Shannon Trust was started by Christopher Morgan in 1997 following a long correspondence with a life sentenced prisoner, Tom Shannon, in a scheme run by The Prison Reform Trust.
Through Tom’s letters, Christopher learned about prison life and the shocking levels of poor literacy amongst prisoners. In 1995 the letters were put together in a book titled, ‘Invisible Crying Tree’. The royalties from the book were used to found Shannon Trust.
Since then Shannon Trust has been working closely with prisons and prisoners to make the Shannon Trust Reading Plan available to those prisoners who could benefit from improving their reading, or from being a mentor to others. Shannon Trust provides all resources and training to prisons free of charge. The Shannon Trust Reading Plan is now widespread across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In 2013 the Prisons' Minister launched the National Reading Network, a partnership between Shannon Trust and the Prison Service. The purpose of the network is to embed the Shannon Trust Reading Plan across all public prisons to give every non-reading prisoner the best possible opportunity to learn to read. A standard delivery model for the Reading Plan has been adopted by the Prison Service and in each prison an officer is allocated time to run it. The Reading Plan is championed in each establishment by a member of the Senior Management Team.
Shannon Trust is a very small organisation with only nine employed staff (three of whom are part time) but with over 140 Volunteers around the UK who are paired up with their local prison to support delivery of the Reading Plan. All funding currently comes from Trusts and Foundations or private donations and the overall ethos of the Reading Plan and the work undertaken by Shannon Trust is that it is ‘By prisoners, for prisoners'.