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Feature: Prison life gets a makeover

Innovation is never easy but after three years of hard and often frustrating work, Onley Prison in Warwickshire has successfully created a sustainable recycling scheme that not only benefits the prisoners through a training scheme but provides a service to the wider community with quality refurbished white goods.

The idea for a refurbishing workshop was conceived by prison staff in 2002, and a year later a partnership involving HMP Onley, Warwickshire Environmental Trust, local charity Coventry City Mission and Warwickshire County Council began to come together.

By January 2005 funding was in place and the Goods Again scheme became a reality, with its official launch at the end of that January this year. Unwanted electrical goods are collected from the surrounding area so they can be refurbished by the prisoners. The appliances are then supplied to charities who donate or sell the items to people on low incomes.

Between September and December last year, 489 appliances were collected, weighing 10.6 tonnes, with 153 items delivered back to the community generating an income of £2,200. Anything that cannot be refurbished is stripped down for donor parts.

Goods Again has been operating since Septem-ber 2005, and the team at Onley is in no doubt of the far-reaching benefits that its implementation has made possible. For project manager David Martin, what makes this project so special is meeting the combination of educational and environmental needs.

“This is the sort of project other prisons should be doing,” he says. “Goods Again is not only matching the country’s agenda for waste but is providing learning by stealth. Although the workshop training is very hands on, the prisoners are also improving their literacy and numeracy.

The more we can send people out from prison with real skills, the less chance there is of them re- offending — but for this to happen we need to plan.”

To get the scheme up and running, funding came from three sources: Biffaward gave £181,873 in part-funding towards the refurbishment of cells into the new workshop; a CRED grant of £194,263 provided part-funding for revenue costs and 100% funding for the purchase of a van and IT equipment; and HMPS provided £104,000 towards setting up and equipping the workshop and £70,000 a year towards running costs.

Goods Again is now running as a business, so HMPS will support the ongoing revenue costs of the workshop — salaries and maintenance — as long as the external side, such as staffing costs of marketing managers, admin officers, drivers and the cost of spare parts, is self-sustaining.

Money for this side will come from the sale of goods. Having secured funding, the next hurdle proved to be setting up an appliance collection network. “This was quite difficult to set up,” says head of finance Julie Warren, “but we are now getting things in and charities are snapping the items up. We can do packages for them if, for example, someone is setting up a new home and needs a washing machine, fridge-freezer and cooker. I think that when the WEEE Directive finally kicks in it will really help us with the collection side.”

So far there are 12 prisoners on the programme but Onley is gearing up for 24, probably by the end of this month. This will mean 24 workstations and sets of tools and two instruct

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