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“I’m quite good at training, so people would ask me questions

Could we use fitness to reintegrate prisoners into their communities

Canada Goose Parka Not many former convicts, once granted their freedom, would walk back into prison voluntarily. But LJ Flanders made it his mission. Every morning at 8am, he would arrive at HMP Wandsworth in south London one of the largest prisons in western Europe canada goose factory outlet to set up for the first of many fitness classes canada goose outlet website legit he’d be teaching that day. He would collect his keys, then unlock and relock the doors that led to his a carefully risk assessed basement space within the prison. At 9am, the men he’d be training would make their way canada goose outlet uk down from their 10ft by 7ft cells. Canada Goose Parka

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During the first of his two week trials, Flanders coached 105 prisoners some as young as 18, others in their sixties. In the morning, inmates canada goose outlet england were led through an intensive, hour long bodyweight session; afternoon classes offered lessons on nutrition and emotional resilience. Later on, inmates were invited to lead the workouts. Some were fairly new to training. One man turned up in the brogues he’d worn for his recent court appearance and had to ask around for a spare pair of trainers. Flanders never asked any of them what they were in for. “I find it better not to judge,” he says.

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canada goose clearance When I meet him in his shared office in central London, Flanders is busy on his laptop, prepping for a prison industry recruitment event called Unlocked Graduates. In 2016, Flanders founded Cell Workout, a social enterprise designed to improve prisoners’ physical and mental fitness. Ultimately, he says, he hopes to employ former inmates as instructors “on the outside”, coaching at risk youth groups. canada goose clearance

buy canada goose jacket You might recognise Flanders from the Cell Workout book an exercise bible for prisoners, later adopted by fans of minimalist bodyweight training. In canada goose discount uk it, you’ll see him performing various exercises in a sparse cell, with bars on the windows. Ultra lean with a shaved head and a steely focus, he is very much the poster boy of “prison fitness”. During our meeting, one of the Unlocked Graduates students comes over to tell Flanders he has been following the programme with his sofa pushed against the wall to form a makeshift cell. buy canada goose jacket

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canada goose coats on sale More recently, Flanders has turned his attention to rehabilitation, having received funding for canada goose outlet winnipeg his workshops as part of the Ministry of Justice’s Reducing Reoffending initiative. canada goose outlet At times, he says, he still finds it strange being the man on the other side of the cell door. “I actually feel like I’m back in prison,” he says of his job in Wandsworth, laughing. “Except I have my own set of keys I’m a trusted member of staff now.” canada goose coats on sale

How sports can help rehabilitate

At 21, Flanders “got into a fight [he] shouldn’t have”, which led to a 14 month sentence. Before prison, he wasn’t much of a gym goer. “But you’ve got to occupy your time. I started exercising as often as possible. It was the best way to burn off energy and get a proper night’s sleep.”On some days, Flanders spent up to 23 hours in his cell. He recalls feeling frustrated, desperate to find something constructive to do. And so he enrolled on a personal training course, later taking a job in the prison gym “easily the most popular job in prison”.

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On his release, he applied for a position at Virgin Active. He was lucky, but remembers the anxiety he felt when meeting employers as an ex convict. “Trying to get work after being released isn’t that easy,” he says. “I know how worried people can canada goose outlet germany be about it, because I was that person. Now I just want to give people the opportunities I had.”

canada goose clearance sale This concern is not unwarranted. More than two thirds of male inmates are unemployed in the four weeks before imprisonment, and it is estimated that only a quarter of those released find work in their first year outside. Lack of job opportunities leads to reoffending; it’s a vicious cycle. Most UK prisons struggle with overcrowding, with some holding 50 per cent over the recommended level. Rory canada goose outlet locations in toronto Stewart, the prisons minister, recently described the state of jails as “deeply disturbing”. canada goose clearance sale

cheap Canada Goose It’s no secret that education is the most effective solution to this problem. But when half of Britain’s prisoners are functionally illiterate, finding courses that engage them without canada goose outlet orlando intimidating them is no easy task. For this reason, sports and fitness qualifications are proving increasingly popular. Professor Rosie Meek is a psychologist who has studied the role of these programmes in the rehabilitation of young offenders for the past decade. She is now canada goose outlet location conducting a national review on the subject, at the request of the justice minister Phillip Lee. cheap Canada Goose

canada goose store Her studies have largely focused on sports such as football and rugby. In one of her videos on YouTube, young inmates in lime green bibs many of whom went on to get jobs in the sports sector talk honestly about how team sports have improved their mental health and social skills, including by helping them deal with issues such as anger or ADHD. “Prisons can be extraordinarily grim and often violent places,” Meek says. “For many, visiting the prison gym, taking part in a sport or generally letting off steam is a crucial aspect of coping with incarceration.” canada goose store

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buy canada goose jacket cheap When Meek surveyed inmates about their reasons for taking part in sports canada goose outlet buffalo qualification programmes, surprisingly few cited killing time or boredom. Almost a quarter of them said they felt a qualification would help them to avoid further crime on the outside, while 7 per cent said they hoped canadagooseoutlete it would lead to a “meaningful, fulfilling and enjoyable” career. It’s an investment that should more than pay off. Independent think tanks estimate that if careers training is made available to all prisoners, the government could save up to 1.4bn annually on the cost of reoffending. buy canada goose jacket cheap

Canada Goose online It would be fair to call Lewis Bailey, 24, “a success story” of such programmes. When I meet him, he arrives with his friend and former cell mate Dre Hewitt, the two having just completed their Friday night gym session. At this time, Bailey once an inmate of HMPs Brixton and Thameside has been out for six months and is leading fitness classes canada goose parka uk around London as a member of the Hard Yard collective. The social enterprise, which employed ex offenders, has since closed due to a lack of funding. Canada Goose online

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“For the first few days after I came to Brixton, I’d only leave my cell for an hour and a half each day,” Bailey tells me. Then he found the prison gym. “I’m quite good at training, so people would ask me questions. It’s canada goose outlet uk fake easier to start a conversation in the gym. canada goose outlet in toronto It’s difficult with men. They think, ‘Why is this guy chatting to me?’ But in the gym, everyone’s got this mutual respect and understanding. You meet some nice people.”

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canada goose coats “Quite good at training” may be an understatement. In Brixton, Bailey worked out three times a day in the gym, in his cell, outside and signed up for a football coaching programme. He did his best to follow a strict meal plan (“You pick out what you’re going to eat a week in advance, so if you put down chicken instead of pizza, you ain’t got no choice”) and planned his sessions meticulously. He and Hewitt kept a training schedule taped to the wall of the cell they shared; other inmates would check canada goose outlet houston it to find canada goose outlet black friday out what they were up to. When they didn’t have access to the gym, they performed dips off the side of a chair, or even curled their mattresses. Bailey like everyone I talk to is far removed from the prison movie stereotype of the convict building muscle for the sake of intimidation. “My aim was never to get big,” he says. “It was to canada goose outlet store uk get fit to be stronger, faster, more elite.” He is relentlessly positive, sometimes bafflingly so. “Everyone complains about this and that in jail,” he tells me. “But honestly? You can get a wicked routine in there.” canada goose coats

It was this attitude, presumably, that landed him a job with the Hard Yard: the brainchild of Frankie Bennett, a graduate of the London School of Economics, who founded it with personal trainer Beth Thayne. Both women were disheartened by the lack of opportunities for former offenders. “We believe mistakes in your canada goose outlet shop past shouldn’t hold you back,” says Bennett. Bailey remembers Bennett pitching the company to him and his fellow inmates last year. Feeling he had nothing to lose, he emailed her after his release and she decided to give him a shot. “I held my first class on the bank holiday weekend.” He smiles. “I remember that weekend well, because I went to carnival afterwards.” He now plans to study sports rehabilitation at university.

Improving prisoners’ mental and physical health

Canada Goose Jackets Improved employment prospects are arguably the least significant benefit of prison fitness programmes. They also offer quantifiable improvements to prisoners’ mental and physical health. Meek’s government review studied some of the participants in Flanders’s programme. Over just two weeks, three quarters reported a decrease in body fat, while positive changes to lung capacity and canada goose shop uk blood pressure were also recorded. Canada Goose Jackets

canada goose Far better than canada goose outlet online uk the physical changes, Flanders says, is the shift in perspective. “People really feel like they can achieve something while they are cialis 20mg tablets price. in jail. We’re giving people the tools to be autonomous. It’s about more than just fitness. It’s about personal development.” canada goose.