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Bristol-based charity Life Cycle UK has won the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation 2017. Its innovative “Bike Back” project at HMP Bristol recreates the environment of a working bike shop in a prison. Here, an experienced mechanic, supported by skilled volunteers, teaches up to eight prisoners at a time (around 40 per year) the skills to completely refurbish broken bikes donated by the local community.
 
Since 2010, the charity has enabled more than 200 prisoners to enjoy meaningful activity, learn new skills and improve employability. Through participation in the scheme, prisoners have the opportunity to gain industry recognised City & Guilds qualifications in cycle mechanics. 75% of prisoners gain a qualification and 77% want to complete further training after release. Life Cycle UK is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.
 
The highly commended prize was awarded to Bounce Back in London for its work at HMP Brixton in bridging the gap between prison and employment. The charity provides opportunities for prisoner at the end of their sentence to gain vocational training, mentoring and support in painting and decorating, dry lining and scaffolding, as well as the chance to gain employment on release through its associated social enterprise.
 
Since 2011 the initiative has supported over 600 prisoners 87% of whom achieved their qualifications with 55% of those supported into employment or further training after release.  The reoffending rate for prisoners on scheme is just 12% compared to an average of around 50%.
 
The awards, kindly supported by the Worshipful Company of Weavers, will be presented to the winners by Lady Corbett at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group in the Houses of Parliament today [Tuesday 28 February 2017].
 
This annual award for outstanding rehabilitative work with prisoners by a small charity or community group, working in partnership with prison staff, was set up in the memory of Lord Corbett, the respected chairman of the Home Affairs Committee in Westminster. For ten years, until his death in February 2012, Robin Corbett also chaired the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group, to which the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) provides the secretariat.
 
The emphasis of the award is on work that fosters personal responsibility and which calls on people in prison, and ex-offenders, to take responsibility to help themselves and to help others.
 
Judging this year’s prize were Lord Ramsbotham, a former Inspector of Prisons and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Penal Affairs; Andrea Albutt, President of the Prison Governors Association, Judge John Samuels QC, President of the Prisoner’s Education Trust and Chairman of the Criminal Justice Alliance; Peter Dawson, Director of PRT; Jonathan Freeman, CEO Mosaic/the Prince’s Trust; Geoff Dobson, Trustee of PRT; Eoin McLennan-Murray, past President of the Prison Governors Association; an ex-offender, and three members of the Corbett family.  
 
Commenting, Lady Corbett, Chair of the judges, said:

“In a strong year of nominations, the judges were unanimous in their decision to award Life Cycle UK and Bounceback the first and highly commended prizes. My husband Robin thought prison should be a chance to change the direction of a life. Both charities are outstanding examples of what can be achieved by helping prisoners to help themselves.”
 
Poppy Brett, Chief Executive Officer of Life Cycle UK, said,
 
“We are so thrilled to have won the Robin Corbett Award: this is a huge endorsement for Bike Back.  The scheme is so successful because of the unique partnerships we have formed: with the community who donate their unwanted bikes; with the staff at HMP Bristol who have supported us from day one and – crucially - with the prisoners who commit to refurbishing the broken bikes.  Of course, the greatest thanks goes to Life Cycle UK’s dedicated staff and volunteers, whose commitment to delivering a really outstanding scheme enabled us to win this award.”
 
Francesca Findlater, Chief Executive Officer of Bounce Back, said:
 
"The whole team are immensely proud to be recognised for the work they have put into giving skills, qualifications and self-employment training to the inmates at HMP Brixton.  Our entire focus is on helping people change their lives through paid employment on release and it is the support of the Governor and the prison staff, as well as the fantastic employers we work with,  that has enabled us to achieve this more effectively."