“That couldn’t possibly be a prison?” was the first thought going through most of our minds as the presentation paused on an image of the main avenue at Styal. Red brick houses, manicured tree-lined lawns and not a thing out of place. Once a former orphanage, Styal opened as a female prison with the first female prisoners transferred from Strangeways back in 1962.
Eddie Tarry, Community Engagement Manager, was here to talk to us about the realities of inmate life and what exactly happens on a daily basis. He also shared stories on inmates he had worked with, ones he had helped and ones that would never leave the walls of Styal, and what life had in store for them.
The word that comes to mind when most of us think of prisons, is surely ‘punishment.’ However, this talk delivered a few home truths, gave us the human factor, as Eddie’s word of choice was very much ‘rehabilitation.’ The statistics he shared were shocking; 46% of women admitted had suffered from domestic violence, 53% of women experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse in childhood and 48% of women were reconnected within one year. He was clear that these don’t excuse bad behaviour, but in order to mend the problem it was important to know the root cause.
As we heard some of the activities that went on, one of the most famous achievements at Styal has been their contribution to the Tatton flower show. Eddie with just a few simple seeds and couple of books on gardening, involved some of the permanent inmates in setting up a greenhouse. Little did they know the success this would lead to - growing plentiful stock of fruit and veg which they could then sell and giving the ladies something to focus on, saving a few from some dangerous life choices. Over the years they’ve won medals at Tatton for their displays - Silver medal in 2013 and a silver gilt medal in 2014. Fantastic achievements!
Another famous rehabilitation project to come out of Styal is The Clink restaurant, a highly recommended dining experience in Cheshire. High quality meals are cooked and served by the prisoners in training to become professionals, allowing them the opportunity to ease back into working life. A must visit - but book in advance, the tables get snapped up super quick.
Big thanks to Eddie for taking the time to educate us on an issue not many people pay attention to, he gave us a talk filled with promise and it’s comforting to know that our prison systems are run by people who are actively trying to make changes for the better.
In other news…
We had all the usuals of a monthly meeting - our fabulous raffle for our chosen charity Cyril Flint Befrienders where a Wilton street craft company candle was won. There were new members joining the group and of course the opportunity to RSVP for the party of the year - the official launch of Lady Grey IPA at Runaway brewery.
Our next meeting is on Tuesday 27th March. Details can be found on the Facebook page, or subscribe to our newsletter to get the details straight into your inbox.
See you next month!