The Prison Opticians Company set up to provide prisoners with better opticians services and train prisoners in spectacle making.
We raised the proposal to train people in optics in English prisons with the Ministry of Justice.
The company funded the set up of a optical training lab in prison and this project became known as Liberty Glasses after Tupac Shakur’s poem, Lady Liberty Needs Glasses.
This training lab showed us there was an appetite amongst prisoners to learn more technical skills whilst in prison.
The Company’s pilot project was noticed by the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trust and they made a grant of £100,000.
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation awarded a grant of £72,000.
Care UK awarded contracts to provide the optometry services into 3 London prisons.
A charity was registered and a training centre was set up in Earl Street, Maidstone. From here we began training prisoners who were coming to the end of their sentence and were eligible for day release.
In our first 3 years of training full time we had worked with 65 prisoners and helped 42 of them get jobs in optics and 27 of them carried on working in optics post release.
Training for prisoners is FREE to the taxpayer because we use the profits from our prison optometry contracts to fund it.
Jan: delivered eye tests, donated Nidek Tonoref II and prescription spectacles to refugees in a camp on the greek island of Lesvos.
March: in response to covid we quickly set up a service to ensure eye emergencies in our prisons were dealt with efficiently.
Dec: Tanjit, founder, awarded OBE
Liberty Glasses, our own frames glazed by prisoners, offered to high street opticians. The key aims for LG are to raise awareness amongst UK opticians & generate enough work for us to employ 10 ex-prisoners as lab technicians.
About The Prison Optician Trust
We deliver prison optometry services and train prisoners in optical skills.
How We Got Started
Tanjit Dosanjh is an Optometrist. In 2003, his father commenced a long prison sentence for a serious criminal offence. He visited his father regularly and quickly observed the lack of decent vocational training available to offenders. Tanjit completed his optometry degree in 2008. He was encouraged by news of an optical programme in California prisons where one optical lab in 1989 had grown to five labs, manufacturing over 400,000 spectacles for state health insurance companies. Several offenders have, since leaving prison, set up their own optical businesses and some have done further education to become qualified opticians.
Inspired, Tanjit set out to turn his vision into reality. In 2010, he approached the prison service to establish an optical lab in prison that could manufacture spectacles at below market rates and had the capacity to service the demands of the entire population. Frustratingly, even though he was supported by the prison service, Tanjit could not make any headway as commissioning arrangements for optical services were contracted out by other departments. Undaunted, Tanjit self-funded an optical lab in Standford Hill prison and gave up two days a week of his time to train a group of prisoners in optical skills. The pilot project became known as Liberty Needs Glasses. By the end of 2014, Tanjit could no longer continue without funding. Nonetheless, the pilot had proven that offenders could respond to training and gave him the confidence to apply to independent grant makers for full funding.
Where We Are Now
We now operate as The Prison Opticians Trust & Company, providing eyecare services to UK Prisons. We are now the largest provider of optometry services into prisons in England and Wales.
We are now experienced at training prisoners in Optics and then securing them jobs. When selecting trainees we first look into their crime as not all crimes are accepted. We then find out what they’ve done to show they want to leave their life of crime behind. In 2016-2019 we trained over 60 prisoners and 45 of them secured paid work with opticians.
Prisoners in Jobs
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Our mission is to help prisoners reform by providing them with opportunities to work in Optics and produce life-changing products which positively impact the community.