A prisoner is bringing hope of a better life to fellow inmates by helping them learn to read and write. In the three years and six months that Mick Greenberry, 56, has been at Lewes Prison he has taught 96 inmates to read under a programme drawn up by charity The Shannon Trust. Recently, guards, prisoners and charity workers gathered at a recreation room to watch as he was given an award.
According to Government statistics about 48 per cent of adult prisoners in jails across Britain have no useful literacy skills and a further 18 per cent have a reading age of eight years or under. The programme has been running at Lewes for almost four years and gives prisoners resources to teach each other how to read and write. It costs very little to run and most students are able to read and write after three to six months.
Mr Greenberry, a former sergeant with the Grenadier Guards, has been teaching for two and a half years. He said: “I started just for something to do – I didn’t want to vegetate in here. Some prisoners are so scared when they come here they won’t come out of their cells. They just cow down and end up staying in a closed room for most of the time. You see an incredible change when they learn to read. My method of teaching may not be very politically correct but it works”.
Under the Shannon Trust’s Toe by Toe programme, mentors spend up to 20 minutes teaching students to read, at least five times every week. Mr Greenberry has seen students go from relying on cellmates to read letters from loved ones, to being able to escape the daily grind of prison life through books and newspapers.
Prison governor Eoin McLennan-Murray said one of Mr Greenberry’s students had been a man of 76 years who had written home for the first time on his 50th wedding anniversary.
He said: “A number of prisoners have difficulties with literacy. Some can hardly read or write at all. “Once they learn to read they realise there are other positive changes they can make to improving themselves and their lives. “It opens up the possibility of doing something other than crime.” He gave Mr Greenberry a certificate for his work and a £25 voucher to spend on supplies, while Christopher Morgan of The Shannon Trust gave him two books: ‘Invisible Crying Tree’ and ‘The Assassin’s Cloak’.