Closing the Education Gap for Prisoners

Author: | 28 May 2023

Prison is often described as ‘a microcosm of society’ but that bears little resemblance to what goes on behind the walls, reports our current Longford Scholar Carolyn*, who is doing a PhD in women’s education provision in prisons. So much potential is going to waste because of the failure of prison education to provide the challenges that match the needs and hopes of prison learners.

During my induction at my first prison, like all new prisoners, I undertook initial education assessments. These are designed to provide a snapshot of ability. The prison teachers then looked at the floor while explaining to me that prison rules required me to undertake Level 2 English and Maths qualifications, despite me having been a teacher before my interaction with the criminal justice system, with a degree in English Literature, a PGCE and a Masters degree in education. My experience of education in custody was from the start characterized by frustration, inflexibility and short-sightedness.

No other accredited qualifications were available at the prison. Instead, I applied for an external course funded by the Prisoners’ Education Trust. I chose Copy Editing but, when I was transferred to a different prison, my course book was lost in the move. I was told I was unable to request new materials or take on a new course without completing the first.

Failing has no consequences

In 2021-22, Ofsted inspections were carried out in 22 prisons. Only one was deemed to be offering a decent standard of education. If similar results had been reported by the same organization for 22 schools outside the prison walls, urgent action would have been taken, new staff brought in, and ‘special measures’ imposed. In prison, such poor judgements appear to have no consequences at all.

The 2022 Ofsted report of my first prison found that the education department ‘requires improvement’ across all five of its categories. Whilst this two-word judgement captures much of my experience there, however, it does not reflect the handful of wonderful, supportive and inspiring teachers, committed to improving the attainment and prospects of their learners. If only they could be given autonomy to do their jobs, and offer basic training in any areas learners want to upskill in, real and positive change could be achieved.

The ups and downs

My second prison was at the other end of the M4.  In contrast to the first, it seemed to be an educational utopia with a much wider curriculum, including many qualifications on offer, all of which were consistently oversubscribed. I jumped at the opportunity to take the Level 2 Fitness Instructor course. And when I wasn’t in the gym, I could usually be found in the gardens doing a horticulture qualification.

When I was released from prison towards the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, this learning became the foundation for a lockdown project to redesign part of my parents’ garden. Both of the courses I took in that second prison also arguably benefitted my mindfulness and wellbeing but still I was left wondering to what extend they had been successful and elevating in an educational capacity.

Employed as a Teaching Assistant at the second prison, my role was to support other prison learners with the Functional Skills courses (equivalent to GCSE level in English and maths). Those who made progress took pride in their achievements, but I also noticed that some made little-to-no progress. When I asked them about it, they openly explained that they failed the exams on purpose to ensure that they could stay on the course, in a warm and dry classroom, with ready access to biscuits. If they had passed it, they said, it would have automatically resulted in being timetabled to work in the gardens or kitchens.

Gender stereotyping

Like many others in prison, I experienced the disparity that exists in the regime there between the systemic dismantling of the self and the confiscation of agency on the one hand, and the expectation that I would better myself and magically emerge rehabilitated on the other. The futility and Kafka-esque routine of prison dampens motivation and aspiration. Yet prisons are teeming with untapped potential desperate to be harnessed.

As a minute 4% of the total prison population in the UK, women often feel sidelined in a prison system that is not built for them. The education arena is no different. As an education offer, hair and beauty courses cater for a tiny proportion of the female cohort, but the reality is that women in prison want to improve their circumstances as long as there is relevant opportunity. Less gender-stereotyped courses would be enthusiastically received. Accredited and practical courses such as catering and hospitality are, to be fair, becoming increasingly more available in prisons. This is excellent progress but there is still a long way to go to meet the needs of women in prison.

What success looks like

There is potential for prisons to reduce radically the cost of reoffending (standing at £18.1 billion per year, according to published Ministry of Justice figures in 2019) across the board. At the very least what is needed is a review of the current limited education offer for women and the introduction of some intelligent changes. The availability of education at an appropriate level is paramount, as is curriculum content that will support a woman to invest in a positive future on release. Access to improved digital learning tools, and also supervised access to the internet, would help to level the playing field, especially for those taking distance learning courses.

My experience of prison education was mixed but it has given me the blueprint for my research PhD – exploring women’s experiences of, and access to, education in prison. With the support of a Longford Scholarship and mentor, I am keen to begin exploring a gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach to education in women’s prisons. This would mean that women in prison have access to education opportunities to help them elevate their circumstances and live a positive future, free from crime. This could have a significant positive impact on intergenerational offending, and hence reducing offending rates for both men and women.

 (*Scholar’s name has been changed)

If you feel you could benefit from a Longford Scholarship, or know someone who could, contact Clare Lewis for details about how to apply.

 

 

How the post-exam challenge of ‘what next?’ became do-able

Author: | 3 May 2023

A key part of a Longford Scholarship is the Employability support given to all award-holders to turn a degree into a degree-level job when they graduate.  For Longford Blog, our scholar Hugh describes the benefits of attending our recent all-day employability training session, run by the trust in partnership with StandOut.

A handful of us scholars met at Friends’ House in London on April 18.  Some of us have been buried in our final uni assignments but, as we emerge from those tunnels, it can feel a bit startling to be faced with the prospect of ‘what’s next?’ We’re all caught in the bit between university finishing and the rest of life beginning. The StandOut trainers were on hand to help us to clarify and quantify the steps we need to take to turn our grades into jobs.

Navigating Disclosure

Covering a cross-section of topics, Alex, Hannah and Erin introduced us to thinking about how to break down our next steps so we can feel confident bringing both our newly-acquired qualifications and our unorthodox life-experiences to the workplace.  We shared many anxieties with each other, such as: how to present as a confident candidate; how to navigate that, often tricky, topic of disclosure; and what is commonly the slog of mounting a concerted campaign of job-searching.

The latter can be deflating and long. So, understanding our internal relationship with how we might approach the jobs’ market was particularly useful. As we heard, treating the job search as a job in itself can help us in both pacing ourselves over a potentially lengthy task, and in structuring it to reduce that time as much as possible. We learned how effective it can be, for example, to really think about where we might look for vacancies we want – who the gatekeepers are of the graduate roles we might be seeking? It gave me a lot of confidence in rethinking my next moves.

Building connections

Considering it all took place on one day, we managed to cover so many useful topics. Networking, Alex explained, was better thought of as ‘building connections’. This meant that we would approach opportunities to do so with the right mindset. We were more likely to come across naturally – more honestly- if we started from a more human, and less transactional position. Thinking about how we might research specific sector knowledge would enable us to uncover connections we might have otherwise missed. Signing up to newsletters and other mailing subscriptions for important organisations in our chosen fields would give us the best chances of being exposed to opportunities.

Social capital

What was clear to those of us in the room is that the sort of inside informationdistilled to us by the StandOut trainers- is often taken for granted by those who follow a ‘traditional’ trajectory through education and the early part of their vocational lives. When strong social structures support you through secondary school and you’re lucky enough to go to university and beyond, you get to learn the tricks and tips for finding more lucrative jobs.

For those of us who, maybe, took a different path, and had previously found themselves unsupported, it is often the case that this ‘social capital’ tends to allude us. The Longford Trust and StandOut were helping to even the playing field for those of us still trying to turn our lives around. Now we know about ‘the hidden market’, as our peers do. And we have the skills and valuable knowledge to bring to those industries too.

Realising our potential

Our group, as is indicative of a collective of Longford Scholars, had a wide variation in interests and talents. Some of us explicitly wanted to enter the Criminal Justice Sector as ‘lived-experts’- people who wanted to use their experiences (both the skills we have and the lessons from our own mistakes) as tools to help others in similarly difficult situations. Others wanted to pursue a life that had little to do with where they may have been before.

But in every case, our experiences had taught us some common things. We all understood the power and importance of giving people the opportunities to realise their value. The difference having the right, versus the wrong, information in going about our job searches was also realised in the group.

Bespoke job search support

In spite of covering so much in such a condensed time-slot, StandOut had also committed to supporting us going forward. We have all been booked in with a member of the team to discuss our individual plans and challenges in one-on-one sessions in the coming weeks. We’ll have the chance to set out a bespoke strategy for refining our job search.

The result is that I already feel like I’ve a better chance of finding something suitably challenging. But I knew, as I left the StandOut session, that there were many personal obstacles to simply jumping back into employment. Still I feel eager to work through those in the coming weeks and that’s down to the Longford Trust and StandOut. They make an outstanding collaboration. If you’re a scholar, I implore you to StandOut by booking yourself on the next course!

The next employability training course run by the Longford Trust and StandOut is being planned for the autumn. If you want to reserve a place, contact our Employability Manager, Abi Andrews.

Why a university education has been a win-win for me

Author: | 19 Apr 2023

David is a psychology student at an East of England university. He left school with no qualifications and has had to work hard to get on the course, and stay on it, but now having passed the half-way point he feels, he writes, that he finally has a voice.

It wasn’t easy going into higher education when I left prison. I had got no GCSEs at school and had been in and out of prison most of my life, working on building sites in-between sentences. Then one day I decided I no longer wanted to plaster walls for a living. I wanted to go to university.

I started by attending night school to make good that lack of GCSEs.  That was hard work. The classroom and academia were all new to me. Yet somehow I have made it happen. Going forward, the support I have been given by family, friends, and the Longford Trust has been incredible. I look back and realise that there are so many talented people locked in prison cells who aren’t even aware they can start out on this journey of improving themselves.

Looking afresh at the world

What I want to say to them in this blog is that this path I have taken has already demonstrated to me many of the benefits of a degree. It has, for a start, completely changed my outlook on society. Education has been a win-win for me, helping me to better understand the world around me, and equipping me to make better decisions.

I chose to study psychology because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. What I have found out is that what we know about the human psyche is quite dated and poorly understood. Yet the human mind is so fascinating, it is surprising that as a species we know so little about it.

More motivation than intellect

My motivation, to be clear, far out weighs my intellect, but one of the benefits of prison life is that it made me a resilient and resourceful human being. That and the fact that I actually want to learn and better myself as I have had enough of repeating old patterns. So, I focus on the day in hand and get the task done.

When I finally get this degree, and can throw my hat in the air like all the other students, I will feel so proud of myself. And I hope in a small way I will be a living example, not only to others who have walked the same path as me into prison, but more importantly to my children who have witnessed my lifelong struggles with addiction and crime.

Now I can hold my own

Coming from a marginalised background it was like I never had a voice. All I ever had were middle-class barristers, solicitors, probation officers and drug and social workers talking at me. But now I feel I can hold my own. My vocabulary has broadened so I can articulate what it is I need to say. Yet, as I regularly tell myself, “I have not come this far just to come this far”.

If you feel inspired by David’s story to find out about going to university, contact Clare Lewis, the Longford Trust’s scholarship manager, or write to her at Freepost, Longford Trust. You don’t need to put a stamp on it.

How a Die Hard movie inspired me to swop prison for university

Author: | 11 Apr 2023

Alex is serving the last final years of a long sentence at an Open prison. With a Longford Scholarship, he is studying on day-release at the University of East London. For Longford Blog he describes how education had never figured in his plans, until he was in prison watching a lousy Die Hard action film on TV.

He knew he could write something better.

When I landed in prison there were two options to get paid. One was you work in the prison – cleaner, servery, painter. The other was you attend education – maths, English, journalism, IT.

Growing up in Hackney, I had seen it all. What we were taught as teenagers was – it wasn’t cool to get a job or even go to school. The cool thing was to go to prison and get fast money.

But in prison, I picked education. It was a no-brainer for me. I tried every course that they had to offer because I have always been a believer that knowledge is power. Plus, most of the courses I would have to pay for in the real world.

A Better You

I noticed, though, that a lot of prisoners wanted to work and despised education. They were scared to do something that they had never done before, or felt had no real value in their lives.

There is a huge number of people in prison who don’t know how to read or write. That lead me to write an article for the prison magazine called ‘A Better You’. It was basically giving tips on how to better yourself in custody and have something to carry out with you into the real world so your sentence didn’t feel like a big waste of time.

My light-bulb moment

I had never known what I wanted to be, and really enjoyed in my life until one day, in prison, I was watching a film, A Good Day to Die Hard. I thought to myself, ‘what the hell? I can come up with a way better script than this’. So, I put pen to paper and got creating.

I called my friends in the acting world and they sent me scripts which helped me learn about the format. They also sent me a book called Save the Cat. It really helped me out a lot because it taught me about writing a film.

Throughout my years in prison, I used to go around to the staff and ask, ‘is it possible you will let me put on a play in prison that would be really educational and helpful to others’? But I got rejected year by year.

Passion for film

Still I had a real passion for film. Something felt different this time. I knew this was my future. So I never gave up. I kept writing and I kept asking to put on a play.

When I got to Standford Hill (a category D prison) I had a big break from writing because there was so much freedom there, I couldn’t concentrate.  The courses they had were mostly manual handling (which I tried, but I knew straight away, this wasn’t for me). Or others I have already done in other prisons.

My creativity was fading, so I told my prison offender manager to send me back to a Category C prison so I could focus on my scripts. Suddenly me and a staff member got speaking. I told him I wrote screenplays and he said, ‘great, can you pull off a play in a month in the prison?’ I told him yes, then realised I had to get actors, props, sound, staging… and write a script.

Getting the green light

I gathered a group of people for a writer’s room and then went around approaching prisoners to act. And we made something that prison and prisoners had never seen before in a prison. We have carried on putting on plays and well-known film makers and industry professionals have been coming to watch and giving the prisoners words of encouragement.

Today we have a company called F.A.T.E (film art theatre entertainment), we have performed numerous plays in the prison, we have been approached to do plays in other prisons, and we have a short film in the pipeline. We are also working on a prison series with a TV director known for a TV drama series called Noughts and Crosses, adapted from a book by Mallory Blackman.

Destined for greatness

One of our main ideas behind the company is giving back. We have planned some events to raise funds for charities that help victims of crime, the sort that help keep youth off the streets and people not to re-offend. As a fundraiser, and to remind people when they are feeling defeated to keep on target, we have developed silicone wristbands emblazoned with ‘destined for greatness’ on them. Sales of these bands will be split amongst the charities we support.

Another idea in the pipeline is working alongside the Koestler Arts Award to host an annual auction event selling prisoners’ work. The money raised would be split two ways between a victim awareness charity, and the artist’s family. It would make the artist feel proud of themselves and maybe inspire them to continue their art upon release.

My main message…

So, don’t give up when you get told NO. Use that NO as motivation to better yourself. And DON’T be scared to fail.

If you feel inspired by Alex’s story to find out about going to university, contact Clare Lewis, the Longford Trust’s scholarship manager, or write to her at Freepost, Longford Trust. You don’t need to put a stamp on it.

How education gave me a second chance

Author: | 24 Mar 2023

Excluded from school for being disruptive Neil had no interest in education when he was sent to prison. But slowly he caught the learning bug and now has a degree to his name.  For Longford Blog he describes how, with our backing, he landed his dream job in prison reform.

 

The letters A,B,C,D are probably the most important determination of a teenager’s future, the higher the letter, the better their chances of carving out a successful career. Unfortunately for me, instead of getting a GCSE grade, I received a different sort of B – I was sent to a Category B prison.

 

Even if I’d stayed at school I probably wouldn’t have passed any of my exams. I had no enthusiasm for education, was disruptive and an all-round nuisance for the teachers who passionately gave up their time despite my antics. Looking back, this was even more depressing as I actually had an ability to achieve: I started out in all the top sets but found myself in the lower tiers because of my behaviour.

 

I was suspended and subsequently permanently expelled. A gaping hole in my personal development and a lack of structure left me destined for failure. And I became the ultimate failure, committed an horrendous crime and – rightly so -received a custodial sentence for longer than I had been alive.

 

Getting back on track

 

Spending time in the juvenile prison estate meant that I was faced with my arch nemesis again – education. True to fashion, I wasn’t interested, had zero motivation to learn, and attended just to get out of my cell. Now, 16 years on, I have a degree with first-class honours, am halfway through an MA in Crime and Justice, and I already have a blueprint for a possible PhD.

 

So how did I get hooked on education? In prison there is a requirement to complete Maths and English to an adequate level. For me this was boring but essential. Once you have completed the foundations, other courses become available. After spending four years passing English and Maths, I was invited to study Sociology at GCSE level. At this point I was more mature and enjoyed my tutor using the Sociology syllabus to help me understand how society works. As well as a qualification, I was learning about myself and how I had found myself in prison.

 

Getting motivated

 

I guess when there is an intrinsic motivation you are more committed to learn. As time went on, I was excited by study. I even washed the sleep out of my eyes to ensure I was bright and early for class. As well as attending lessons, I would pull out the books on a night-time and indulge in reading stuff outside the syllabus.

 

I stuck at it and achieved a respectable grade B. I had caught the education bug. With the same inspirational teacher, I next completed 7 more GCSEs. Then my tutor suggested I start higher education at The Open University.

 

Distance Learning and Student Loans

 

I continued with the Social Sciences, took advantage of a student loan to pay for my OU module costs and dedicated my time to learning. After navigating the prison system’s distance learning troubles, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences. I was ready to stop there. I was already anxious about release and didn’t want to incur any more debts through student finance.

 

Fortunately, I was responsible for helping other prisoners choose higher education opportunities and was made aware by my peers of what The Longford Trust offers. I noticed the energy and positivity among those who were on a Longford Scholarship and I wanted in! I applied and, to my delight, they awarded me three years of funding towards an MA in Crime and Justice.

 

A scholarship that goes beyond money

 

Once I had been accepted, the Trust’s director came to meet me in prison, explained that the scholarship is more than paying for tuition fees, and talked to me about finding a suitable mentor. Over and above the financial aspect of the scholarship, one of the key advantages it provides is having one of the Trust’s trained mentors to support you one-to-one.

 

I have now been in the community for twelve months and The Longford Trust has shared my resettlement journey with me. As well as getting my studies transferred smoothly from prison to community, they have offered me professional advice and a helping hand whenever I need it. So much so that they helped me land my dream job of helping fight for fairer outcomes in the criminal justice system. My rehabilitation journey would look incredibly different without them.

 

If you feel inspired by Neil’s story and would like to apply for a Longford Scholarship, contact Clare Lewis for details or an application form, or write to her at Freepost, Longford Trust (you don’t need a stamp)

What it means to be home for good

Author: | 6 Mar 2023

Many of our newly-released Longford Scholars are beginning – or continuing – their university studies at the same time as adjusting to being out, being back at home, being with their families, and with everything that goes with that. For Longford Blog, current scholar Mark reflects on the good things and the challenges he has faced since his recent release.

 

I want to try to give others an understanding of the challenges and difficulties those who have left custody face around adjusting back into family life while, at the same time, studying and trying to become a rehabilitated, functioning member of society.

 

Firstly, we all have a past, and I know there’ll be other people out there in my position who feel alone in their desire to change while still battling old habits so as to become a better person. Since release, some of the things I have noticed are stigmas and pre-judgements from those who don’t know what we have been through.

 

Change isn’t easy at any time

There is little understanding of how difficult it is redefining yourself when you have your past behaviours, the lack of self-belief you can feel, the lack of confidence and/or lack of education that gets in the way of taking the step to embark on a university degree.  Change isn’t easy at any time especially when facing how others may view you and the impact this can have.

 

When I look back to my old impulsive choices – negative choices – that I made without thinking, now I believe that these actions grew out of the rejection I faced as a child from my family, the people who were meant to love me. The lack of support I received contributed to behaviours in me that led at times to people getting hurt, often through what I would say. It was, I now see, ‘people-pleasing’ and trying to fit in. The negative opinions that people throw at you can be a huge hinderance when you’ve actively tried to change your life and be better.

 

How day-release helps

It was good to have the opportunity to come home on ROTL before coming home full-time. I could start to plan for release and to think about what a new routine might look like. Being home meant I was able to do work around the house that was certainly required and overdue – like decorating the wear and tear in the children’s bedrooms and other areas of the home that have come with their additional needs around behaviour.

 

And it has allowed me to spend time with my partner and children, rebuilding those ties and bonds. I could take them to school and be part of their education and be visible to their teachers. I attended their hospital appointments and, thereby, took some of the  pressure off my partner. There were fun family activities too. I began get to know them again as they have grown up a lot in the time I was away.

 

Most of the time, then, it was a positive exercise. But it was also very hard for the children to see me come and then go. They couldn’t understand why Dad couldn’t stay at home. One thing I will never forget was when I came home and decorated and changed their bedrooms. They didn’t believe I would do it before I had to go back to prison. But I did.

 

It’s not as simple as it sounds: you are always worrying about when you must be back at the prison and therefore spend a lot of time clock-watching. If you are late, even by five minutes, you can be stopped from doing ROTL again.

 

Home for good

Now that I am home full-time, those time pressures have gone. Yet, there are new challenges – living with four children whilst working  and studying. A few months in, I am pleased to say that I have managed to keep up with my university work and fully intend to keep going.  But it is not easy. I am at work four days on and then have four days off. I try to spend one full day in the local library but this doesn’t always happen as anything can come up with four children.

 

When I am not at work, I tend to do the cooking as my partner does everything the rest of the time. The huge hike in the cost of living has had its impact too. I am now fully responsible for my four children, my partner and the household finances. At times that is scary. How to make ends meet causes me to lose sleep. Unexpected bills like school trips can be a huge burden. When I came home I needed a car to get to work but, due to my criminal past, the insurance was much higher than I had expected.

 

In prison time was never an issue with my studies. Now it’s hard to find. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what the change would mean or look like. There have been obstacles to climb.

 

Living proof

Another challenge facing those like me who haven’t had a regular education is finding the continuing motivation and support required to study at university level.  But I’m living proof – having almost completed my BA Hons in Psychology with the Open University – that with the right people like The Longford Trust behind you, it is possible and achievable. If I can do it, others can too.

 

My advice would be to be honest with those who are working with you, not to feel it’s wrong to be struggling or finding things hard as you almost certainly will at points. When the journey feels lonely and challenging have faith in what you can achieve, take it in small steps, and always make your goals SMART – specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related.

 

If you are in prison or newly-released and want to study for a degree but worry about managing the challenges that will present, go to The Longford Trust’s website to find out what support is available. Or email our Scholarship Manager, Clare Lewis.

Leave a Lasting Impression

Author: | 22 Feb 2023

Our scholar Rishi attended one of the workshops run the Trust’s Employability Project thinking he was pretty sorted out around finding a degree-level job on graduation. 

But he discovered he had a lot to learn and a lot to gain by coming along.

 

Recently I attended an employability workshop organized by the Longford Trust’s Employability team and led by Sam Smith, the CEO of PEPTalks. It was for me an incredibly valuable experience, offering insightful macro analysis of the job market with detailed micro analyses that catered to every participant whatever their career aspirations.

And so much valuable information was packed into such a short amount of time. The workshop did it all in a couple of hours!

Practical advice on the jobs market

Before going into such programmes and workshops I always think that, having already developed my CV with many experienced professionals, I have little to gain. But I am happy to report that, once again, I was wrong. Sam’s passion for helping individuals like me to succeed was evident throughout the workshop.  He provided a wealth of practical advice on how to get on in the job market, from refining a compelling personal narrative to identifying and showcasing our unique value propositions.

He also emphasised the importance of staying nimble and adaptable in today’s fast-changing job market and provided tools and strategies for doing so. All of this was delivered in an engaging and accessible manner, making it easy for every participant to grasp the essential concepts. As a follow-up to the workshop, there was specific advice tailored to each of us. It has left a lasting impression on me.

Tailor-made guidance

What impressed me most was how Sam managed to tailor his advice to each participant. Despite the time constraints and wildly different career aspirations, he managed to provide detailed and insightful analyses. His personalised attention made us all feel seen and heard, and the opportunity to learn from someone as experienced and knowledgeable was incredibly valuable.

I would also like to acknowledge the Longford Trust for organising this workshop and providing us with the opportunity to learn from such an experienced and knowledgeable speaker. As a Longford Trust scholar, I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities to learn from people as knowledgeable as Sam. The Trust’s commitment to levelling the playing field for its scholars and giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves is truly inspiring.

Any Longford Scholars, past or present, wanting to follow in Rishi’s steps on one of our Employability training courses should contact Abi Andrews to find out more.

Fancy Joining The Longford Trust Team?

Author: | 15 Feb 2023

We are looking for a part-time Fundraising Manager to join our small office team to help us sustain and expand the work of the trust.  Interested?  Read on….

 

The role: to raise the funds required to carry out the Longford Trust’s work

 

The time commitment: Part-time, initially 1 day per week, 12 months a year, with flexibility as to how that day is made up, both per week (can be split into a few hours spread over several days), and over the course of the year to accommodate busy and quiet times, and post-holder’s other work, family and holiday commitments.

 

Fee: Pro-rata of £30,000, paid monthly on a consultancy basis on receipt of an invoice made out to the director.  All post-holders in the team are responsible for their own tax, VAT and National Insurance payments. An appraisal system is operated and annual fee reviews undertaken.

 

Reporting to: the director who leads on fundraising

 

Working alongside: office manager, mentoring manager, employability manager, development manager, trustees

 

Needed: prison experience is preferred but not essential; a commitment to reforming the prison and criminal justice system; ability to communicate well in person and in writing; up to date IT and social media skills; knowledge of Gift Aid and Just Giving; decent numeracy.

 

Personal specification: suitable for someone wanting flexible working to fit around family and other part-time work commitments; self-motivated; passionate about prison reform and social justice; practical; and able to master a brief, talk to anyone, be persuasive, well-organised; work well in a strong team when there is no central office to bring members together every day, work independently, and show initiative.

 

What You’ll Be Doing

 

  • administer and co-ordinate the trust’s fundraising efforts, including Gift Aid, the trustee sub-committee on fundraising, fundraising events, support for individuals raising funds for trust;
  • work closely with director to research and identify fundraising targets;
  • make fundraising applications;
  • grow the number of regular donors making monthly or quarterly donations to the trust;
  • lead relationships with some funders;
  • organise a small number of fundraising events;
  • liaise with supporters organising fundraisers for the trust.

 

Workplace: from home, using Google shared documents, with regular phone and Zoom meetings with colleagues and regular face-to-face team meetings.

 

Notice period: one month

 

Application Process: applications in writing by CV and covering letter, explaining why you want to do the job, your relevant experience, and why you will do a good job.  Send to Peter Stanford, the Longford Trust’s director – director@longfordtrust.org  Any queries before submitting an application should be made to the director at the same email and call backs can be arranged. Closing date March 10 after which a short-list will be compiled and interviews arranged in mid-late March.

I was scared of taking on a degree

Author: | 8 Jan 2023

For Longford Blog, Simon, from our latest intake of scholars, reflects on his journey from arriving in jail and dismissing the idea of a degree because ‘all I had was GCSEs’, to overcoming his fears, beginning studying, and continuing on release from prison. If I can do it, he urges others, so can you…

Adjusting to being in prison at the start of my sentence was extremely hard. I needed a release to keep my mind focused. This is when I discovered training in the gym. It was my escape and kept me mentally and physically strong through tough times.

I was also thinking about how to improve myself so as to leave prison physically and mentally stronger. One day an Open University team came in to give a talk. From the first moment they spoke, I knew this was the path to go down. My biggest problem was what subject to study?  I asked family and friends for advice and decided sport, fitness and coaching.

Taking a leap of faith

I was scared. At no point in my life had I ever thought I was capable of studying at degree level. I’d done GCSEs but nothing more. A friend on my wing who I would train with in the gym reassured me. ‘You enjoy training and sport. You can spend many more months thinking about what you want to do and if you are capable. Or you can take a leap of faith, study a subject you enjoy and give 100% to it.’

That was the day I sent in my application. I wanted prove to my family that I could be a better man and achieve great things. To show them my dedication to studying was a way of  showing them and myself that the future could be better.

At the start of my studies I found it extremely hard to keep up with deadlines and find the time to study in the prison environment. As time went on, though, it became more natural. I began going to the prison library and borrowed all the books I could find on academic writing to try and learn. Soon I was achieving marks of between 70-80 per cent for all my modules. Access to computers and study material was really hard, but this was something I was doing for my future so I made sure I did all I could on my own, to reach my targets

Happy with the man I am today

Over the course of my sentence, I believe I have matured immensely, and feel happy with the man I am today. I put it down to maintaining a strict routine with exercise and studying. Without these, I don’t know how I would have reached the end.

When Covid came around, studying and prison life became very hard. We were all locked behind our doors for 23 and a half hours a day. I used the time to study extra hard and dedicated eight hours each day to reading and writing and an hour a day to learning a new language (Mandarin) to fill the time. I also wrote in-cell workout programmes and nutrition plans for other inmates to ensure we were all keeping active.

Fast forward to 2021 and I was transferred to an open prison which was great because I had more freedom and better facilities to focus on my studies and plan for my future. On day-release on several occasions my family travelled up and I was able to spend quality time with them.

My transition from prison back into the community has so far been a smooth process due to careful planning and a wide range of support. Not long before being released I made my application to the Longford Trust and was granted a scholarship. This involved a financial grant, a laptop to study with, and a mentor. Now I am continuing on the outside with the final year of my degree with the security of the trust’s support.

My mentor is amazing

My Longford Trust mentor is amazing. He will sit with me and go through my work, help me to understand areas where I could improve. He is also there for emotional support should I need it during these challenging times.

If I could give any advice to other prison leavers, it would be to be realistic in your future plans. Locked behind a door can give you a false view of the world and what to expect. Use all resources and support as best you can because life outside of prison is a huge transition.

Find out more about our Longford Scholarships and Frank Awards. You could soon be walking in Simon’s educational footsteps!

 

Why You Can’t Better A Christmas Book

Author: | 15 Dec 2022

If you’ve got a spare moment this festive season, for Longford Blog former scholar Dempsey tells his story of prison, Christmas, books and their power to transport us wherever we find ourselves

A supermoon shining older and colder than superstition cast a wintry light over London while the world hurried over cobblestoned streets to the seasonal sound of bells.  Gleaming brass bells ringing hopefully and insistently in the white-gloved hands of the streetcorner Santa.

From high-end boutiques dressed up and down and all around in silver and gold, from the gap-toothed vendor selling bourbon-laced eggnog with candy cane straws, to the young and old church group singing “We Three Kings” beneath a Victorian-era lamppost, make no mistake about it, Christmas time was here.  Here holding the candle of religion in one hand, here bearing the torch of commercialization in the other.  “Ring-a-ling, hear them ring, soon it will be Christmas Day.”

A venerable smell

I was headed toward Hatchards, a Piccadilly bookshop that has been doing business in greater London since the 1700s.  I walked into the carpeted shop and over to a vintage end-table neatly stacked with contemporary works of fiction.  On an adjacent end-table were books of military history.

Surveying the shop as if I were about to rent a room, I could sense its comfort had been earned rather than given.  The place looks venerable, smells venerable and, with its glossy mahogany tables, ornate banisters, and green-shade bankers’ lamps, feels venerable.

I found the section with the works of Charles Dickens in paper- and hardback resting on high shelves and long tables. Taking David Copperfield in hand, I sat down on a well-worn burgundy leather Chesterfield that felt like the ne plus ultra of comfort.  While I reread the first page of the classic for the first time in a long time, an orchestral rendition of “Carol of the Bells” stole through the entrance whenever someone entered or left.  I felt a deep sense of belonging in that bookshop, a supreme contentment created by the holiday season, antiquated atmosphere, and the ghosts of all those Dickens characters floating from stories of the long ago.

Novels that sustain

I didn’t always have the luxury of visiting an elegant bookshop in a cosmopolitan city because I had been in prison for most of my life.  Been right behind the looming concrete walls of a prison in a part of New York State that stayed cloudy, stayed dreary, stayed brutally unsympathetic and impersonal, but most of all, simply stayed.

I was occasionally asked how I did my time.  How I served a lengthy sentence without breaking down and dissolving into the earth.  I invariably replied that I was saved by the novel, spared the destruction of imprisonment because of the novel’s ability to transport the mind, reroute and redirect thought and feeling.

The novel can entertain as much as it can sustain.  Books also shore up the abiding loneliness of imprisonment.  Lessen the sting of prolonged banishment.

In prison books are my world

A large part of life consists of the people who come and go from your life.  Some people you don’t mind never seeing again, others you do.  Books, their characters and the stories they tell become your friends.  Friends who remain.  Important and towering allies in an often cold and alienating world.

In prison books were of paramount importance to me.  When I was young, I felt that my friends were my world.  In prison my books were my world.  They were fulfilling and reliable and if I’ve yet to fully express what the novel has meant to me and can mean to anyone, I’ll offer up the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “That is part of the beauty of all literature.  You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.  You belong.”