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Mr Bird sits down with Switchback

Monday, 29 March 2021

Last week, Head, Alan Bird sat down for a live Q&A with Switchback CEO and founder, Alice Dawnay. Broadcast to pupils, parents and staff via Zoom, the pair sat in the Levene Learning Centre library separated by a perspex screen! 

Alice started off by describing her journey to founding Switchback 13 years ago. Whilst she studied in America, she was able to witness an influential programme established for people being released from Rikers Island prison, which is reminiscent of Switchback today. She explained that young adult prison leavers have the highest reoffending rate, whilst the youth justice system especially have the fewest resources, so it is a slippery slope to reoffending. In fact, 45-60% re-offend within a year but with Switchback’s help that is reduced to 9%.

Switchback helps people in prison to join the dots between prison skills and world skills, most commonly resulting in Switchback trainees taking up jobs in bakeries or cafes after working in the kitchen in prison. Alice’s goal is to enable lasting change both through helping prison leavers but also through changing the broken judicial system. She spoke with Alan about how the multiple lockdowns have had created an immense challenge for both Switchback and prisons around the world. In the already cramped and uncomfortable environment of prison, lockdown took a huge toll on the mental health of people in prison, making rehabilitation even more difficult.

She also highlighted the importance of Switchback in the ripple effect it has. 1/3 of trainees have families and the work that Switchback does helps all these people. There is no doubt that Switchback is incredibly important, and as Mr Bird said, our work with the charity has been an important step towards making CLS pupils more aware of the reality of society.

Many thanks to Alice for giving us a detailed insight into Switchback’s work and to Alan Bird for his excellent questions and input. 

Find out more about Switchback at or donate to Switchback here.

The goal is to enable lasting change both through helping prison leavers, but also through changing the broken judicial system.
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