Introducing you to our new Longford Blog. Join a Big Conversation….
You get used to negative responses when you run a prison reform charity. Not always, of course, but on occasion I have had doors shut in my face when talking about the Longford Trust, what we do, and those we work with – shut metaphorically, I should add, in the sense of closed or hostile minds, rather than actually, in most cases. The experience has been sufficient to give me some small insight into how much worse it must be when what is being shut out is not a charity but yourself, and your future.
It happens for a whole variety of reasons, but principal among them is that the stereotypes surrounding people who’ve been to prison remain extremely hard to shift. These are stereotypes that deal in generalities rather than individuals, that play on fear rather than fact, that are informed by negative newspaper headlines and crowd-pleasing politicians rather than real people with real lives.
At the Longford Trust, we have always been about people who have been to prison and are working really hard for a second chance. We try to understand – but not excuse – the many obstacles that stand in their way so that they can be overcome and best of all removed. By launching our new blog on the trust’s website, promoted on our Twitter feed and other social media, we want to extend that work further to give those we work with, our Longford Scholars, a platform to talk about what they are doing, how the world looks from where they are. What works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change.
The trust’s starting point back in 2002 when we set up was a belief in the power of education to transform lives – something Frank Longford (in whose memory we were established) said throughout his long life on the political front-line, and on newspaper front pages. Over 70 years in the limelight, he also (usually quietly) visited prisoners. Frank Longford said many things but one in particular informs all we do. If you write off any individual’s capacity to reform and rehabilitate themselves, then you write off not just them, but yourself as well.
So let’s stop doing something so damaging. Let’s turn to this new platform for discussion about what taking on such a positive challenge means in practical terms. Let’s listen to those who know this pathway inside out, and want to support and encourage others to walk the same road. We hope to inspire those in prison or have been to prison, who might think university and a degree might not be for them, to look at others and think if it might actually be in their grasp. With the right support, could you do it? This Longford Blog offers a platform for scholars – occasionally mentors and other supporters as well- to air concerns and offer solutions about studying when you have been to prison, about ways to make the most of employment opportunities. Alongside the efforts of many others, up to and including some ministers, let’s keep pushing forward with making prison sentences a start not an end.
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Director, Longford Trust