Commercial: Fine Cell Work
As we move towards the results of the spending review being announced, one thing that's pretty certain is that rehabilitating prisoners will fall down the political agenda, at exactly the moment that it should go up - not least because thinking about these issues will become more acute as the number of jails and prisoners starts to fall, due to costs.
So I'd like to draw your attention to the fine work being done by, ahem, Fine Cell Work. As it says:
Fine Cell Work is a social enterprise that teaches needlework to prison inmates and sells their products. The prisoners do the work when they are locked in their cells, and the earnings give them hope, skills and independence.
Our 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: the benefits can therefore be profound.
This wasn't a simple sell, by any stretch. Fine Cell Work's founder, Lady Anne Tree, who died last month, struggled for three decades to get the idea approved by the Home Office.
Time has shown that her perseverance was worth it. This is not just ham-fisted darning going on; this is proper, full-on artistic expression; similar to the way in which prisoners who learn to read and write while inside discover a new side of themselves, so sewing and needlework appears to provide both a form of relief and a way forward.
The results, in terms of both rehabilitation and creative output, can be spectacular. If you happened to see the Quilts exhibition at the V&A recently, you'll know about the work done by prisoners at HMP Wandsworth, which was at once both meditative and passionate, and as persuasive an argument for the work of the charity.
It has a shop too, so I'd humbly suggest getting someone's Christmas present from there. It'll make a hell of a lot of difference to lots of people.