had experienced three all-female red-brick institutions in her life: her school, Newnham College, where she was a student, and Styal Prison, where she has worked for the past five years coaching women. Of these, she said, Styal contains by far the most potential.

It is this potential that, through life coaching, CIAO hopes to unlock in prisons. Coaching involves finding out what offenders want to change and what is holding them back, and, as Clare explained, this has proved that the only thing that sets offenders apart from other people is the social circumstances that lead to them ending up behind bars. Many of Styal’s residents were themselves born in the prison’s mother-and-baby unit, which illustrates the fact that their life prospects were determined at birth.

Clare made the important point that CIAO’s clients ‘are not stupid, they just have very different career options to the rest of us’, referring to the fact that these are individuals who offend not out of choice but because they know no other option. One client was quoted as having explained that she ended up working on the streets because she needed to support her family, and, being ‘shit at shoplifting’, saw no other choice. CIAO works on the principle that that everyone has the right to a chance to escape such hopeless circumstances, and aims to help them find the ability to do so.

A sense of injustice led Clare to her work helping those who are given very few chances in life, and she stressed in her talk that we too are capable of working to change what we believe to be unfair. As CIAO’s work proves, small steps can allow progress to happen and help us work towards social justice.

For more info see CIAO’s website:
You can also follow Clare on Twitter @Clare_McGregor and email her

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