Javed | 30 November 2017
I really believe education and training can help a young person think and act differently. It can make a prison sentence easier and stop you from going down the wrong path.
I went to prison when I was 19 years old and I was there until last year, when I turned 22. I was a naïve young kid when I first went in – I was in an adult prison, and to be honest I was terrified. I would just sit in my cell all day, waiting for my transfer.
It all changed when I went to a Young Offenders’ Institute (YOI), thanks to a prison officer who offered me a job at the prison’s print shop. The shop could not have been a more different environment from the rest of the prison. It was just such a fantastic place to be – it was a colourful, creative world inside a regimented one. I loved it.
There were a handful of us who worked at the shop, designing things like mugs, websites and banners. On the day the embroidery machine arrived no one knew what to do with it – but I was determined to work it out. Soon we were embroidering uniforms not only for our own prison but for lots of others around the country. The best part of the job was getting customer feedback. When someone loved what we created, seeing the smiles on their faces was priceless.
I couldn’t have gotten through my sentence without that job. It gave purpose to my life in prison – it made me live again. By the time I was released I was managing a team of five people, and my mindset had completely changed – I had a new image of the future me.
I knew I wanted to continue this work when I got out. As soon as I was released I began to work at starting up my own embroidery business with the help of the Princes’ Trust. A year later I finally have a unit in a factory.
I think people like to see a young lad who’s not had the best start in life, but who’s now working hard and not taking anything for granted
Quality, efficiency and speed are what I aim for. I offer a cheaper service than other people, and I send out free samples that often turn into genuine orders. Apart from that, the main difference between me and my competitors is obviously my story. Lots of others in the industry will have had their business passed down to them by their parents and grandparents, but I haven’t.
I think people like to see a young lad who’s not had the best start in life, but who’s now working hard and not taking anything for granted. But some people aren’t so positive. A few months ago, my local newspaper ran a story about how I turned my life around and started a business from prison. Underneath the article there was a lot of hate from members of the public, saying people like me don’t deserve being helped out, saying I was stealing from the charities that were helping me – just horrible things without knowing who I was.
Ironically, that led to the highlight of my work so far. The next week I got a call out of the blue from Manchester City’s manager, a guy called Mark Ryan. He said: “I read about you on the internet, and I saw what people were saying about you. I want to give you a second chance.”
We met in McDonalds – it was so funny, there’s him – a millionaire, and 60 years old, and there’s me – a young kid just kicked out of prison, not knowing what to do, not knowing how to manage a business. But I think our personalities connected in a way, and he offered me some work. I started off doing a few samples for him, and now I’m picking up quite a lot. Recently I was watching TV and I saw the team wearing shirts with the Remembrance Day poppies I’d embroidered on them. It was such a strange and proud moment for me. And it doesn’t hurt my business either, doing work for one of the richest football teams in the world!
I want to tell prisoners that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to give you the help you if you’re not too shy to ask.
I’ve been very fortunate, but it’s a hell of a lot of work. Many nights I don’t go to sleep – I’m at the factory with the machines off, or downstairs on living room table working until it’s light. You’ve got to put in a lot of hard work to create a business, and you’ve got to have that love of education and learning first because your motivation can slip. I really believe education and training – the chance to find your passion – can help a young person think and act differently. It can make a prison sentence easier and stop you from going down the wrong path.
They say being an entrepreneur is being a doer not a dreamer, but my dream started as a young boy in a prison cell, being given a second chance. This is what inspires me to work with Prisoners’ Education Trust through its alumni network – that’s what they’re doing everyday – giving people like me second chances. Now I’m working towards setting up a printing workshop inside a prison. I want to tell prisoners that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to give you help if you’re not too shy to ask.
At the moment it’s me with ten different arms doing ten different things, but in the future I want to employ people. Actually I want to look for people who’ve left prison – who can’t find a job but who want a better future. That’s the person I want working with me here in the factory.
© Prisoners' Education Trust 2021