A CHARITY which works with women at HM Prison Eastwood Park, Falfield, has helped to rehabilitate offenders.

The Purple Community Fund UK (PCF) started work with the women's closed category prison last June to break the cycle of reoffending as costs of keeping a female prisoner rise to £56,415 on average per year.

Statistics from the Prison Reform Trust show that 61 percent of prisoners reoffend within two years of release, and this drops to 19 percent if they find work. However, only 8.5 percent of women leaving prison enter employment compared to 26 percent of men.

Founder Jane Walker said that the charity support prisoners via an education program and weekly wellbeing session to prepare for employment after release.

She said: “There are not enough activities for prisoners and our projects have meaningful outcomes for many of the women. They really enjoy them – otherwise they are often left in a cell block where there is a massive shortage of officers and nothing for them to do.

“Our support helps them work through issues that led them to prison. Understanding of why these happened help build a stronger resilience, and this along with the practical skills we teach can have a positive influence on their future.”

One of the charity’s social enterprise programs includes textile workshops using waste from companies. The materials are used to give offenders training to make accessories which are either traded back to the firms or stocked on the charity’s online store and sold to retailers.

Jane said: “As well as a sense of wellbeing, pride and accomplishment, offenders receive a textiles qualification, livelihood and skills training, plus mindfulness therapy, as well as payment towards their funds on leaving.”

Eastwood Park Prison’s community engagement manager, Mike McBrian, said: “I am struck by PCF’s commitment and integrity. They recognise that low self-esteem issues have to be addressed to enable offenders to secure and hold onto employment. I believe PCF is going to set the standard for how external agencies should work within prisons.

“We know that women offenders respond well to positive impact, and are eager to learn a skill which will make a difference to their lives and those of their families on release.”

An offender at Eastwood Park Prison who cannot be named said: “It was never on my CV to be in prison. I made a mistake but I’ve worked hard to change through this work and by gaining a qualification.”

Some of the items created include bags made of ring pulls off the tops of drinks cans which retails at £35, and small beaded necklaces for £10 made using recycled glossy magazines. They can be purchased on the charity’s website at www.p-c-f.org.