I’ve answered the phone, hesitating because I didn’t recognise the number.
“It’s Frank, you alright mate?”
As it happens I am, it’s Friday morning, and the sun’s out. “Chris tell me this… why do you work with scum like us?”
“You’re not scum Frank”.
He pauses… I’m now immediately worried, there’s more to this… But it turns out he just wants reassurance about a job interview and of course I’ll do a reference. He left LandWorks a year ago and he’s doing okay after a life time of jail.
Today we’ve an interesting cohort. The LandWorks Over 50s club is very full and, broadly, this is reflecting the aging prison population. In two years 25% of prisoners will be over 65.
I enjoy the current chat, it’s often about my era. Lads who’ve lived a life, many stories, many Clash fans. Generally, we’ve more in common than not, but especially music.
To be quite honest, the addicts, the robbers, the f#@ked up … well, they are just people, mostly trying to sort out life, I find it hard to see them as ‘other’.
Slightly to counter this of late, we are working with more ‘white collar criminals’, fraudsters really. And they certainly don’t class themselves as scum, no no no, they would like you to think of them differently. “Err, being jailed is just a bit of an, err, misunderstanding.”
Harder to deal with because, ohhhh my god, they’re good! Suddenly they can position themselves alongside me, flipping me over, before I can even say ‘toast’. He is broadcasting, “Chris and I stand shoulder to shoulder on this matter” … when I was simply trying to indicate that the Marmite is for everyone, not just Mr Sneaky!
It doesn’t mean their journey is any less; in fact they’ve often further to travel. We probably work harder, building trusting relationships, and encouraging honesty.
Music is proving a great way to bring us all together. We have a few people who can really sing, play guitar, and a great back catalogue (the 50s club firmly rooted in 1979). There are plans afoot to form a band. ‘Cosmic Lettuce’, you heard it here first folks!
Friday is playing out its last few chords and I’m home opening my front door. There’s a note on the mat from Gareth Jones. Jonesy came to work with me on the day of his release from HMP Channings Wood almost ten years ago. Still in touch, he’s doing alright, settled in Torbay.
He’s after a bit of advice, wants to work with addicts, robbers and the f#@ked up.
Ted’s bike ride campaign has beaten all targets, and raised a staggering £40,000 including match-funding and gift aid.
A huge thank you from all of us at LandWorks to Ted and everyone who has supported him on this epic effort.
Although the sponsorship is now finished, you can read Ted’s blog here