I thought you would be interested in an extract from a recent PeN interview. A reflection from Ernie, who does the prison run twice a day. Taking our van to collect and return HMP prisoners every day.
The PeN project over the last 18 months has captured people’s stories at LandWorks. As LandWorks has evolved so has PeN and the ambition is now to capture more stories and experiences from those involved and importantly those who have moved on. An opportunity to catch up on life after leaving LandWorks.
To do this effectively a new (rather catchy) name has emerged… ‘Finishing Time’.
Ernie says: “I think a lot of people are a bit wary about picking up prisoners…”
Posted on March 28, 2018 by PeN Project
“I think a lot of people are a bit wary about picking up prisoners, but that didn’t faze me at all. I’ve worked with people before who’ve been in prison. People have made mistakes and that’s life, isn’t it? We all make mistakes. People say to me “why are you driving prisoners?”, like it’s something really terrible. To be honest, I’ve found it really good and I’ve found that LandWorks, the people who work here, are really nice and easy to get on with and treat everybody the same. That’s the one thing that I’ve really noticed. I find that’s just … it’s very difficult to explain to people, they don’t understand it. I think some people are bias against these guys.
I’ve learnt a lot since I’ve been here. It’s reinforced my thoughts on treating everybody the same and how good it is for the guys in the prison to come out and work. Some of them have been in on long sentences and must find it very difficult to come back into society. It’s like a stepping-stone for them, a good one as well. It’s been an eye-opener, really…
I’ve noticed that the guys, when they first come out, they’re very edgy. I didn’t realise just the effect that prison had on people. From what I’ve seen, just how they become institutionalised. I’d never realised that before, never. I can see the difference between someone who’s been in prison and when they’ve been out here for like a fortnight, they’ve changed. Their personality has changed, everything has changed. That’s been an eye-opener, to be honest. The way they’re treated here by everyone, I think it’s really good. It’s marvellous really. I’ve said it before, I don’t know how you get so many nice people in one place… people that you’ve met like sponsors that come in, all sorts of people, they’re all brilliant. You forget how many good people there are about, don’t you?
Every day is a good day for me, to be honest, it is. I don’t get any bad days with them, well, the bad days I do get is when they pull at my heart strings. That’s the bad days and then I go home thinking about it… I think I’m quite a good listener. I don’t take too much notice of … they sort of say they’re only guilty of half their crime, I don’t take too much notice of all that. I’d probably be saying the same. I love them to bits. I think they’re alright. I can think of people that are not in prison that I don’t like as much…
I thought they’d come here, these guys, and be working with their heads down, but it’s not like that. It’s like one big family. It’s been a real privilege to just drive. I know it’s only a driving job, but it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, to be honest. I don’t think “oh, I’ve got to go there tomorrow morning”. The high points are seeing these guys come out and they’re so glad to come out. That gives you a lift because their life in there must be rubbish…
I’m building relationships with everybody, even some of the grumpy ones in the prison smile at me now when I go there in the morning. They call me Mr Dartington. It’s the same face, so that’s good for them, they don’t need to think “who are you? what do you want?”The trouble is when you retire you don’t meet many people, so I think most certainly it’s bound to have had some effect on me and I think it’s been good for me, definitely. Anything that enriches your life has got to be good for you and you feel that it’s worthwhile doing…”