Female offenders at HMP Styal, Cheshire, showed visitors to the RHS Tatton Flower Show their journey of rehabilitation in their aptly named ‘Metamorphosis’ garden.
The 14 x 6 metre garden, which gained a silver award at the show, plots the prisoner’s journey from sentencing though to release, using a combination of planting styles and horticultural techniques. The garden focuses on the women’s developmental journey from dark days to brighter future.
Eight offenders from Styal womens prison were chosen to participate in the RHS garden project – a joint partnership between The Manchester College and the prison. Most of the women are currently studying for a City & Guilds Horticultural qualification from the college, which supplies offender learning services at the prison. Elements of the garden were supplied by prisoners from other courses; the butterfly was designed and painted by offenders from the Painting & Decorating course and the signpost and Beehive made by prisoners on the Construction course.
Some 11,000 women offenders go to prison each year in the UK – more than half of those are likely to reoffend without intervention from offender learning programmes like those supplied by The Manchester College.
Kelly, a female prisoner from Styal who took part in the RHS Tatton project, said: “I’ve never had the opportunity to do anything like this and it’s given me confidence in myself, something that I’ve never ever had. I’m really proud of the garden and what I’ve done. It’s been a real team effort, which has showed me that I’m not on my own, that help and support is out there, I just need to ask for it.”
The Manchester College runs offender learning services at prisons across the UK, providing prisoners with the opportunity to learn new skills as part of their rehabilitation programme; from hairdressing and catering to horticulture and decorating. The college focuses largely on helping prisoners with key skills, which are often missing from prisoners’ lives, as well as vocational skills that will help them into work on release.
Richard Heys, The Manchester College Horticultural Trainer at the prison, explained the benefits: “If we invest in offenders, reskilling them, improving their self esteem, health and wellbeing, they are far more likely to return to society and make a successful contribution. While some people may be concerned that educating and skilling prisoners means that they will take jobs from ordinary hardworking people, the hard fact of the matter is that without it prisoners are far more likely to reoffend.
“We’ve seen the women as well as the flowers thriving during this project, which has been an incredibly successful collaboration between HMP Styal and The Manchester College.”
The zero-cost project was partly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and sponsored by local businesses – John Wood Nurseries, Four Oaks, Newgate Nursery and Newbank Garden Centre – who provided materials for garden.
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