"It’s been wonderful to be able to give something back to those who have been less fortunate and are striving to get their lives back on track, even more so when you can see that your contribution makes a real difference."

William Mackinlay, Chambers Director at South Square, speaks to us about his experience volunteering with the 3Pillars Project, the perspective it has given him on the prison system and the young men within it, and how it has allowed him to give back to the community. 

William's Story

At the beginning of the year I was invited to join the 3Pillars Project as Chair of the Trustees.  I had been in touch with the charity on and off for about four years and I was delighted to get involved in a formal, voluntary role.

During the time I had spent with 3Pillars at various open days and events it became clear that the prison system wasn’t working.  It’s broken.  The reoffending rates for adults are 50% within a year of release.  For children its 69%.  We need new, smarter, bolder, and more compassionate methods to break the cycle of reoffending, and the 3Pillars model offers just that. 

The charity provides sports-based mentoring to inspire, challenge, and empower young men within the criminal justice system. Through mentoring and helping them to gain qualifications, training and employment opportunities, our apprentices are able to build a better future whilst in prison and beyond. We have supported over 100 young people each year and we want to build upon this through our cutting-edge post-release community mentoring model, which leads to sustainable work experience and employment. 

My first direct experience of 3Pillars was an interview in 2019.  Late one Winter afternoon, a team from South Square chambers in Gray’s Inn, two commercial barristers, one senior member of staff, and me, prepared to meet a candidate from the 3 Pillars Project.  He had recently left prison and we were planning to offer him two weeks of paid work experience in our Chambers to help him build up his CV and eventually find a full-time job.  The first stage of the process was this interview.  Our team were a bit nervous - this was some distance beyond our comfort zone. 

The candidate arrived with his probation officer, and with Mike, the CEO of 3Pillars.  He was in his late twenties and had been out of prison for two weeks after completing his second five-year sentence.  We listened intently to his story, the extremely challenging circumstances which led him down the path to prison, and to reoffending almost immediately after he had completed his first sentence.  He told us about his contact with 3Pillars and how he came to be here with us, interviewing for a job at a commercial barristers’ chambers. 

I couldn’t believe that this young man, with so much promise, so much passion, and so much positive energy, had already spent ten years of his life in prison.  My team from South Square were bowled over by this experience and we were so impressed with the candidate, and the support that he had received from 3Pillars, we agreed immediately that he should come and work for us. 

That was the beginning of my journey with the charity.  It was also the moment the scales fell away from my eyes and I saw how the justice system was failing so many young men, in their prime, who had so much to offer their communities and society as a whole.

We are a small but extremely focused charity that is changing the prospects and the lives of young men coming out of prison.  I couldn’t take on this role without the support of my work colleagues, and I’m extremely grateful for the ongoing assistance provided to me and to the 3Pillars Project by the barristers and the staff at South Square.

I have been fortunate throughout my life; I come from a stable family, I went to a good school, I had fantastic 20 year career in the British Army, and I now work for a leading commercial barristers’ chambers - and I really enjoy my job.  It’s been wonderful to be able to give something back those who have been less fortunate and are striving to get their lives back on track, even more so when you can see that your contribution makes a real difference.  The 3Pillars Project changes people’s lives.  I’ve seen it.  It’s great to be part of an organisation that delivers such a positive impact.

Interested in volunteering? Check out our current volunteering opportunities here and sign up here to receive regular updates on volunteering opportunities.