Ernie has been working as the ‘prison run’ driver for LandWorks since July 2017. He collects the trainees from the prison every morning and drops them back again at the end of the day. This is the third time he has come out of retirement to work. He says, “one day my wife said “oh look, there’s a job here that would just suit you, driving, it’s only a couple of hours a day”, I went “yeah, ok”. People say to me “why are you driving prisoners?”, like it’s something really terrible. To be honest, I’ve found it really good. I think some people are bias against these guys. I’ve learnt a lot since I’ve been here. It’s reinforced my thoughts on treating everybody the same and how good it is for the guys in the prison to come out and work. Some of them have been in on long sentences and must find it very difficult to come back into society. It’s like a stepping-stone for them, a good one as well. It’s been an eye-opener.”
Eric has been coming out to LandWorks on day release from the local prison since November 2017. He is hoping to get himself back in to shape for a working way of life, ready for release in April 2018. Before he came to prison he was a machine operator for five years, working on many different sites around Devon and Cornwall. He says he has definitely learned his lesson and won’t be making the same mistake and decision that got him into trouble, “because believe me guys it’s all about the decision making”.
Quentin has been coming out to LandWorks on day release from the local prison since October 2017. He was not sure if there would be opportunities for him at LandWorks, but has discovered an aptitude and strong interest in pottery, which was a surprise. He also joins in with work in the market garden, painting and cooking.
Frankie has been coming to LandWorks on day release from the local prison since the end of August 2017. He is a farmer coming to the end of two-years in prison, following a Health and Safety offence on a farm.
Jarvis is coming out to LandWorks released on temporary licence every day from the local prison, in preparation for release in six weeks’ time. He has had a criminal career and served a number of prison sentences. He is now in his 50s and wanting to completely change his life. He is married but has been separated from his wife for the last four years. He is new to the area and anxious about ‘normal’ everyday things like cooking and shopping for himself. He has a lot of skills, but is as yet unsure about how he can put these to good use. LandWorks is supporting him as he works to turn his life around and makes the transition from prison to everyday life.
Peter: was recently released from prison. He has been a fisherman most of his life, a skipper, aside from four years in the Army when he served in the Gulf War. He got a bit disillusioned with trawling in his 20s, when he was “just turning into a bit of a hippy”, and didn’t agree with the way they were fishing, so went crabbing instead. By his early 30s he was skippering boats up country, before coming back to Devon, where he worked again crabbing and “sand-eeling”. He worked in the spray-shop throughout his term in prison and ran the shop for three months prior to release. He wants “to get a decent job that he enjoys doing” so he can have “a bit of quality of life” and “get a few hobbies going again. Do a bit of bass fishing, stuff like that.” He says he “used to play a bit of golf” with his mate. But hasn’t played golf for years. “When you’re on the boats there isn’t much time for anything else.”
George: is coming out to LandWorks on day release from prison. He has worked as a plumber for 15 years in the Devon area. He has progressed through the prison system during his time there. He did a peer mentoring course, going on to work for the Shannon’s Trust helping other inmates in the prison to read and write, before becoming a coordinator in the prison as a listener. He has a partner and a young son, who was just 2 years old when he went to prison. They visit once a week and he speaks to them on the phone every night. He is looking to develop new skills and maybe bring a few of his own to LandWorks. There are certain things that he’s never done before, like cooking, carpentry, market gardening, and he’s which hoping to enhance his skills ready for release.
Joe: is trying to fit in his community hours at LandWorks whilst holding down a full-time job. He works in a food store, but also works with a theatre company that tours the South West doing murder mysteries and role play evenings. He is the second oldest in a family of five siblings. He has lived in the area for 17 years and considers Devon his home. He loves the sea and the countryside here. He can play the piano, though claims to be ‘a bit rusty’, but loves his music and socialising. He would love to get a play published and make a living from acting full time, these are his ambitions/dreams, “apart from not getting into trouble again” he says.
Benny: is coming out to LandWorks on day release from prison. Before prison and LandWorks he worked as a business manager for 16 years. He’s now doing a range of resettlement work at LandWorks and is really enjoying learning how to become a market gardener, it is something he had never thought of doing before. He is hoping that by learning about market gardening he will be able to use his new skills in employment or as a hobby in his own garden, when he’s released from prison. Benny’s family have been very supportive, visit regularly and think project’s like LandWorks should be available to all prisoners in preparation for release.
Rachel: is a police officer, who started a 2-year diploma in policing around 15 weeks ago. Prior to joining the police force, she worked as an assistant manager in a local supermarket for five years, simultaneously working as a special constable for two and a half years. It was whilst she was a special that she received a commendation for an incident she handled particularly well. She has lived all her life in Devon, sharing her home over the years with a variety of pets, currently she has a tortoise (a 21st birthday present), two leopard geckos (an 18th birthday present), a dog (just the one), four chickens and a couple of goldfish. In the past, she has had a giant African land snail, stick insects and she says, “I’ve had sort of everything that you can have as a pet, it’s been great”. She has wanted to be a police officer since she was a teenager, because she wanted to help people and had an interest in the law. She says, “I’ve always been one who likes to be able to talk people through things”, hence she says that the police “is the perfect job for me really”.
Troy: moved to Devon to get away from his old life, with his mum and younger brother two and a half years ago. He’d been in trouble as a youngster which resulted in a couple of short prison terms. When he moved to the area he managed to get a good job but because he didn’t declare his previous convictions on the application form was subsequently prosecuted and given a community sentence, which he has been completing at LandWorks, since early June. He was sacked from this job just before Christmas and hasn’t managed to get another. He says it’s hard to get to know people when moving to a new area, so he is hoping to learn some more skills or a trade that will help him get work. He’s been enjoying the carpentry with Graham and has tried his hand at woodturning too.
Marshall: has been coming out to LandWorks a few days a week since early May. He trained as a chef after being “kicked out” of school eight years ago. He did a three-year training course at college and an apprenticeship at a prestigious restaurant in Devon. He says that he fell in with the wrong crowd, got into trouble and lost everything, his job and his flat. He’s looking for stability in his life now with his girlfriend and her child. Since, coming out to LandWorks he’s enjoyed woodworking, including wood turning and working with clay on the potter’s wheel. He has a chef’s eye for detail and has enjoyed cooking lunch for everyone. He is also managing to work, whilst completing his Rehabilitation Activity Requirements and gaining new skills at LandWorks.
Sandy: started coming to LandWorks at the end of March and has been referred through probation. He recently moved to the area to be near his grandparents. In the past, he has worked in an elderly care home, a nursery for children and for a waste disposal company. He is the eldest in his family and has two brothers. He was diagnosed as lactose intolerant at the age of two and subsequently doesn’t consume milk or cheese. He is into his music and is looking for work, with the prospect of possibly starting a woodworking or other training course in September.
Simon: was referred to LandWorks from the end of November and is on probation. He last worked as a care-worker and is looking to get into that line of work again. Previously he worked in the building trade after leaving the army, where he served 12 years from the age of 16, working in the Lifeguards and Household Cavalry. It was when he was in the household cavalry that he sustained the first of two serious life changing head injuries. The first from a horse in the cavalry and the second five years ago in a near fatal motor bike accident. He has bi-polar because of the first head injury and is currently taking stabilising medication. He has grown up children and a supportive family. He is currently living on his brother’s farm in Devon.
Brett: is on probation and started coming to LandWorks in November. In the past he worked as a self-employed landscape gardener and had his own gardening business for about four years. He always worked until he was forced to stop due to health issues which arose as a result of long term drug abuse. He is enrolled on a rehabilitation course, which he attends on a regular basis. He enjoys working in the art room and gardening. He has also recently started cooking, which is something he had never really done before. He is the father of twin two-year-old boys.
James: started his placement at LandWorks at the end of November. In the past he enjoyed doing ground works and worked on the Newton Abbot bypass. He has also worked as a general builder, as a foreman on a building site and had been making plans to start his own business. He has come to LandWorks to get back into a work frame of mind, having recently secured permanent accommodation (after a period of sofa surfing, sleeping in cars and occasionally on a bench at the seafront). He says he doesn’t want to commit any more crime or get into any more trouble and is hoping to get back into the building trade. He has two daughters and is slowly rebuilding his relationship with the eldest.
Rodney: has been involved with LandWorks since April. He mainly does the woodwork and construction side of things. He has his level two construction skills diploma, but is happy to get stuck in to all aspects on the site. Although carpentry is his specialty everything he does here he finds beneficial. He says he’s always learning something new. He doesn’t come out hoping to do one thing or another, he likes to do a bit of everything. He says because everyone here wants to turn themselves around it is a better environment for him. It is a motivator for change.
Matthew: has recently been involved with LandWorks for nearly six months. He says he enjoys being ‘feminist and fabulous’ (he wears this apron when he’s cooking). He’s been working in the workshop, has helped on the cob wall and the electrics for the new building. He really likes driving the dumper truck and is brilliant at selling products on the stall to passers by. He says if it wasn’t for LandWorks he’d be sat in a prison cell, or in a lot of trouble. Recently he’s been cooking for everyone and his garlic bread is legendary, along with his lasagne.
Graham: is an experienced carpenter and builder, who was a trainee at LandWorks for 12 months from July 2015. During this time he worked on the new building from start to finish, which is testament to his skills and attention to detail. After two and a half years in prison being at LandWorks was a blessing for the last 12 months of his sentence. He involved himself in all aspects of the project, he thoroughly enjoyed cooking and making produce to sell, from wooden items to mince pies. He was released from prison at the end of July 2016 and is now employed at LandWorks as a woodwork trainer.
Sarah: is a Devon-based artist, specialising in creating visual art with socially excluded groups. She has collaborated with current and ex-offenders at LandWorks since 2013 to create a range of artworks. For this project Sarah will work with Julie and the participants to curate an exhibition of the photographs, while helping to update the blog. https://sarahjanehodge.com/
Julie: is an associate professor in sociology at Plymouth University and lead researcher for the PeN Project. Julie has been involved with LandWorks in a number of capacities (e.g. driver, supporter, cook), since the scheme began. Most recently completing research as a Sociology of Health and Illness Foundation (SHI) Mildred Blaxter research fellow, examining ‘commensality’ (eating together around a table) as a tool for health, well-being, social inclusion and community resilience. She has also worked with a number of colleagues on a range of research projects incorporating visual methods and participatory approaches.
NB. Trainee biographies are anonymized.