Following Richard Branson's visit to Ironwood Prison in California, we wanted to take a closer look into the world of rehabilitation. From organisations to entrepreneurs, this series of blogs will shine a light on the process, benefit and possibility that rehabilitation creates for ex-offenders.

#staffreads: Sustainability in Prisons Project

Having previously shared a month-long series about rehabilitation, we were excited to come across a recent article sharing a prison programme first: eco-friendly, sustainable and fiscally-responsible rehabilitation initiatives.

SPP goes into county and state jails, implements eco-friendly initiatives, and trains incarcerated men and women in the field of environmental sciences.

A class at Kamiti.

From forgotten prisoner to University graduate

Change can come from anywhere, even the unlikeliest of places. Ashoka fellow Alex McLeanshares how some of the greatest, most unexpected and powerful changes in society began in the unlikeliest of places.

Joe D’Ambrosio – friendship as rehabilitation

In April of 2013, a small team of filmmakers set off from New York in a 30ft RV. Their mission: to tell the stories of those who had been found innocent and exonerated from America’s death rows. 

They journeyed 5,500 miles over the following five weeks, making two films a week. Each film profiled a death row exoneree and focused on a different common reason for wrongful conviction within the American capital justice system.

Changing the criminal justice system through philanthropy

Three years ago, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) set out to identify the areas of criminal justice where private philanthropic efforts could have the greatest positive impact on public safety, cost-effectiveness, and fairness. 

Rehabilitation: Happiness is…

San Patrignano is the most successful drug rehabilitation community in the world, with an impressive 72% success rate. 

When I first walked through the gates of San Patrignano, I knew that I wanted to help in some way. 

Having previously worked with the young people from Jamie Oliver’s charity restaurant, Fifteen, I know just what a difference a good rehabilitation programme can make. I have immense respect for and belief in rehabilitation programmes like these because I know they work.

Rehabilitation: Why you should hire me

“I have a knack for sales, I’m great with people and I’m a hard worker - the only catch is that the skills that I have were perfected in the only trade I’ve properly known - as a drug dealer."

Why bail needs a rethink

One of the most important foundations of our legal system is the principle of being innocent until proven guilty. How does this apply to current bail systems?

Rehabilitation through employment – engaging with “The Blockers”

Workplace diversity has been on the agenda for years now. Meeting rooms across the country are alive with talk of inclusiveness. Policy-makers, entrepreneurs and CSR teams wax lyrical about the creative potential generated by social and cultural variety.

Health over handcuffs - Sam Branson

Today is a Global Day of Action, and the Support, Don’t Punish campaign is urging for a change in drug policy that will treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

I completely agree that this is the right message to spread. It’s also an incredibly important one.

My production company Sundog Pictures made Breaking The Taboobecause it was exactly the sort of story that I set up my company for – to tell stories that matter and to start conversations about important topics.

Hold on the people who love you

“This is a beautiful world and every single one of us is just as beautiful as everyone else and we deserve the best.” 


Watch US Congressman, Tony Cardenas share a message of hope with the prisoners of Ironwood State Prison.

Unlocking the door to a new future

It was a chance encounter inside Thorn Cross prison, near Warrington, that led to a project that has produced a marked drop in re-offending and a £20million saving to the taxpayer. Few people thought it would work, and even fewer are keen to copy the idea.

Infinite possibilities

Having grown up as an “army brat”, Gloria was unprepared for her family’s move to Alabama where she would be exposed to a world of racism, chased for being a woman of colour.

Her mother later moved the family to California for a fresh start in a place supposedly without prejudice. However it was here, that her “self esteem was snatched from” her. 

Following these experiences, Gloria’s low self esteem developed into anger and a dependence on alcohol and drugs, which later spiralled out of control. She was admitted into juvenile detention.

Rehabilitation: A story of hope

When Virgin Unite asked me to blog about my work at Igniting Change and how we as a not-for-profit work with young men in prisons only one thing came to mind: it needed to come from the horse’s mouth. So I called a friend of mine named Roger Antochi. I invited him to share in his own words about his life before, during and after prison.  

His messages are clear; the importance of positive parenting, the positive role mentors can have on one's life and the ability to turn even the most horrible of situations around – this is what Roger has done. I am proud to work closely with him, but even prouder to call him my friend.   

Stand up, be fathers

In this guest blog, Correctional Officer Calvin Williams examines the effect of prison on families and calls for all men to stand up and be fathers. 

The average age of children with an incarcerated parent is eight years old. Calvin Williams grew up without a father and is now raising three children as a single parent after the death of his wife. So he has experienced first hand the effect that losing a role model, or “means of passage”, can have on a child. Watch his recent TEDx talk.

A journey of forgiveness

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Never has Lewis B. Smedes' quote been more true than in the astonishing story of Ellen Rutledge.

Ellen was one of the inspirational speakers at TEDx Ironwood, standing onstage along with prisoners, performers, educators and administrators (plus yours truly) to tell her story of forgiveness. Ellen’s son was tragically murdered in 2008. 

From 'unemployable' to entrepreneur: the power of a can-do attitude

Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” The UK-based social venture CanDo Coffee and the people behind it embody this philosophy. 

You might have already crossed paths with one of the many CanDo Coffee vans parked around London. It's more than just coffee on the go. If you've ever stopped to enjoy one of their delicious cappuccinos, you've actually played a small part in changing someone's life.

Second Chances

The story of every successful person is a story of second chances (not to mention third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances!) Nobody gets everything right first time, and it is how we learn from our mistakes that defines us.

I was fortunate enough to visit Ironwood Prison for the first ever TEDx talk held in a California jail. As well as talking with and learning from some of the prisoners there, I joined Scott Budnick onstage to discuss the power of second chances. 

Image by Christine Choi

What do you want to do before you die?

What do you want to achieve in life? We all have a finite amount of time on Earth, and should do all we can to live every day to the full.

At the Tedx Ironwood Prison talk in California, the organisers had placed a board up on the wall, allowing prisoners and guests to fill in what they want to do before they die.

Infinite possibilities at California's first TEDx inside a prison

From separation to togetherness. From punishment to rehabilitation. From despair to hope. I am fortunate to enjoy all kinds of experiences, but few have been as transformative and moving as the first ever TEDx talk held in a California Prison. 

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