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Standford Hill prison teams up with Sittingbourne-based firm Mainstream Training to offer driving academy for inmates

By Lewis Dyson

Inmates are being taught how to keep on the straight and narrow... with driving courses behind bars.

Traffic lights and roundabouts might be a problem, but Sheppey jail Standford Hill has become the first to offer a driving academy for its prisoners.

Sittingbourne-based firm Mainstream Training Ltd has formed a partnership with the category D open prison where some inmates are approaching the end of their sentences.

Prison stock image.
Prison stock image.

The company provides offenders with licences, such as for LGVs and forklifts, and then gives them a job or helps them find work.

It is also the first course to be delivered by tutors who are themselves serving time.

Rochester, Blantyre House and East Sutton women’s prison are also involved - with inmates travelling to Standford Hill in Church Road, Eastchurch, for classroom-based sessions.

Training behind the wheel takes place at Mainstream’s site on the Eurolink estate, although there are plans to move that to the Sheppey jail.

The scheme is funded by charitable donations, including from the Salvation Army and the Royal London Society.

Paul Tolley, senior operations manager of Mainstream, said since the scheme started in January about 30 people have sat the course and nearly 20 have gone into employment.

MP Gordon Henderson joins Mainstream staff and deputy governor Dawn Mauldon to discuss prison courses
MP Gordon Henderson joins Mainstream staff and deputy governor Dawn Mauldon to discuss prison courses

He said there is a shortfall of about 100,000 drivers in the UK logistics industry and his company alone is looking to fill as many as 70 positions.

Mr Tolley said he would understand if people questioned why prisoners should be given free training and help to work at all, but said: “The government is looking to save money in the long term.

“When these people leave prison they leave with £46 in their pockets and many of them go back into committing crimes, whereas you give someone a job then the likelihood of them re-offending is minimised.”

It is hoped the scheme will expand to provide free training to prison officers, such as for minibus licenses as they are increasingly being called upon to transport inmates due to cutbacks.

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