Prison Friends making a real difference

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The FOGM at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show
The FOGM at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show

The Friends of Guys Marsh were raising awareness of the vital work they do for everyone connected with prison life at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show.

Their stall was also selling items from the Jailhouse Café, which is open to the public inside the prison grounds, and provides opportunities for prisoners to work in the kitchens and engage with guests.

The charity was set up in 2004 and helps to rehabilitate ex-offenders by providing the tools and equipment they may need to thrive ‘outside’.

Trustee Shaun Bracey said: “It is amazing how a little can go a long way – for example men are often released after many years with only a grey tracksuit and black plastic bag for their possessions. Sometimes they have no home to go to which makes it more difficult than ever to make a new start.”

“FOGM provides a leavers’ bag with essential provisions such as toothpaste, a waterproof coat and clothes. Other support has included helping fund a driving test and training for a project management course with money going direct to the test centre and course provider.”

One of the charity’s successes is Michael, a barber who on release was given barbering tools by the Friends.

Shaun said: “It is heart- warming to hear how he has adapted during the pandemic, finding work when barber shops closed, building a strong relationship with his son and recently securing a mortgage to buy a house with his partner. Another success story is David who was determined to change his life around. Since being released he has broken four world records for long-distance paddle boarding and set up a project to bring together prison officers and ex-offenders to climb Everest, raising funds and awareness of rehabilitation in the process.”

The last 18 months have been particularly difficult for prisoners, who have spent more time in isolated cells, and their families, who have been unable to visit. So FOGM sourced over 25 sewing machines so that men could make PPE and other items to support the NHS during the epidemic.

People can help prisoners and their families by joining The Friends of Guys Marsh.

Find out more at friendsofguysmarsh.co.uk.

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