“It’s so effing boring in here. I can’t read or write
and I get fed up with television all day long.
It makes me angry, so I cut.”
Terry was a forty-year-old prisoner at HMP Chelmsford who had been in and out of prison more than forty times. Unable to read or write at all, and too afraid to admit it, he refused work and also education, fearing classrooms, where he had always failed. So he had to stay ‘banged up’ for 23 hours a day.
Desperately frustrated and disengaged, he self-harmed daily, alone in his cell on the vulnerable prisoners’ wing.
A prison officer asked Jackie to visit him. She spent an hour with him in the chapel, the only vacant room on the wing, where she began by telling him of her own history of dyslexia, failure and self-harming. His glazed eyes cleared in astonishment. ‘That’s just like me!’ he said. Then he told her his long and woeful story.
Terry joined Jackie’s project in Chelmsford Prison, where he began at last to learn to read and write. He progressed through the early levels of literacy, growing in confidence and self esteem. Eventually, Jackie trained Terry to become a proud and successful mentor to other prisoners.
At the end of an awards ceremony Jackie organised to congratulate her learners in the prison, Tony unexpectedly stood up faced his fellow inmates and visiting VIPs:
‘I used to be a proper rogue, but now I’m turning. Jackie was
the first person ever to have come to me and give me one-to-one help.
It’s about time something like this happened in jails.
Terry was released in 2007 and, despite many ups and downs, he has managed to stay out of trouble ever since. He has stopped self-harming and shares a flat overlooking the sea, where he enjoys his new life.