“Instead of smashing up your cell you can channel your aggression in a positive way. I usually spend about two to three hours an evening doing tapestry work. It helps you realize there are alternatives to committing crime.”
- Pete, HMP Albany
“Fine Cell Work gives these men dignity in work and through this, dignity in life. When a man gains self-respect he may start addressing his offending behaviour.”
- Officer, HMP Wandsworth
I was introduced to Fine Cell Work at a Junior League of London General Meeting 5 years ago as a potential community outreach project. I was so impressed with the speaker’s presentation, I immediately commissioned the programme to complete portraits of my three children – the third is still being worked on as we speak!
Fine Cell Work (FCW) is a social enterprise that teaches needlework to prison inmates and sells their products to the public. Simple as that. Established in 1997 and working within English and Scottish prisons, prisoners do their work when they are locked in their cells. Their earnings give them hope, skills, independence, confidence and reassurance they are on the right track in rehabilitation.
The FCW mission is to rehabilitate prisoners by giving them the opportunity to earn and save money and the chance to reflect on and rebuild their lives through craft and achievement. Prisoners do Fine Cell Work for an average of 3 years, often proposing original ideas, honing their skills; the benefits can therefore be profound.
The FCW does not discriminate based on the type of offence the prisoner has committed and offers each prisoner an opportunity to learn a needle craft. The FCW is committed to the rehabilitation process and the positive results that ensue.
Each prisoner has the option to recreate more traditional botanical prints, contemporary modern works, portraits of people, the list and their talent is endless – everything is possible – it’s absolutely amazing!
The FCW functions now in 29 prisons across the UK and about 80% of the stitchers are men. In 2010, over 400 stitchers collectively earned £71,354 within the prison system. The prisoners are taught by some 60 volunteer instructors and the classes have waiting lists for the waiting lists! As you can imagine, the programme is oversubscribed and so popular the prison officials receive 2-3 requests per month for new programmes in other potential sites they just cannot fulfil at the moment.
The FCW has carried out bespoke work for many international Interiors, Fashion, Textiles designers and Photographers including William Yeoward, John Stefanidis, Jasper Conran, Kit Kemp, Artistic Director of the Firmdale Hotel Group and Australian portrait photographer Polly Borland. And have also created pieces for Virgin, English Heritage, the V&A, the National Gallery and the Tate Modern.
Well the question is now, how can YOU help? You can really help by contacting Fine Cell Work today and Sponsor A Prisoner or Commission A Piece or become a supporter. These men and women have a chance, a real shot at rehabilitation through crafting, who knows, maybe we can learn a thing or two from them. Let’s help them achieve their goals whilst incarcerated!
READ: Letter From A Prisoner
READ: Prison Stories