I thought I would share some stories relating to the some of the roles I had in prison, whilst as a serving prisoner. I want to highlight the extraordinary work which some of the organisations attached to our prisons carry out, mostly with voluntary staff and a limited budget. Most of these organisations rely on donations to provide the amazing life-changing services they do.
The first of these agencies that I wish to highlight is Shannon Trust. There’s a few reasons for this, however, the main reason is because Shannon Trust is where it all began for me. Being a Shannon Trust mentor opened my eyes to how the power of shared lived experience breaks down, eventually, a lot of barriers. Becoming a Shannon Trust mentor was also the catalyst for me to become a listener a few months after putting my initial toe in the water.
Before I go on to share my own experience. Shannon Trust – who support thousands of prisoners a year to transform their lives by unlocking the power of reading – have developed a 3-year plan, based on their vision that every prisoner can read. The strategy was put together with input from REAL experts; Learners, mentors, volunteers, prison staff and sister charities working within the criminal justice system.
Shannon Trust have self-declared their plans to be ambitious, however, I, for one, will be supporting Shannon Trust in any way I can, because I have witnessed first hand the difference organisations like this can, and do make to the lives and future of those behind the grey veil.
Don’t just take my word for it. Watch this video put together by the Shannon Trust.
Whilst serving in HMP Blundeston back in January 2005, serving 54 months, I, along with another prisoner and an officer, introduced the Toe By Toe reading scheme (as it was then, now known as Turning Pages) provided by Shannon Trust.
One of my learners, who we used to call, not in a derogatory way, ‘Billy the Broom’ one of the best wing cleaners I had ever met, kept it spotless, hence the moniker. ‘Billy’ had some difficulties when it came to reading, and writing. So, I began mentoring him on the reading scheme.
On a visit a few months later, whilst being visited by my partner and children, “Billy’s” family were visiting him at the same time. After a while an officer came over with “Billy’s” mum, saying she would like a quick word. What followed will live with me forever.
His mum gave me the biggest, tightest hug, and with tears in her eyes thanked me because a few days prior to visit day “Billy” had written a letter to his mum for the first time ever.
Now, tell me education is not important in all aspects of our lives. (Education makes the impossible, possible.)