“Employment is one of the key ways that you can stop people from reoffending”
Optometrist and founder of the Prison Opticians Trust, Tanjit Dosanjh, OBE, on how his dad’s experience in prison inspired him to give former inmates a second chance
My dad was in prison while I was completing my optometry degree and immediately afterwards. Eventually, when you go visit a family member in prison you end up talking about the same sort of things – ‘what are you doing with your time?’ Through my visits to my dad, I had a good understanding of the types of training programmes that exist in prison. All of the training courses are very basic and didn’t seem like they were setting inmates up for a meaningful career.
After someone has been through our training programme, they will have had a minimum of 10 weeks of training in optics. If you are hiring someone off the street, you are not going to get that.
For prisoners, it is built into their psyche that no-one is ever going to give them a chance again. That is part of their DNA
Above and beyond the idea that it makes good business sense, these people are part of our community. They have shown me that they want to change, and they want a second chance. If this can help someone to live a crime-free life, it is good for the community. Employment is one of the key ways that you can stop people from reoffending.
Former prisoners are extremely loyal employees. For prisoners, it is built into their psyche that no-one is ever going to give them a chance again. That is part of their DNA. The first person who gives them a decent job and gives them an opportunity – they stay with them.
I have been in contact with my dad throughout the process of setting up Prison Opticians. At first, while he was a serving prisoner, he was sceptical. Like many prisoners, he believed that anything that is good for prisoners would be shut down. He was unsure whether it was the best way to spend my time. Now he has seen the project succeed, he is pleased that we are giving people who were facing the same circumstances opportunities to progress. He is proud that he has a son who is helping the sort of people who he was locked up with.
- As told to Selina Powell.