News 

Tigger Ramsay-Brown

We are very sad to report the news of the death of one of our trustees, Tigger Ramsay-Brown, on the 3rd of December this year aged 94. Tigger was the sister of our founder, Ann Wetherall, and served as a trustee from early in the charity's life right up until her death. Tigger lived a rich and exciting life, mainly in India and the UK. For many years she worked for Oxfam, where her passion and energy enabled so many people to be helped. We will remember Tigger as a forthright, fun and deeply compassionate woman, and a beloved friend to the Trust.

Video of 2016 Annual Lecture Now Online

Our 2016 Annual Lecture was presented by Heather Mason on the topic of Yoga, the Brain and Mental Health: a scientific and holistic perspective. It was held at Colet House (near Baron's Court, London) at 7:30pm on Monday the 24th of October, 2016. You can watch a video of the lecture here. 

Christmas Cards for Sale 

We have some beautiful full colour Christmas cards, designed by a prisoner friend, for sale. You can see the design here. Cards are £5 per pack of ten. To order please send your name, address and a cheque to - The PPT, PO Box 328, Oxford OX2 7HF. 

Officer Raises Marathon Money for Prison Yoga 

Chris Herbert, who ran an ultra-marathon for us last year, took on the London Marathon this time around, his sixth time in the race. Chris started running over thirty years ago, while in the forces. He has been going to the staff yoga class at Spring Hill Prison for the past three years, and says yoga has been a huge help with his running training. 

If you want to sponsor Chris, have a look at his fundraising page here - or you can send a donation direct to us.

We are so grateful to Chris for helping us, just as we are to all the prison officers who support our classes in prison. Whether it’s running a marathon for us or sorting out attendance lists and rooms for our classes, we couldn't offer yoga and meditation to people inside without the work and kindness of all prison staff. 

Spring 2016 Workshops

We visit prisons all year to practise yoga and meditation with people who live and work there, to try to start up weekly classes. Our travels so far this year have taken us to Spring Hill prison near Bicester, where we hope the Drug & Alcohol Recovery Team will be starting regular sessions. We’ve also been to the John Howard Centre in East London and to Rye Hill prison, near Milton Keynes. Finally, we’ve run a series of workshops in Cardiff, Swansea and Usk prisons as part of those prisons’ move towards a smoking ban. Sharing silence and practising yoga with you on these trips means a lot to us. We’re thankful to the prisoners and prison staff who request them, and who make them happen.

Videos from 2015 Annual Lecture 

We are happy to be sharing video footage from this year's annual lecture, Hope Springs Eternal: Getting Prisons Right. We hope you enjoy these clips, especially if you were unable to attend the event. 

Here is a clip of Jeremy Irons introducing the evening and speaking on our work -

 

Here is a short extract of Erwin James' lecture - 

 

And here is the full lecture by Erwin -

 

New CD Now available 

We are delighted to announce the launch of Freedom Inside, a new CD of yoga and meditation sessions for prisoners. There are two introductions featuring our patrons Erwin James, Jeremy Irons and Benjamin Zephaniah, two complete yoga, meditation and relaxation sessions, and a bonus asana track. The CD is made using material from our radio programme, which is still airing three times weekly on the National Prison Radio network. 

We are sending this CD out free to any prisoners that ask for it. People on the outside can buy a copy for £10 by printing and sending us this form.

Christmas Cards for Sale 

We have some beautiful full colour Christmas cards, designed by a prisoner friend, for sale. You can see the design here. Cards are £5 per pack of ten. Print out this form and send it, along with a cheque, to The PPT, PO Box 328, Oxford OX2 7HF.

New Research Paper

Two years ago, Oxford University conducted a research project on the benefits of yoga and meditation for prisoners, and published the results. Another article has been published, using the same data but examining to what extent the regularity of class attendance and self practice effect the benefits of the intervention. You can read the paper, 'Preliminary Evidence That Yoga Practice Progressively Improves Mood and Decreases Stress in a Sample of UK Prisoners' here.   

Hope Springs Eternal: Getting Prisons Right
The 2015 Prison Phoenix Trust Annual Lecture 

This year's Prison Phoenix Trust Annual Lecture was held at 7:00 pm on the 7th of September in St John's College, Oxford. PPT patron Erwin James examined examples of prison practice that work best, looking to Sweden, Norway, and looking at trends in our own system.

We also heard about Freedom Inside, our weekly yoga and meditation radio show, which Erwin presents. Erwin was be introduced by fellow patron Jeremy Irons.

New Chair of Trustees Elected

We are delighted to welcome Stephen Eeley as our new Chair of Trustees. Stephen has been a trustee, as well as a volunteer letter writer, for over ten years. Our thanks go to the Rev'd Peter Dewey, outgoing Chair. Peter has served on our board of trustees since the Trust began - over 26 years! We are pleased that he remains a trustee and thank him for all he has done as Chair.

Putting in the Miles for Prison Yoga

Chris Herbert, prison officer at HMP Grendon, ran an ultra marathon on the 11th of July 2015 to help raise funds for the Prison Phoenix Trust. The event, Race to the Stones, is a 100km (62 miles) run along the Ridgeway - the oldest path in Britain. 

Chris started running over thirty years ago, while serving in the forces, and has run the London Marathon five times. He has been going to the staff yoga class in Grendon / Spring Hill for the past two years, and says yoga goes brilliantly with his running training.

If you want to sponsor Chris, have a look at his fundraising page at https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Herbert-PPT.

We’re deeply grateful to Chris and to all prison staff who support yoga and meditation in prison - for officers and prisoners alike.  

Spring and Summer Workshops

The last few months have been busy ones for our Yoga Coordinators. In March we visited Scotland, holding workshops at HMYOI Polmont and HMP Glenochil and running a training day for teachers. In May we visited Ireland and Northern Ireland, running workshops in HMP Magilligan and Wheatfield Prison, and running a yoga teacher training day in Dublin. Back in England, between March and June 2015 we have run workshops in HMP Gerndon, Southview Approved Premises, HMP Full Sutton, Beech House Hospital and HMP Huntercombe.

 Many good things happen during workshops: 

  • Prisoners experience a challenging physical practice coupled with the calmness and insight which yoga and meditation can bring 
  • Prison staff typically get their own yoga class, and an opportunity to directly experience how breath work and relaxation can help reduce stress and improve sleep
  • Prison managers hear feedback from the students about the workshop, which may lead to a weekly class being established 
  • Every workshop prisoners and staff have a chance to read and request our newsletter, books and CD so that they can practice on their own, regardless of whether a weekly class begins
  • Prisoners can hear about support for their yoga practice via letter writing 

Yoga Classes on Prison Radio

Over Easter 2015, our newest project hits the airwaves - Freedom Inside, a radio yoga class for prisoners. The class is airing three times per week on the National Prison Radio network, to a potential audience of 73,000 men and women inside. The shows are presented by Erwin James, and introduced by Jeremy Irons. Each episode guides the listener through a yoga session led by a PPT yoga teacher, followed by relaxation and meditation. We are excited about this opportunity to reach out to prisoners on a scale we've never been able to before!

New Year, New Classes

In 2014 was a busy year for the PPT. Teachers began  yoga and meditation classes in 15 more prisons and two secure hospitals. We held a total of 24 prison workshops, which were well received by prisoners, patients and staff. We are delighted to announce four new weekly classes starting as a result:

  • Before Christmas Sally Wagner began teaching inmates at HMP Guys Marsh.
  • At HMP Send in January, Chloe Davis added a lunchtime staff class having already started a prisoner class in October 2014. 
  • In February Nicky Short began a prisoner class at HMP Albany (IOW) (many thanks to  Yogamad  for donating 12 yoga mats to this class).    
  • At HMP Styal, Philippa Wade is hoping to start a class for female prisoners soon.
  • After a series of taster workshops in October, Caroline Wickham has begun teaching prisoners at HMP Guernsey.
  • Finally, the Gold Medal for speediest conversion goes to Chloe Davis whose patient class at Farmfield Hospital was up and running within a week of a taster workshop.

Workshops and Wellbeing

In February 2015 we ran workshops at Farmfield Hospital, HMP Styal, HMP Swaleside and HMP Ranby, and attend a wellbeing day at HMYOI Stoke Heath. 

New Yoga Coordinator Victoria Green Joins the Team 

Due to an expansion in our work, the Prison Phoenix Trust has taken on a third Yoga Coordinator for two days a week. We are delighted to be welcoming Victoria Green to take up this position, which will involve working to establish and support yoga and meditation classes in prison, as well as training and supporting our network of yoga teachers. Victoria will continue to teach inmates at HMYOI Ayelsebury and staff at HMP Grendon. 

Winter Classes and Workshops 

In Autumn 2014 we ran workshops in HMP Guernsey and HMP Guy's Marsh. As a result of previous workshops and contact with prisons, new classes have started in HMP Leyhill, HMP Onley and HMP Send and a second class has started in HMYOI Aylesbury.

Mental Health Conference 

As the PPT's work includes forensic mental health patients, Sam Settle and Brent Scott went in November 2014 to a conference run by Priory, a mental health service provider running secure hospitals. Almost half of the 200 people there were current or former 'service users' of Priory facilities and those run by other companies and the NHS. The other attenders were staff and managers. There was considerable interest in hospital yoga and meditation classes. Sam and Brent led a 20 minute yoga and meditation session after lunch.

Christmas Cards for Sale 

Our 2014 Christmas cards are now sold out. You can see the design here. 

Faith and Identity Behind Bars - The 2014 Prison Phoenix Trust Lecture 

On the 11th of November 2014 The Reverend Canon Mike Kavanagh, Head of Chaplaincy and Faith Services for the National Offender Manager Service, delivered the Prison Phoenix Trust's 3rd Annual Lecture. He spoke about how spiritual practice can lead prisoners to form a new sense of themselves and their potential, and enable them to make clear choices about their future actions.

Autumnn Workshops 

In September 2014 we visited HMP Send, SMP Styal and HMP Guy's Marsh. We ran yoga and meditation taster sessions to offer the staff and prisoners direct experience of the benefits of the practice.

Prison Service Journal Article

An article offering an in-depth look at the recent Oxford University research into yoga and meditation in prison was published by the Prison Service Journal in Summer 2014. It can be found here, on page 36.

New Year, New Workshops 

In January 2014 we visited HMP Hull, HMP Onley, HMP Durham and HMP-YOI Low Newton. We showed the staff and prisoners there the benefits of yoga and meditation by offering a free taster workshop to them and offering support with establishing regular weekly classes if required.

Malmaison Yoga Class  

The Prison Phoenix Trust collaborated with Malmaison Oxford to offer yoga classes November 2013 on the site of the former Oxford Prison, where the PPT used to have our offices. Classes ran every Wednesday between the 6th and 27th of November, from 6pm to 7.30pm and were free to hotel residents and cost all other visitors £10 (£7 concessions) all proceeds of which went to the Prison Phoenix Trust. After each class Malmaison provided a drinks reception to provide an opportunity to learn more about the work of the Trust.

Classes were held by Lissa Rodd, who has had first-hand experience teaching yoga and meditation to prisoners. She made sure everyone's experience was as close as possible to the lessons she teaches inside the prison.

Autumn Workshops  

Over October 2013 we visited HMP Erlestoke and the Priory Hospital Middleton St George in Darlington to deliver taster yoga and meditation workshops to the staff, patients and inmates of these premises, with the aim of establishing weekly classes. 

The Second Prison Phoenix Trust Annual Lecture - The Profound Benefits of Yoga and Meditation in Prisons

2013's lecture was delivered by Oxford University's Dr Miguel Farias and Dr Amy Bilderbeck, who took as their subject the recent research project with the Prison Phoenix Trust. You can read their published paper. Supporting speakers were Erwin James, Guardian journalist and former prisoner, and John Dring, former prison governor.

Christmas Cards  

2013's Christmas cards are now sold out. The cards were a beautiful full colour drawing designed By Colin O'Hara, a friend of ours in a secure hospital. They can be seen here.

Prisoners' Envelope Art

We are making a selection of envelopes drawn by prisoners available to the public for a suggested donation of £30. All envelopes are mounted in frames (8” x 6”, except envelope 5, which is 10.5” x 8”) which can be freestanding or hung. The envelopes we have are illustrated here. To place your order please ring Lucy on 01865 512 521.

Research Results Published

In 2012, Oxford University conducted quantitative research on the benefits of yoga and meditation for prisoners. You can read their paper on the research, entitled "Participation in a 10-week course of yoga improves behavioural control and decreases psychological distress in a prison population" published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in July 2013. 

Workshop Update

Over the summer of 2013 we ran workshops in HMP Oakwood, HMP Chelmsford, HMP Bronzefield and St Andrew's Hospital. It was a busy time for our yoga coordinating team!

Listen to Erwin James Speak Unscripted

Erwin James, a journalist and former prisoner, recorded the Prison Phoenix Trust's Radio 4 Appeal, which aired on Sunday the 16th of June 2013. While he was recorded, we asked him about his experiences of prison yoga. You can hear what he said here. A longer version is available here.   

Oxfordshire Artweeks 

To help celebrate our 25th year as a charity, the Prison Phoenix Trust exhibited prisoners' art as well as photographs from prison yoga classes as part of 2013's Oxfordshire Artweeks. Local artist Caroline Meynell helped curate and display this simple but interesting collection.

Wymott Workshop

HMP Wymott invited the Prison Phoenix Trust to visit in mid April 2013. Sam and Brent and local yoga teacher Maria ran a taster yoga and meditation workshop for staff followed by one for prisoners. The response was excellent, and we are hopeful that the prison will start weekly classes soon.

Probation Staff Classes

In Spring 2013 the Prison Phoenix Trust started supporting a teacher offering classes to the staff at the London Probation Trust in Lewisham. We had been helping teachers offer yoga and meditation classes in Bail Hostels for a few years, but this was the first time a class will be offered to staff working with ex prisoners. 

Sam and Sally Visited Ireland

From the 8th to the 11th of May 2013, Sam and Sally went to Ireland. They ran workshops in Castlerea and Arbour Hill prisons. On the Saturday they ran a teacher training day for Irish yoga teachers who wished to know more about the role that yoga and meditation can play in prison.  

New Yoga Coordinator Brent Scott Joins the Team 

In February 2013 we welcomed Brent Scott to the team. Brent has been teaching in prisons for nine years and is a Zen meditator.

Sam and Sally to Visit Scotland  

From the 6th to the 9th of March 2013, Sam and Sally were up in Scotland. They ran workshops in prisons and visited existing classes. On the Saturday they held a teacher training day for Scottish yoga teachers who wished to know more about the role that yoga and meditation can play in prison. 

New Classes Started 

As a result of workshops, weekly prison classes started in Clark's House Bail Hostel and HMP Wormwood Scrubs in spring 2013. 

Jason Meets the Queen 

The Diamond Jubilee Garden Party was an event organised by the Lord Lieutenants of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in summer 2012. Jason, deputy director of The Prison Phoenix Trust, was invited to attend in recognition of The Queens Award for Voluntary Service, and to meet Her Majesty the Queen.

The Garden party was attended by around 4000 people, and featured a historic pageant of boats on the Thames. After the display,  The Queen made her way to greet guests. She spoke briefly with Jason, and was pleased to know that meditation and yoga was helping prisoners in the UK.

The afternoon was a great honour, and wonderful reminder that The Queen pays special interest to the charities that have received her award for voluntary service.

Geraint Walks the Camino Trail

In Summer 2012 Geraint ap Dyfed walked 200 miles along the Camino de Santiago to raise money for the Prison Phoenix Trust. Thank you Geraint!

HMP Haverigg Class Makes News

A yoga and meditation class the Prison Phoenix Trust helped establish in 2001 has been featured recently in the Whitehaven News. The article highlights how the classes "help the men relax, control their aggression and be aware of their reactions". You can read the full article here.

Alison Liebling Lecture

The Prison Phoenix Trust was delighted to host a talk by Professor Alison Liebling on Tuesday 29th May 2012 at 6.30 pm at Colet House, Hammersmith. Alison spoke about her research, which has shown that prisoners describe a feeling of personal development only in a few, high quality prisons. Questions she explored include: What contributes to that feeling of personal development? Should prisons be aiming for a climate of personal development? How can they do that? And can yoga and meditation play a role in creating such a climate?

Alison is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Director of the Prisons Research Centre at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology. She has carried out research on suicides in prison, staff-prisoner relationships, the work of prison officers, incentives and earned privileges, prison privatization, values and practices in prison life, and measuring the quality of prison life. She has published several books, including Prisons and their Moral Performance and The Effects of Imprisonment.

You can read a transcript of the talk here and view the presentation here. You can listen to an audio recording of the evening here.

Something Understood

Prison Phoenix Trust patron, Sir Mark Tully, spoke about the work of the Trust in his radio show, Something Understood. The show, which was on the theme of meditation, aired on the 15th of April 2012 at 6am on BBC Radio 4.

Scotland

HMPs Inverness, Dumfries, Shotts and Glenochil hosted taster yoga and meditation workshops at the end of February and beginning of March 2012. The workshops, run by PPT Staff Sally and Sam and attended by local yoga teachers, allowed prisoners and prison staff the chance to experience for themselves the benefits of the practices to see if they would like to include it in their regime. On Saturday 3rd March, Sam and Sally met with yoga teachers currently working in Scottish prisons and those wanting to find out about the work.

Ireland

Sally and Sam visited HMP / YOC Hydebank Wood in Belfast at the end of April 2012, running two taster workshops for the women there, one for staff, and one for the male young offenders. They had terrific support from the staff, who are looking into the feasibility of weekly classes.

Research

140 prisoners took part in quantitative research that the Trust is ran in conjunction with Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology and the National Offender Management Service in early 2012. Seven West Midlands prisons participated in the project, which examined what effect a 10 week programme of weekly yoga and meditation classes had on inmates' stress levels, anxiety, sense of well-being, pro-social behaviour and impulsivity. Prisoners were interviewed before the 10 weeks and afterwards, and a control group was also in place.

Workshop

We visited HMP Bristol to run a workshop with prisoners on the 8th of February 2012.

London Fundraising Concert

On Sunday the 27th of November 2011 Jenna Monroe and James D'Angelo performed 'The Spirit of Compassion', a concert in aid of the Prison Phoenix Trust. The concert took place at Colet House, West London, at 3pm. James and Jenna performed songs from the great musicals, Leonard Cohen, freedom songs and jazz standards. This event was underwritten for us by the Study Society. Thank you so much to Jenna, James and the Study Society for their support!

Pottery Exhibition and Sale in Aid of the Trust

We are grateful to potter Jonathan Chiswell Jones and his colleagues for donating part of the proceeds from their pre-Christmas sale at the Art Workers Guild in Queen's Square, London on the 22nd of November 2011. Stunning pottery, big hearted people, lovely event! Contact us if you want to know more about Jonathan's pottery. 

Volunteer Training Day

On Tuesday the 22nd of November 2011, Wayne came to talk to our letter writing volunteers about his long correspondence with the Trust while he was in prison and the difficulties of getting used to life outside of prison again.

London Om Yogathon

Thank you so much to all who participated or sponsored our yogathon in 2011! So far this event has raised us £2062.75. We would like to thank everyone involved for their support.

Prison Workshops

In the autumn of 2011 ran workshops in HMPs Huntercombe, Stafford and Nottingham. We also attended wellbeing days at HMPs Leyhill and Bullingdon.

PPT Attended Governors Conference for the First Time

Sam and Jason attended the 2011 Prison Governors Association Conference.

The Prison Phoenix Trust wins the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services

The award, part of the Queen’s birthday honours, is the highest given to voluntary groups across the UK. It is conferred in recognition of the contribution our volunteers make to the work of supporting prisoners and prison officers in their spiritual lives.
It is fantastic that our volunteers are getting the highest accolade possible for their work. The selection committee recognised the often unseen work done by volunteers at the Trust, from planting out flowers outside the office to sending over 5,000 book packs annually; from dispatching the newsletter to 10,500 people each season to making curtains for the back room; providing advice on specific Prison Service and faith issues and ensuring that the Trust stays financially and legally safe and sound; database entry and keeping up with the filing; and typing up correspondence from prisoners for the newsletter and managing the teachers’ networks in Ireland and Scotland. The committee was also impressed by those prison yoga and meditation teachers who work without payment. And, of course, this award is very much for those who write letters to prisoners, providing wisdom and solace in what is, to many people, their darkest time.
The award will be formally made by the Vice Lord Lieutenant during our fundraising event at Corpus Christi college, Oxford, on the 30th of June 2011.
We would like to offer our most wholehearted thanks for our volunteers' commitment and the energy they give to those living and working in prisons, hospitals and hostels.

Postcards for Sale

We have designed a range of postcards, featuring charming illustrations of yoga poses by Korky Paul, which we are selling to raise money for the Trust. If you would like a pack of 12 postcards, please send a cheque  for £7 along with your name and address to The Prison Phoenix Trust, PO Box 328, Oxford, OX2 7HF. 

Classes Restarted at YOI Aylesbury

Following a PPT workshop in July 2011 classes for staff and prisoners have resumed at HMYOI Aylesbury.

Workshops in June

In June 2011 we visited two prisons. At HMYOI Brinsford we ran a stall at the Staff Wellbeing Day and at HMP Earlstoke we led three yoga workshops at the Men's Health Day.

POA Conference

Sam and Jason attended the 2011 Prison Officers Association. They ran a stall at the conference from the 10th to the 12th of May.

Probation Hostel Workshops

Luisa and Jason ran workshops in Approved Premises in Brighton and Guildford on the 26th of May 2011.

HMP Erlestoke Workshop

Luisa and Jason visited HMP Erlestoke, a category C male prison in Wiltshire, on the 14th of April 2011 to run a workshop for prisoners.

HMP Highpoint Workshops

Sam and Elaine visited HMP Highpoint, a category C male prison in Suffolk, on the 26th of April 2011 to run a workshop for prisoners.

New Materials for Women Prisoners

In 2011 we launched our new leaflets, designed to be especially accessible for younger female prisoners. They feature a short yoga sequence to try and a form which prisoners can use to order our materials. If you work in a women's prison in the UK or Ireland please get in touch if you'd like some.

Sam Speaks at BWY Congress

Sam presented two sessions on the work of the Prison Phoenix Trust at the British Wheel of Yoga Congress at Warwick University on the 8th of April 2011. These sessions explored why meditation and yoga work for prisoners and, as a teacher, how to make sure that they do.

Teacher Training in Oxford

The Prison Phoenix Trust held a training day to help teachers explore issues involved in working in prison on the 2nd of April 2011 in Oxford. We held a similar event in Scotland on the 21st of May.

Staff Workshops at HMP Featherstone

As part of the prison's Diversity Day on the 29th of March 2011 we held 6 workshops at HMP Featherstone.

Grendon Restarted Yoga Classes

On the 24th of March 2011 Sam, Luisa and local teacher Caroline held the first yoga class since funding was cut last year. Thanks to the Friends of Grendon, Caroline has begun teaching a weekly class there.

Trip to Ireland

In February 2011 Sam and Luisa went to Ireland to run 7 workshops in 4 prisons and facilitate a training day for yoga teachers considering teaching in Irish prisons.

HMP Haverigg Workshop

Sam and Jason visited HMP Haverigg in Cumbria on the 18th of February 2011, to run a workshop for prisoners. They were accompanied by local teacher Kay, who has now started two weekly classes.

Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre Workshop

Sam and Luisa's visit to Campsfield in early 2011 went well. While there, they were reminded of the value of Yoga Without Words, our book for people who speak little or no English.


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Yoga and meditation in a prison cell
I have woken up to myself and realised what I want for me, and my life upon release.

Neil, HMP Wakefield

  As Head of Residence at Glen Parva, I have been able to introduce yoga to our Violence Reduction programme. Naturally, we approached the Prison Phoenix Trust, and we now have a regular yoga class every Monday.

This is paying huge dividends, and is contributing to an overall reduction in levels of violence at Glen Parva. Some very challenging young men have been able to use techniques learnt in yoga to control some aspects of their impulsive and violent behaviour.

Simon Cass, HMYOI/RC Glen Parva