Prison entrepreneurship: ‘Giving a little bit of belief goes a long way’
With the inmate population and suicide rates at a high, a new, government-backed, enterprise course could help rehabilitation
One thing is continuous in prison, you’re trying to get your life back”, says LJ Flanders, an entrepreneur who put his future on hold aged 21. He “got into a fight he shouldn’t have,” which led to a three year sentence at Pentonville for grievous bodily harm.
Before his arrest Flanders was studying music and business management while working on a startup that would tackle illegal ticket touting.
Following the initial shock of imprisonment, he reviewed his options. His first move was to join a personal training course. Fellow prisoners, impressed by Flanders’ work-out skills, soon began asking him how they could get in shape. For Flanders, this sparked a business idea – a prison cell exercise manual.
After asking his family to do some background research and check there was nothing similar available (he didn’t have internet access inside) he spent the 15 months until his probation sketching diagrams of workouts and writing exercise instructions.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Flanders’s Cell Workout can be found on the shelves of Waterstones and WH Smith. Flanders self-published the book before securing a deal with Hodder & Stoughton. He has also set up a social enterprise under the same name to train inmates in health and fitness and has won funding to run courses at Wandsworth prison.
“Being in prison wasn’t the best thing ever. But, in a way, it was one of the best things that happened to me,” he says. “You have to rework perceptions.”
Please see HACRO’s Getting Ex-offenders into Work.