Shannon Trust exists to support people in the criminal justice system to learn to read and improve other basic skills, so they can pursue wider opportunities and thrive in the community.
Shannon Trust was the brainchild of Christopher Morgan, borne out of a series of letters with a life sentenced prisoner, Tom Shannon.
Christopher joined the Prison Reform Trust’s penfriend scheme which aimed to give people in prison a window to the world. Through Tom’s letters, Christopher learned about prison life and the shocking levels of poor literacy in prisons.
It was from this correspondence that Christopher came up with the idea to develop a reading programme that would allow prisoners who can read to teach those who can’t.
The programme was piloted at HMP Wandsworth in 2001, and now Shannon Trust works with all prisons in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, reaching thousands of learners and mentors each year.
Shannon Trust reading programme
Literacy levels among the prison population remain significantly lower than the general population. Over 50% of people in prison struggle to read. Many cannot read at all.
Our reading programme is designed to make it as easy as possible for an adult who has difficulty with reading, to begin to learn and improve their skills. Shannon Trust trains prisoners who can read to work on a one to one basis with learners. Each session is short, flexible and takes place in a safe, comfortable space away from formal learning.
Our reading resources, Turning Pages, allows learners to go at their own pace and helps instill confidence as they progress.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on people living or working in prison. For many living in prison, time out of cell was severely restricted, presenting major challenges to wellbeing, education, rehabilitation and the ability to create positive change. We are hopeful that during 2022 restrictions will ease, day to day prison life will rebound and education related activity will gather pace. However, the impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt for some time to come, as prisons continue to adjust to changed circumstances. We can see other ‘big picture’ changes that will shape prison education and the criminal justice system during the coming decade:
This changing picture – and the need to do much more to address low literacy and low numeracy – has provided our organisation with clear signals that change is necessary if we want to ensure that nobody is left out of learning. At Shannon Trust, we believe in the power of reading and education to change lives for the better. Now, our clear aim is to make that a reality for more people.
I’m going to use everything I’ve learned and turn this into something positive. My confidence has grown so much. I can’t wait to apply to college and get a job.
I get a real sense of pride knowing the positive impact I am having on someone’s life, and I hope when I leave prison I am able to help more adults who struggle with reading and writing.
It has made a big impact on my life because being able to read has made things more possible for me. I can now apply for jobs, college and my driving test.