COMMENDEE 2017-18: Andrew Wright is a Farm Manager at HMP North Sea Camp, a men’s open prison in Lincolnshire hemmed by the sea, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve, and, poetically, a tidal river called The Haven. For almost two decades, his extraordinary work with prisoners has introduced many to the power of nature, and of caring for animals, with remarkable results.
[Summary of original nomination and supporting materials submitted to the Trust]
Initial nominator and Andrew’s line manager at North Sea Camp, Marcus Riley, points out that the working farm delivers training to high-risk long term prisoners, many of whom “come from inner city lives and have been in custody for many years. Most of these prisoners have never seen a farm or been near animals and crops; and prior to arrival at North Sea Camp have only seen these on a plate or on TV.”
Andrew’s quiet passion for the environment yields some extraordinary changes in the men. Marcus says: “Andrew is able to take these men and introduce them into what must seem an alien environment, build their confidence and ability, give them qualifications and pass on his passion for rural arts and industries.” He goes on to describe a touching scenario that captures the results rather well:
“After only a very short time under Andrew’s influence, I have seen prisoners, who only a few short years ago posed a significant risk to the public, be given the trust and responsibility for a living creature’s life, and bloom into driven, responsible and passionate individuals who glow with the pride of their endeavours. In fact, such is the passion these men have for the care of their animals it is almost impossible to stop them from devoting their time to these animals and I have to force them to have days off (although I suspect they still “pop in” to check on their welfare).”
Marcus says that, with Andrew’s passion often translated into prisoners gaining qualifications, “it is reasonably common for men to change their resettlement plans completely and decide to remain in the county so that they can gain employment in the agricultural industry and continue to do the thing they have come to love.”
The Office for National Statistics has rated Andrew’s work as ‘delivering best practice’ in a ministerial report, and his work also includes “eco clubs, bird watching clubs, reptile and amphibian courses (to name but a few) for prisoners, which he runs in his own time on top of his duties.”
Governor Michelle Quirke calls Andrew “one of the most modest people I have ever met”, yet his work “provides the bedrock of North Sea Camp’s rehabilitative culture as he delivers a delightful physical environment.” She calls his enthusiasm “unmatchable” and “infectious”.
Andrew adds that one of his main passions is the rare breed programme he has developed, with pigs and sheep of rare traditional breeds bred “to maintain the breed’s survival.” Additionally he has developed allotments for prisoners and staff as well as overseen the local Boston in Bloom programme for several years, “where men are Released on Temporary License (ROTL) to assist with the planting up of hanging baskets and landscaping green areas in the town.”
He takes North Sea Camp’s role in the local community seriously, making wildlife enhancements around local churches by installing bird and bat boxes. New projects include a war museum, a memorial garden, and a local hedgehog rescue centre.
Andrew points out that his work instils responsibility in the men by “allowing them to care for another creature; for many, this can be the first time this has happened for a long time.” The impact is enduring, with many prisoners asking where they can help with voluntary conservation projects near to their place of release. “It is very satisfying to see the men take their social responsibility so seriously and wish to continue with this after their release.”
One final indication of the impact of this approach to Mother Nature is that, as Andrew points out, “the men consistently turn up for work before start times as they are so eager to tend to their animals or plants.”