Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Food growing at open prisons

HMP North Sea Camp, an open prison in Lincolnshire, featured on the BBC's Countryfile this weekend and gave an insight into the work inmates do there in producing food. This of course was of special interest to me as Fylde's own open prison, HMP Kirkham, have been so fantastic in supporting FOODCO since we started back in June 2010 (hard to believe that that's a whole year and a half ago now!)

Screenshot from Countryfile

Just in case you didn't know already, Kirkham Prison have massive food growing capabilities and produce fruit, veg, meat dairy and bread which they then sell to the public in their farm shop and new bistro *shameless plug*. They also donate fruit and veg to various local causes, including us. 

FOODCO goes to the farm shop every Wednesday morning to pick up boxes of produce that is so fresh that it is usually still wet and muddy. It's then taken back to FOODCO HQ to be sorted into food parcels along with the rest of the day's donations from allotments and of course the stuff grown by our volunteers. With their help we've now managed to make over 1,500 free deliveries.

Another screenshot from Countryfile

Open prisons are criticised by some as being far too lenient because there is opportunity for escape and inmates are allowed visits home or to work outside of the prison walls. This is a very lazy criticism though. Open prisons are an invaluable way of preparing inmates for release. 

Since my weekly visits to the prison began I have been able to learn a lot from the lads staffing the farm shop about what it actually means to be inside even for a short time.  Many have told stories of fellow inmates who are terrified at the thought of release because of the difficulties in re-acquanting themselves with the every day activities and interactions that we take for granted.

FOODCO at HMP Kirkham. (See our video here!)
As a result, they value the contact they have with the public and the prospect of a home visit is huge incentive for good behaviour. In addition to this, anyone who has been to Kirkham's farm shop will testify that great pride is taken in their work, demonstrated by a level of service superior to many profesional retail outlets.

It's great to know that skilled workers in open prison are given the opportunity to do community work (and they really do do a lot of it) and that the quality of their work is appreciated. It is also good to see that others are provided with transferable skills that can be used once released and hopefully reduce the chance or re-offending. Isn't that the whole point of a prison in the first place?

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