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The Prisons Opticians Trust

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 3 years ago

The Prisons Opticians Trust was established in 2015 by Tanjit Dosanjh. Based in Maidstone, the charity provides optics training and jobs to people in prison and in the community.

The Prisons Opticians Trust aims to reduce reoffending through meaningful work and raise the standards of eye care in prison.

Training is open to candidates who are approaching the end of their sentence in open prisons. Upon graduation, they have a new set of skills which provide a solid foundation going forward into the optics industry at companies like Specsavers.

So far the trust has trained over 65 people in optical lab and optical customer service, supporting 45 of those individuals into employment.

It has been a long journey, but I believe I can say that with everyone, if you want to achieve a goal you have to set a plan for yourself and move forward in life.

-Trainee, Prisons Opticians Trust

In June, The Prison Opticians Trust launched Liberty Glasses, a new frame supply service for independent practices.

The high quality frames are glazed by prisoners and will feature unique patterns on the temples designed by prison artists. Liberty Glasses are working in partnership with the Koestler Trust. They are looking forward to running a prison art competition in April of next year, with winning designs made into stylish frames.

Currently, all of the people they train are referred onto an employer who is willing to give them a second chance.

By offering Liberty Glasses to the general public through independent practices, they will create more jobs in the optical labs, helping employ more prisoners directly.

The trust has a specialist understanding of prison leavers returning to work and so this stream offers greater flexibility in the workplace and tailored support. This will provide a stepping stone for people in prison that require more time to adapt to life on the outside, who, once settled, will go onto progress into work with a commercial employer.

The five-year goal for the Liberty Glasses brand is to employ between 15 and 20 people from our prisons.

In addition to Liberty Glasses, The Prisons Opticians Trust have another separate e-commerce initiative Just Specs, where you can support their work by buying glasses online.

Believing in myself and with the great help from my Just Specs mentors I managed not only learning about optometry, but having a great career as a Lab Manager.

- Trainee, Prisons Opticians Trust

When social distancing is relaxed, the trust plan to offer a mobile opticians services for businesses and carry out eye tests for staff.

Earlier this year, they also worked with Light Without Borders who deliver eye tests in a Lesvos refugee camp. Through this project, people in prison helped refugees gain access to glasses, giving back to the community. They hope to encourage and inspire more UK optometrists to support the crucial work that Light Without Borders do.

For Tanjit, the future is in social business. The vital work that The Prisons Opticians Trust do has enormous transformative potential, helping people inside rebuild their careers and look toward to a bright future on the outside.