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Fine Cell Work

Claudia Vince, about 4 years ago

'As I started to do the work I was aware of a feeling of calmness that I was experiencing for the first time since coming to prison.' FCW stitcher

Fine Cell Work is a charity and social enterprise dedicated to teaching prisoners across the UK high-quality, skilled, creative needlework techniques. Currently working in 32 British prisons, Fine Cell Work engages with over 500 prisoners per year. It aims to provide prisoners with the skills and connections they need to transform their lives and successfully desist from crime. With these new skills, prisoners can spend the long hours alone in their cells with a positive activity, safe in the knowledge they are improving their future prospects and helping themselves.

'There are few words to describe the emotions that stir to know that I can actually bring a little happiness to others in spite of my previous behaviour.' FCW stitcher

Fine Cell Work's mission revolves around five key values, they are:

  • -Rebuilding lives
  • -Creating opportunities
  • -Contributing to society
  • -Striving for excellence
  • -Inclusive, creative and enterprising

In pursuing this mission, Fine Cell Work aims to ensure their stitchers are provided with the necessary support and guidance to promote self-belief and independence. In turn, they are encouraged to foster their own personal aspirations to help them reintegrate into society and live crime free lives.

Fine Cell Work volunteers go into prisons on a weekly or fortnightly basis to teach needlepoint, embroidery and quilting. Once their stitchers have reached a certain standard, they are then given kits which they can take back to their cells to complete. The team also facilitate prison based workshops, during which participants can practice using sewing machines and learn textile production skills. They can then devote their time to mastering their techniques and allowing their talents to flourish.

The textiles the stitchers create are for sale to the public, which provides them with a lifeline of financial security. Whether they choose to send money to family members or save for their release, being able to earn their own money helps them to develop a strong work ethic and increase their connectedness with the outside world.

'Fine Cell Work is the best thing to come out of my prison experience. The most rewarding part is when you get a card or a letter from a member of the public who has paid good money for something I have created in a small room, away from society.' FCW stitcher

Upon release, individuals are encouraged to continue developing the skills they have learnt in the prison workshops by attending the Fine Works Hub. Having access to Fine Cell Work services in the community is invaluable for those involved, as this assists the transition back into society and offers further opportunities for employment and training support.

'What I find most gratifying about Fine Cell Work is that my efforts are not judged in light of my crimes, nor the fact that I am in prison, but rather their own merits- the artistry, the attention to detail and the aesthetic pleasure they give to people.' FCW stitcher

All photographs depict work completed by by Fine Cell Work stitchers