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The other side of the gate: Jimmy’s story

Jimmy had been in prison for 3 years. He had committed a non-violent crime and had been given ‘D Category’ status and transferred to HMP/YOI Sudbury, a resettlement prison. Sharon, HMP Sudbury’s Business & Community Engagement Manager, told him about the opportunity to volunteer for Life Cycle Derby under the Ministry of Justice’s ‘Release on Temporary License’ scheme*.

Jimmy had already learned some cycle mechanic skills in prison – achieving a Level 2 Velotech Gold qualification - but had never worked in a professional workshop and was excited to “learn new things”.  He jumped at the chance.

Starting a job on the outside initially felt like a big change for Jimmy:

“I was a bit quiet, nervous, you know, like your first day in a new job. But once I got to know everyone you just open up, don’t you? Life Cycle made me feel very welcome.”

Jimmy fitted into the team well, and really got stuck in with the bikes. It was clear that he enjoyed the role and was eager to exchange knowledge with the other mechanics:

“It was great to be working with cycles and learning things.  [Life Cycle mechanic] Nick taught me a lot of new stuff, a lot!  Things I didn’t know he taught me and things he didn’t know I taught him. It worked both ways so it was teamwork.”

Jimmy took special care to ensure that every bike he worked on was running safely and smoothly, before being sold to local people. For him, working for a charity like Life Cycle was a great source of pride:

“I feel like I was able to make a difference with my work. I’ve built loads of bikes to help the project.  It was great!” 

He especially enjoyed working with the most vulnerable people who came Life Cycle’s way. For him “teaching an asylum seeker with no money, who couldn’t speak English, how to fix a puncture” was a pivotal moment.  Being able to use his mechanical skills to help someone isolated to become more independent was a good feeling.

After several months with Life Cycle, Jimmy started to feel more ambitious about his future plans. He said:

“I’ve been thinking about business ideas like selling online bikes and opening a shop. [Working at Life Cycle] has given me a good understanding of how a workshop runs and a good business direction.  It’s given me a good influence really.”

Jon, Manager of Life Cycle Derby, discovered Jimmy had a job interview with a local employer. It had been a while since Jimmy had done anything like that, so Jon printed off a set of interview questions and encouraged Jimmy to think about how he would answer. 

Jimmy aced the interview and is now in full-time, paid employment. Jimmy plans to work at the firm during the week and then “at weekends I’ll do cycle repair”.

Manager, Jon is delighted that Jimmy now has such a positive outlook: 

“Jimmy fitted in well at Life Cycle and contributed significantly to the team, building and safety checking over 100 bikes which have now been returned to the local community. Jimmy was well respected by all who worked with him. On behalf of all the staff and his fellow volunteers, I would like to wish Jimmy the very best for the future”.

*About ROTL

Release on temporary licence (ROTL) is an important part of the process of the resettlement and rehabilitation of prisoners. For many prisoners, especially those serving long sentences, an opportunity to access ROTL is a key element for the preparation of their safe release.