Prison project is just Braille-iant

Jeffrey Bennett receives a Commendation from the Princess Royal for his work as a Braille Instructor at HMP Garth, over more than a decade, for which he has earned acclaim both nationally and internationally.
Jeffrey Bennett receives a Commendation from the Princess Royal for his work as a Braille Instructor at HMP Garth, over more than a decade, for which he has earned acclaim both nationally and internationally.
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An internationally renowned instructor gives prisoners the world at their fingertips – teaching them to transcribe documents into Braille.

Jeffrey Bennett has worked as a specialist instructor in Braille at HMP Garth near Leyland for over a decade, sending his works around the world.

Photo Neil Cross'The Braille workshop in HMP Garth for prisoners, where they create documents and books in Braille which they ship across the world.

Photo Neil Cross'The Braille workshop in HMP Garth for prisoners, where they create documents and books in Braille which they ship across the world.

Now the 58-year-old has been given the royal seal of approval, after receiving a national award from HRH The Princess Royal.

Jeffrey received a commendation for his work, which has earned recognition nationally and across the globe.

He said: “It’s great. I had to go to London for an interview and then I was nominated for a commendation.”

Jeffrey works with prisoners to supply documents to individuals and charities.

He said: “We send documents to Zimbabwe, Malawi, we work with Blindaid Africa.

“There used to be a charity called Inside Out Trust that used to work within the prison.

“They opened a lot of Braille units in the prison service, I turned up as an instructor and started it up.

“I train the prisoners in Braille transcription, I teach them how to type the Braille in, how to read the Braille, and later on, as they advance, we create documents by screening and create the Braille through the translation programme.

“Then we emboss it out and send it out to customers - schools, we do maths books, recipe books.”
The former engineer, who lives in Wigan, describes the unit as “meaningful work” for the prisoners.

He said: “I set it up as restorative justice, giving something back to the community.

“Over the years we’ve done hymn books for churches, you name the documents, we’ve done them.

“They like it, it’s the feel-good factor I think. Some of the guys who are serving long term spend years with me.”

Jeffrey and his team have just finished transcribing four maths books for schools in Zimbabwe.

He was presented with a prestigious Butler Trust Commendation by the trust’s patron, the Princess Royal, at St James’s Palace in London last week.

The Butler Trust annual awards, in their 31st year, recognise outstanding contributions by people working in UK prisons, probation and youth justice.

Simon Shepherd, director of the trust, said: “We received a record number of over 350 nominations this year from across the UK. The Award Ceremony is a chance to highlight some of the very best work happening in the sector.”