Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, has visited ground-breaking prisoner re-settlement scheme, LandWorks, on its first year anniversary.
He met current and former prisoners from HMP Channings Wood, HMP Exeter and those on a probation unit for prolific offenders in Devon who currently attend the scheme.
LandWorks graduates, now in full-time employment, were able to share their experiences, discussing their newly-acquired skills in technology, landscaping, horticultural and carpentry, and how their learning has enabled them to put crime behind them.
Also present at the event were over 100 LandWorks supporters, a quarter of the mainly Devon-based supporters who make donations and volunteer on the scheme.
Launched in September 2013, LandWorks helps reintegrate ex-prisoners into communities and reduce re-offending, providing constructive connections, training and support. With its clear work ethic, the project allows trainees to develop the skills, self-worth and confidence to help them find employment.
Since its launch, 10 men have been supported by the LandWorks programme, with three of four original trainees now working. Around £37,000 a year of taxpayers’ money is saved for every LandWorks graduate who does not re-offend and return to prison.
The aim is to make communities safer, with more rehabilitated prisoners leading to fewer potential future victims.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said: “I’m glad I could be here to celebrate the first anniversary of the LandWorks scheme at Dartington. Resettlement schemes like this give former prisoners and offenders useful horticultural and carpentry skills, but they do more than that.
“Prisoners also develop the skills and habits they need – such as teamwork and reliability – to get and hold down a job. Having a job can help prisoners turn away from crime and live law-abiding and purposeful lives.”
LandWorks Project Manager, Chris Parsons, said: “We’re very pleased that the LandWorks scheme is being recognised nationally. The more we can turn people away from a life of crime and provide the skills and routes into work, the fewer victims we will have in our communities.
“We’ve had a fantastic first year, intend to build on that and what’s especially exciting is that this project has the potential to be replicated across the country.”
A Landworks graduate now in employment, Rich, said: “Sometimes it doesn’t look like much, a bunch of prisoners working in a field in all weathers, but what we’ve got there is really special. It’s completely changed my life and I hope it goes on for years.”
One of LandWorks’ 400 supporters, Christie Galvin, said: “I feel passionately that this is the way forward because when men leave prison many go back to their former lifestyle as there are so many problems that prison doesn’t address.
“Chris shows them how a different life can be led. I volunteer my time, others bring personal contacts or make donations.”
Another supporter, Anton Fitzpatrick, said: “The prison system deals with the crime, but the way to actually reduce the number of victims in the future is to stop people’s cyclical behaviour by instilling a sense of pride and giving them a different direction to go in.”
The LandWorks scheme is grateful for the support that comes from individual donations and charitable grants, including Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioners Office small grants scheme, to cover its costs.