Yesterday I wore a Scotland football shirt to work (I couldn't find the Airdrie shirt I had planned to wear). I was doing a spot of advertising for a volunteering project we are starting with the prisoners. Time banking schemes exist in the community and we are embarking on a project to get prisoners to do voluntary work in the prison which will earn time credits which will then be donated to community time banks. Thus, for example, elderly or disabled people who find it hard to do voluntary work themselves to earn time credits can be given a present of some hours with which they can then "pay" someone to cut their grass or walk their dog or whatever.
A number of prisoners do voluntary things already, such as completing forms/reading letters for fellow prisoners with literacy problems, participating in the Prisoner Listener scheme and so on. When you are a prisoner, your liberty is taken away - that's the punishment. It's not just your freedom to be out in the community that is lost, because it goes much further than that. Every thing you do in your day as a prisoner is because someone has told you to do it. Voluntary work is one area where prisoners can exercise some choice, and from conversations this week it's clear that they find this refreshing and empowering. Our hope is that as they experience what it is to feel like a "good guy", to think of others, and experience people's gratitude instead of anger, they may be encouraged to assume a new identity as a kind and useful member of society. A lofty ambition, but there's no harm in trying!
Anyway, one idea we've had is to collect old football shirts, launder them in the prison laundry, package them and then send them out via a charity to people with very little who might be glad of them. Our prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes, so some of them have old football tops themselves. The officers and other staff will be asked. And we intend to make links with churches, schools and workplaces as well.
Many people buy the new season's shirt for their football team whenever it comes out, and the old ones get thrown out or lie in the back of the wardrobe. And children, of course, grow out of theirs.
So, if you're one of those readers who actually knows me and lives in my locale:
(a) please feel free to contribute football shirts! (If you belong to a local church or work in a school or whatever, feel free to appeal to them too. I'm particularly keen for schools to get involved as then we'll get kids' sizes of shirts. I'm equally keen for churches to get involved as I want prisoners to see church as a Good Thing.)
(b) if you have any contacts who go out to poor parts of the world who would be up for taking a few shirts with them to distribute, then please let me know.
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