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We are a community organisation giving prisoners the skills to develop a new hobby which can be done both in class and in their cells. One maker regularly spends up to 30 hours a week accurately folding colourful structures for the fronts of the cards. He says, “In this environment there are many challenges from huge queues and delays, to noise, to a multitude of other things. Having origami to concentrate on helps distract and overcome these challenges. Instead of being frustrated at a 25 minute, unexplained, delay you can end up feeling calm and pleased that you’re doing something constructive and tangible to help others. There are few positives in this environment, but origami is definitely one of them.”

Origami cards and sculptures for sale online at Origami Inside - helping prisoners

Another maker told us “Origami provides an escape where I can relax and yet still be focused. Whether in the class or substituting wasted time in front of the TV back in my cell. It’s not every week that you can look back and see the benefits of your time, with origami you can as it’s in front of you. As a bonus money is raised to help other prisoners, win, win, win.”

Hundreds of doves folded by the origami class formed part of an art installation by Michael Pendry in Salisbury Cathedral, where they were hung above the main nave.
The men have gained accolades for their origami and been asked to produce work for some interesting projects. The cards won a silver award in the handmade greetings card category of the 2019 Koestler Awards for prisoners.

For three years the origami class at HMP Erlestoke has entered St Thomas Church, Salisbury’s Christmas Tree Festival. They make decorations and their teacher decorates the tree, which is displayed for a week in the church, after which it’s taken to the prison’s education department for the men to enjoy.

The men have worked hard to produce large, bespoke orders of cards for weddings, birthdays and Christmas and have delivered multiple large scale orders for the former Bishop of Rochester, who had responsibility for prisons.