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Our prison programme supports up to fifteen trainees, who participate daily for approximately three months, although there is no rigid timeline, allowing trainees to remain as long as they perceive benefits from the programme. We typically engage people who have fought against the prison system. For some, it is their last chance of rehabilitation.

Even a short stay in prison limits people’s future. We focus on turning that around.

Photo: A graduation ceremony at HMP Risley

When we surveyed trainees before our prison workshops, we found that:

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had experienced mental health issues

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had been unemployed for at least six months

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had left school with no qualifications

I had nothing to wake up for in the morning, nothing to do or look forward to for the day

I was lonely, depressed, angry, nervous and scared

I felt stuck like I couldn’t do anything with my life. I had no ambition

When we asked trainees to tell us how the programme had helped them:

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reported their skills had increased

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reported they felt better about themselves

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reported that they had increased self-belief

It helped me communicate with others in prison and learn things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve

For the first time in my life, I’ve woken up feeling enthusiastic about work

It helped my mental and physical health and provided a helpful daily routine

Upcycle is currently working in the following prisons

HMP Risley

The workshop is known in the prison as CHAINS: Change Help Advance in New Skills.

Workshop Instructor Graham has 20 years of experience in the prison service, working most jobs in various prisons from being uniformed on a residential unit to being a nationally accredited trainer for the prison service to working in the workshops.  During his time in the prison service, Graham was nominated for Prison Officer of the Year twice and received six commendations.

In August 2022 Graham attended the Velotech trainers course  and is hoping to be able to start awarding qualifications to the trainees during the time they spend in the bike workshop. There are 2 groups completing the course at a time so there are different groups in the workshop for the morning and afternoon sessions.

From September 2022, the workshop became part of a CFO Discovery Wing, a focussed programme to support veterans in custody and other subgroups. Eligible prisoners will complete 9 weeks of practical sessions including employability skills, managing debt and benefits advice, mental health, and mindfulness support before moving into phase 2 which is 9 weeks of training in the bike workshop. Weeks 1- 8 of the programme are delivered by Achieve.

In October 2023, bikes from HMP Risley being dropped at a local primary school was featured in the Warrington Guardian, you can read more here.

HMP Risley is a Category C prison in Warrington Cheshire. Further information about HMP Risley can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

HMP Wymott

The  HMP Wymott workshop opened in July 2022. The workshop is known in the prison as CHAINS: Change Help Advance in New Skills, it accommodates eight learners simultaneously.

Workshop Instructor, Andy, successfully started and ran the “Chains” bike workshop for five years at HMP Risley. While still at HMP Risley, Andy was funded by UpCycle to attend the Professional level Velotech Training course , which will enable him to deliver accredited qualifications to the learners in the new workshop at Wymott. Learners can progress to Velotech Gold level which covers practical aspects of bike maintenance. 

The first delivery of bikes was dropped off at HMP Wymott in June 2022, which were stripped to use for parts to build up the stock of spares, which will be used as the learners refurbish other bikes. The workshop capacity was doubled in 2023, and now holds 10 stations.

Andy is keen to create a relaxed atmosphere in the workshop, allowing the trainees to learn at their own pace with plenty of different training aids around the workshop. The first step for all the new trainees is learning how to strip bikes correctly to recycle some of the parts and learning the names of all the different parts of a bike. There is an expected time frame of around 3-4 months to complete the Velotech course, however, this may vary for each learner as they learn at different speeds.

Andy says:

It’s great that UpCycle were able to secure funding to purchase all the specialist bike tools and equipment needed to set up the bike workshop at HMP Wymott. The workshop environment creates an opportunity for the trainees to learn practical skills to support their rehabiliation and bikes that could have ended up in landfill are becoming safe and reliable bikes again.

The first delivery of bikes suitable to be refurbished was delivered in August 2022.

HMP Wymott is a Category C Men’s prison near Leyland, Lancashire. Further information can be found on the Ministry of Justice website here.

HMP Lindholme

The bike workshop at HMP Lindholme is well-established and popular. The workshop instructor Charlie has an engineering background and has completed a Velotech trainer course. The workshop has six stations meaning that up to fifteen trainees can be accommodated.

HMP Lindholme is a Category C prison located approximately 10 miles north of Doncaster. More information about HMP Lindholme can be found on the Ministry of Justice website here.

HMP Full Sutton

The workshop at HMP Full Sutton has two full-time instructors looking after the day-to-day running of the workshop. As of December 2023, Full Sutton is currently undergoing a staff changeover, and UpCycle is looking to secure funding to train more staff members. Want to support our Full Sutton workshop? Donate here!

The high-security nature of HMP Full Sutton brings additional challenges to the Cycle Workshop. We currently work with approximately 12 trainees in each session, providing two daily sessions. The provision of meaningful activity within the prison is the primary focus of the workshop. We aim for a friendly and inclusive environment for the trainees to work in. We have found that the trainees engage well and enjoy the activity even if they have never done hands-on type work before. The trainees appreciate the opportunity to engage in workshops that benefit the wider community beyond the prison. 

HMP Full Sutton is a Category A prison in North Yorkshire. More information on HMP Full Sutton, can be found here.

HMP Nottingham

Keen cyclist Pete McDonagh came to HMP Nottingham to set up the workshop. It currently accomodates 12 prisoners who are not only producing cycles to a very high standard of renovation but are also working towards a level 2 qualification with City and Guilds in cycle repair and maintenance. The men involved in the workshop are from various backgrounds and cultures and they are a mix of residents from different accommodation blocks but all work together and support each in their work.

I think it’s important for the outside world to see that the men in the workshops are human beings and what they can truly be!

Pete McDonagh, Workshop Instructor

The workshop emphasises the independence of the individual mechanic so staff support each man in his method of work, guiding them along so they learn about industry standards which in turn teaches them to produce better and better quality repairs. The calm and mutually supportive environment has helped men who find wing and prison life difficult. They tell us they see the workshop as their calm place and some have even described it as home.

There is a great deal of skill and experience in the men that work with us and the project allows this to shine through which generates pride in the men and knowing that the bike they build gives them a real sense of purpose. Recently two graduates have taken up work in related industries. One works for sporting goods supplier Sports Direct, and the other works at the Bike Hub in Derby as a cycle mechanic.

HMP Nottingham is a Category B men’s prison in the Sherwood area of Nottingham. Further information can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

HMP Humberside

The  HMP Humberside workshop opened in 2014.

The workshop space at HMP Humber is shared with local charity R-evolution. Bikes are donated to Open Doors in Hull, an organisation working with asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers.

HMP Humber is a Category C men’s resettlement prison in Brough, near Hull, East Yorkshire. that aims to provide positive resettlement options. Further information can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

HMP Garth

The wheelchair repair workshop has been running in HMP Garth since 1999, formerly supported by the Inside Out Trust, the precursor to the Margaret Carey Foundation. Although focussing mainly on wheelchairs the workshop also refurbishes a small number of bikes.  Experienced instructor Dave Kellet has been overseeeing the workshop at HMP Garth since the start.

On average there are 12 trainees in the workshop at any one time although it is hard to determine how many pass through in a year, there is no time limit and some trainees stay for months while others stay for only a few weeks.

Although the workshop used to deliver NVQ qualifications to the trainees because of the transient population they are now delivering an ‘AIM’ award because of the shorter timescale it takes to complete.

All the wheelchairs refurbished in the workshop are supplied by UpCycle collected from our friends at Physionet or from Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, an NHS hospital in West Yorkshire. Read the full case study here. Workshop instructor, Dave Kellett, was awarded a Butler Trust Award in 2002 for the project which involved him following the refurbished wheelchairs to India and helping to distribute them to the various organisations based there.

UpCycle has an agreement with a nearby NHS hospital to collect their redundant wheelchairs. This has been a success which we hope to replicate with other hospitals and Local Authority equipment stores, as and when the opportunity arises.

HMP Garth is a men’s high security prison near Leyland, Lancashire. More information about HMP Garth can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

HMP Liverpool

The bike workshop at HMP Liverpool is one of the workshops that was estabished by the Inside Out Trust which UpCycle began supporting when the charity was officially established in 2010. Although there was previously a wheelchair project at the prison it now concentrates solely on refurbishing bikes.

The bike training workshop is a thriving project in the prison. With up to 20 trainees in the workshop at any one time and the varying length of time they stay hundreds will pass through the workshop in a year.

The instructor, Andy Kearns, has worked in the prison service for 17 years – 14 of those years have been in the bike workshop, first for the Inside Out Trust, then for Margaret Carey Foundation. During his time Andy has been nominated by the Butler Trust and received a Criminal Justice Award for outstanding work with prisoners.

The workshop isn’t currently awarding any formal qualifications to trainees but they are in the process of getting accreditation to be able to award City and Guilds qualifications. The instructors do award the UpCycle certificates (awards from Bronze to Gold according to skill level) which give the trainees a real sense of achievement.

The workshop’s biggest success in terms of rehabilitation is Owen* who started working in the Bike Workshop at HMP Liverpool at the very start of his sentence. Owen was transferred to the resettlement prison HMP Kirkham where he continued his learning in their bike workshop. Since leaving prison Owen* has secured full time employment as a bike mechanic at Halfords. Securing employment is a hugely important factor to ensure that once they leave prison, the trainees can use their new skills and are much less likely to re-offend. Read more about Owen*

The bike workshop is a shared space, HMP Liverpool also partners with Pioneer People, Aid International and Recycle Recycle.

 *Owen – not his real name

HMP Liverpool is a Category B/C prison in Walton, Liverpool. More information about the HMP Liverpool can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

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