22 Harden Lane, Bradford BD15 0EU :: Registered Charity No. 1136858 :: Registered Company No. 7008298

Tag: prison work

Lifetime Achievement Award for David Brown

David Brown, Shami Chakrabarti and Jon Snow

David Brown, CEO of the Margaret Carey Foundation, has been awarded the Lord Longford Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to restorative justice and work with prisons. Shami Chakrabarty, the Director of the campaign group, Liberty, presented the award.

David founded Margaret Carey Foundation in 20010 to provide meaningful work for prisoners. The charity rescues disused bikes and wheelchairs that would otherwise be land filled and takes them to prison workshops where they are refurbished. The charity then donates the bikes and wheelchairs to people in need in England and in the developing world.

David retired from the Probation Service in Bradford in 1997 but after less than a year of retirement he was recruited to work for the Inside Out Trust, setting up and managing prison projects until the organisation was suddenly wound up in 2008. David was again tempted to take retirement but instead, his response was to carry on ‘business as usual’ despite no proper funds, no salary, and no organisational backup. He continued to run his projects as a full time volunteer, raising funds through local community events and commandeering friends and family to support. He was finally able to register Margaret Carey Foundation with the Charity Commission in 2010 and to establish it as a limited company the same year.

In the 18 months since then, offenders have refurbished 550 bikes and 600 wheelchairs, which have been distributed to needy people in South Africa, Uganda, Eastern Europe, Fiji and Sri Lanka.

Voluntary and community groups, individuals and private companies contribute the “raw materials” of disused bikes and wheelchairs, and the charity is currently seeking more donations of this type.

The Longford Prize recognises the contribution of an individual, group or organisation working in the area of penal or social reform in showing outstanding qualities of humanity, courage, persistence and originality. It is awarded annually by a prize committee on behalf of the trustees and patrons of the Longford Trust. It is sponsored by the Independent newspaper and organised in association with the Prison Reform Trust.

The prize was awarded at the annual Longford Lecture, given this year by Jon Snow on the subject of “Crime, punishment and the media. “

The True Story of a Troublesome Prisoner

The workshop at HMP Garth had refurbished more than 100 wheelchairs, which were being sent to Chennai, India. The shipment included a specially made chair that had been built by one of the prisoners for a young orphan named Manikandam. The workshop manager, Dave Kellett, went with the shipment to Chennai and took videos and still photographs whilst he was there.

In the meantime, a prisoner in Garth was given instructions to report to DK’s workshop on the Monday DK returned to work from his trip to Chennai. I will call this prisoner, RTP (You will understand why very shortly!). Apparently RTP had asked around on the landing as to the nature of the workshop he was instructed to attend and what the instructor was like. In the many years RTP had served in prison he had been troublesome and had never worked for any length of time and certainly with no enthusiasm in other workshops where he had been placed. In fact he had been disruptive on many occasions.

He found out that the work was fixing wheelchairs, and was told that DK was “a good bloke” so he RTP arrived in the workshop. DK had promised the men that on his return from India he would show them video footage and photographs. This he did on that first Monday morning, and of course this was RTP’s introduction to the workshop. The video featured the orphan, Manikandam, and his specialised wheelchair, along with other distributions.

RTP stayed in the workshop and began to be taught, mostly by the other men, as to what was involved in restoring wheelchairs. About two weeks later RTP gave DK a letter and after DK read it, he gained RTP’s permission to share the contents with me. It contained a testimony as to the life changing effect the video, photographs, and DK’s account had had on RTP.

The prisoner wrote, “the experience that Monday morning made me realise I could be different, I could help others less fortunate than myself even though I was serving a long prison sentence, that I had something to offer and that being troublesome was negative and unproductive in all sorts of ways.” He wrote “watching that video changed something in my head” and TP – troublesome prisoner – became RTP – reformed troublesome prisoner. RTP settled into the workshop and helped restore wheelchairs, which the following year went to Chennai via the same arrangements.