Benny says: “prisoners in prison just tell it how it is…”

“What’s been happening? I’m just doing the same really. I’m just learning the gardens with Mon. I work on my own. She’s teaching me the seasons, she’s trying to teach me a whole year’s cycle so that if I wanted to have a job doing it, I’d know how to do it from start to finish…

I meet a lot of people. I meet loads of people and they all know my name. Loads of people come to the shop and ask “where’s Benny?” We have mad conversations about things like spicy radishes…

I’ve been offered three jobs, working weekends in people’s gardens. There were two I showed around and we got down to the gardens and we’re chatting away and he said “I’m getting on a bit, I can’t really keep up with the garden, do you work weekends?” and I said “no, I don’t” – he said “are you available to come and do some work every weekend to keep my garden up?” – I said “I’d love to but …” and I told him, so, no. On the ‘open day’ I had the same thing. People obviously didn’t put two and two together, even though they should know. I think you can have a normal conversation. I haven’t got arrows on me, have I? or a ball and chain or a gun and a stocking – “give us your vegetables”. I love it because it just makes me giggle… People that visit are very trusting, in a way, which they should be, it’s nice.  I don’t mind visitors…

When we get back to the prison and we look a bit muddy and a bit knackered and all the rest of it, a lot of lads go “I wouldn’t, you’re not getting paid, why do you want to do that when you’re not getting paid?” – we’re like – “because we’re getting out of prison”. It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you work hard. You’re just getting out of prison and the food’s better and you’re meeting different people, so, why wouldn’t you?

They used to come to us, the guys here on community licences, and ask us about prison, quite often. We told them the truth. I say to them “if you want to know, I’ll tell you” and I’ll say “this is how close you were to being there and this is a good incentive not to mess up”. That to me, if I was in their shoes, that would be a bigger incentive than anything, because it’s real. Probation can tell me a story. Other people can tell me a story, but prisoners in prison just tell it how it is. I say to them “if you’ve got your head screwed on, you won’t break the law again, you’ll just keep your head down”. I think that’s where it works well out here, when you’ve got a mixture of the two…

I think it’s definitely a good thing for prisoners to come out here and anyone who says anything different, is mad. They’re not getting it. They don’t know what this place is all about. This place, to me, is all about, ok, you get out of prison, that’s always a good thing, but it’s about the people. I know the guys do their courses and they do their how to treat people with respect and all the rest of it, skills training, but here everyone’s so friendly aren’t they? and supportive. That’s very unusual in life. You go to places, you might get a few people who are like that, but you always get the idiot. Here, everybody is supportive. That’s a nice safety net to come into, a nice warm blanket and you know who you can talk to…”



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