Taking Fine Cell Workers to the Next Level


Katy Emck, who joined Fine Cell Work as its first employee in 1997, has taken on a new role. As Development Director she will be responsible for enlarging the charity’s scope to build concrete training outcomes and reduced reoffending for Fine Cell Workers.

For years I have been both moved by the hope we generate in Fine Cell Workers and troubled by the difficulties they face in realizing these hopes. Many of our workers dream of leaving prison and opening cushion shops or becoming respected craftsmen. But the reality is that there are fewer chances for ex-prisoners than for almost any other sector of the population. It is vital now that Fine Cell Work addresses issues of employability training and taps into the motivation of prisoners who want to change but need continuity and support to do so. It is a touching fact that 96% of Fine Cell Workers expressed the desire to continue their affiliation with the charity on release.

From cell-work to work training

Fine Cell Work is now working to develop textile and upholstery workshops in prisons, so that our cell-workers can build on the discipline and skill they have learned through doing hand embroidery in their cells and have the opportunity to continue their training on release.

Margaret Walker, Chief Textiles Verifier from City & Guilds, is helping set up C&G qualifications in a range of textile skills in prison workshops. A number of City Livery Companies with ancient links to textile craft tradition and indeed City & Guilds itself are also supportive. The magic of C&G is that these qualifications can be continued on release and City & Guilds is itself supportive.

Work experience on release

The next, absolutely vital step in creating opportunities for prisoners and reducing reoffending is a referrals system for Fine Cell Workers on release. To this end, FCW is working with the Langley House Trust, an admirable charity who provide supported accommodation for ex-prisoners on release and are extremely successful in reducing re-offending.

We are planning an “Enterprise Hub” to be managed by Langley House where Fine Cell Workers will be able to continue their craftwork and training on release and gain access to employment and self-employment support services. There will be soft furnishings work done on sewing machines at the Hub alongside furniture up-cyling and re-upholstery. The Hub will also be connected to FCW’s growing system of pop-up shops. These will afford opportunities for former prisoners to engage with the public and to gain sales and marketing experience.

(2) Comments

  • Kathryn Mierke
    06 February 2014, 21:52

    I am absolutely thrilled to have heard and read about what you are doing there in London! I clicked on the TAFTA link and was blown away by the 15 minute video that has been posted through YouTube! I had a smile on my face a mile wide! My heart is filled with hope for all persons in prisons everywhere! What a fantastic idea! I wish I could fly over there right now, meet you all and learn how to make this happen here in Northeast Ohio, Cleveland area. We have many prisons here in Ohio. It would make such a difference in America to teach skills and a trade that could be put to good use. Some of that is happening through a program to train dogs for the disabled in some prisons on the west coast USA- California, but nothing I know of around needlework, and furniture apolostry. THANK YOU for being an inspiration to the world! I hope more and more people find out about Fine Cell Works. I posted images of the pictures of the needlework on my Facebook page, so I hope that helps a bit. Best Wishes to you all. I will keep your organization in my prayers and one day, when I can afford it- I will begin to purchase work! I am an artist, teacher and art quilter too. CHEERS ! Kathryn Mierke (LinkedIn and Facebook) Cleveland, Ohio, USA

  • Fine Cell Work
    07 February 2014, 09:57

    Thanks for your kind words, Kathryn! We hope to meet you one day and we hope more people will start new enterprises like ours in the States. We have also replied to your facebook posts. All the best. Piero

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