Lukas (not his real name) found himself in prison for the first time aged 61. He is from Lithuania and has no family in the country, so does not receive visits from his two daughters.
Coming to prison for the first time can be a massive shock. Although he could become animated when spoken to, when we first met it was clear that Lukas was in very low spirits:
“I feel I am out of society and (society) thinks I am bad, very bad. I’ve been pushed out. You’re nothing. (I) don’t know who I am, where I am, no future, no lights, no idea what will happen to me. What happens when I get out of prison, how will society feel about me? I will be lonely, no one will care about me. (I) might as well die. I may be present in (the) room (but) I have already died inside, I’m a shell. I work, I eat but it’s nothing inside. I see no future and am tired of the pain.”
An intelligent, hardworking and thoughtful man, Lukas had always worked. He’d worked as a panel beater on the outside and owned his own business. He was desperate to work inside the prison too. So he asked to join the Life Cycle UK bike recycling project.
Having something to keep his mind occupied and his hands busy has had a huge effect:
“Being in the bike workshop is the best medicine. You don’t think about your problems as you are concentrating on your work. I know if I’ve done a good job or not. (You) go back to the cell and think about whether the bolt was too tight not tight enough… In prison you have no control over what happens to you, but in (the workshop) you feel more like a human being.”
In a remand prison, it is not unusual to meet men like Lukas whose whole life has been turned upside down. There is a lot of uncertainty whilst awaiting trial and sentencing. Not knowing what the future holds can have a huge impact on mental wellbeing and often leads to feelings of despair and hopelessness.
That’s why it is so important to have positive, engaging activities inside prisons: activities that make people feel human again, and give them hope and skills for the future. Lukas says of our workshop:
“It just feels good on bikes, feels so good. There are moments when you’re back to your real life, your soul lifts”
Life Cycle UK’s “Bike Back” workshop gives prisoners a chance to get out of their cells, engage in meaningful activity and earn City & Guilds qualifications in cycle mechanics. We aim to rescue men like Lukas from despair and support them to learn new skills, rebuild their confidence and build a brighter future.
- 90% of prisoners say they leave our workshop feeling more motivated
- 75% gain a qualification - and 77% want to complete further training after release
In 2016, Bike Back was a finalist in the National Lottery Awards
In 2017, Bike Back was delighted to win the Prison Reform Trust’s “Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation”