The Isle of Man Prison is working in conjunction with a local charity to support people affected by serious sight loss.
Prisoners are volunteering as newsreaders to help produce a recorded news service on behalf of the Manx Blind Welfare Society. A weekly round-up is compiled from local newspapers and distributed free of charge to approximately 120 registered blind or partially sighted people in the Island.
A group of 10 prisoners successfully completed their first news update earlier this month. They teamed up with Ian Cooil and Derek Bridson from the Manx Blind Welfare Society to learn how to prepare news items and how to use digital recording equipment.
The charity has expressed its satisfaction with the quality of finished product and the Prison will now be included on the list of individuals and organisations who volunteer on a rota basis to provide the service.
Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK said: ‘It is always encouraging to see prisoners making a positive contribution to the local community. The individuals involved have taken great pride in the planning and delivery of this project and have acquired some useful skills along the way.’
He added: ‘As well as helping local charities and vulnerable people, there are other benefits to providing meaningful jobs for our prisoners. It plays an important role in maintaining discipline in prison and contributes towards the overall rehabilitation of offenders. This in turn supports our commitment to combating crime and reducing the associated social and economic costs.’
Jobs for prisoners in the kitchens, laundry and gardens are supplemented wherever practical by suitable work provided in association with charities and businesses. In recent times prisoners have created reusable shopping bags, split and bagged logs, and assembled pre-cut wooden fence panels and trellising.
The project with the Manx Blind Welfare Society was first suggested by Prison Officer Phil Penketh. The idea was explored and after their initial training sessions the prisoners set about recording their first weekly news round-up.
The job involves much planning and preparation to organise the newspapers into numbered articles and to share out the news reading duties. Prisoners then operate the digital recorders, introducing themselves by their first names before reading a selected article and describing any accompanying images.
The digital recordings must be completed and delivered in time to meet a specific deadline.
Debbie Thomson, Volunteer Coordinator at the Manx Blind Welfare Society, said: ‘We are delighted that our involvement with the Isle of Man Prison on this project has proven so successful. The prisoners have done a commendable job and we’ve had no hesitation in asking them to work with us again in the future. The Society looks after the interests of more than 600 people with serious sight loss and many rely on our free service to keep up to date with the local news.’