Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 14:52 UK

Inmates support time swap scheme

Kit Barkley with Shotts prisoners
Kit Barclay's home was redecorated using hours donated by prisoners

A volunteering scheme for inmates at a prison in Lanarkshire is helping improve the lives of vulnerable people in Glasgow.

Prisoners at Shotts Prison can earn credits by counselling fellow inmates.

These are then donated to people in the Castlemilk Timebank scheme who exchange them for services like community support or home improvements.

The scheme mainly benefits infirm or elderly people who request hours from the Timebank to get odd jobs done.

The Timebank concept was created by American civil rights lawyer and activist, Dr Edgar Cahn, based on the theory that everybody has something to offer and "one hour of your time will give you an hour of someone else's".

But vulnerable groups often lack the skills or the time to contribute and can instead use the hours donated by the prisoners for free.

They are giving up their time here in the prison and as a consequence people living in a hard-pressed community like Castlemilk are getting the benefit
Kenny MacAskill MSP
Justice Secretary

A group of prisoners at Shotts have been trained as "listeners" by the Samaritans, offering fellow inmates who are low or feeling suicidal the opportunity to talk to one of their peers.

The hours they spend doing this are noted and deposited in the Castlemilk Timebank.

If the families of the prisoners involved live in the Castlemilk area and need community support, they can also use some of the credits donated to the bank by inmates.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill described the inmates' involvement as one of the "most exciting programmes we have in our prisons".

On a visit to Shotts Prison he said: "We are eager to promote the concept of payback. Prisoners must do the time for the crime they commit but while they are doing that it is much better if they improve themselves and help improve communities.

"They are giving up their time here in the prison and as a consequence people living in a hard-pressed community like Castlemilk are getting the benefit of their hours spent volunteering."

Timebank founder, Dr Cahn, also met with prisoners at Shotts and Castlemilk residents.

He said: "The majority of these prisoners will end up back in the community when they have served their time.

"Often their families and the communities were the indirect victims of their crime so if they can give something back then they will be able to return to their communities having gone on a journey, and made a difference."



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