Colin was a ‘listener’ at Chelmsford Prison. He read and wrote letters for those offenders willing to admit they could not read and write for themselves. Many of them admitted it to Colin where they wouldn’t otherwise have done. This may be down to his easygoing good humour and his calm manner, belying a real strength when dealing with frustrated prisoners,ready to kick off. Somehow he always managed to difuse their anger and calm them down to see things a different way.
Several of his ‘customers’ started telling him about this marvellous woman, Jackie Hewitt-Main, who had a new way of teaching. Now at last they were learning to read and write for themselves.
Colin wanted to see who this wonder-woman was and find out more. He came up to Jackie as she was walking his wing one day, with an offer to help. She talked with him for a while, saw he was genuinely keen to help, and saw his potential. She trained him to be her first peer-mentor. There followed many more after that and Colin became ‘Head of mentors,’ leading weekly mentors’ meetings and helping to train others. He was a great support to Jackie.
Some of these mentors were doing so well, that she decided to train them to become adult literacy tutors. She approached ten men she identified to take part in this training, five mentors and five learners who had made good progress and were now ready to help others. These ten men all completed the course to and achieved high standards in passing their final exam.
Being a long-term prisoner, Colin and two others requested transfers to another prison, where they introduced Jackie’s project, spreading her work.
After Colin was released, he took a succession of jobs on construction sites, where he earned good money, but always missed the satisfaction he had found in helping others.
When Jackie was preparing to start up her project in Doncaster Prison, Colin was the first person she asked to come and join her. The fact that he was an ex-offender raised a few eyebrows amongst the management, but the then Governor, John Biggin, trusted Jackie’s judgement and ensured he could be allowed to work as a teacher in the prison.
Colin is now the mainstay, alongside Jackie, of our oft-praised project at Doncaster. He is a great role-model for all offenders, respected and trusted by staff and prisoners alike. They know that he has walked in their shoes and see that they have a realistic possibility of walking in his. He shows that is is possible to change.
Colin is the epitome of a reformed prisoner who has transformed not only his own life, but also the lives of many other prisoners and their families.