Waiting to chat to
Shikoll Akthar at the Black Prisoner Support Project combines feelings of
comfort and unease. Whilst the chairs are comfy, the collection of
newspaper stories depicting the racism that locates itself within our justice system could
make anyone sick. Hardly a week goes by without a story of judicial racism
becoming news (or more disturbingly not becoming news). Responding
to complaints of racism in the prison service, the Black Prisoner Support
Project was formed by collaboration between Leicester Race Equality
Council and the Leicestershire Probation Service. Established in the early
part of the 1990's, it continues to do excellent work in Leicestershire.
The service is a
community-focused one, with much of its energy committed to increasing
confidence amongst Asian, Afrikan and Afrikan-Caribbean communities in
assisting Black prisoners and ex-Prisoners. This means lots of
tireless development work, encouraging the project's most valuable
commodity - volunteers.
Shikoll Akthar, a
full time student on the BA (Hons) Youth and Community Development course in Leicester, has come to BPSP as a student placement. She has
an experience ahead of her - taking on the recruitment and supervision of
"There are 2
full time workers at the project," Shikoll informs me. "But the
organisation wouldn't function if it were not for the pool of volunteers.
They really are the staff."
This is a similar
story for voluntary organisations everywhere. It was once said that if all
the volunteers left in droves from organisations and charities everywhere,
this sector would collapse. They are indeed, a valued
contribution to the ongoing work of organisations like BPSP.
Volunteers at BPSP
involve themselves in visiting prisoners, advocating for them in legal,
health and educational issues, and supporting ex-prisoners. In return for
their invaluable service, the BPSP provides ongoing training opportunities
and regular supervision.
Shikoll is excited
about the work that she is involved in. During our talk, she lights up
with enthusiasm about recruiting new people to promote such a positive
response to the needs of Black prisoners.
challenging post, but really very interesting," She says. "I'm
hoping that members of communities will come forward to support this
project at a time when volunteers are really needed."
As I leave our
meeting, that sense of unease is gone. Whilst there are many injustices
still going on everyday in the judicial processes, it is refreshing to see
Shikoll and her colleagues actively working to affect change in their
find our more about the Black Prisoner Support Project, contact Shikoll or
Anderson at the above address.
The Black Prisoner Support Project is
looking for Asian, Afrikan & Afrikan-Caribbean volunteers
to join their team. If you think that you could get involved, please
at BPSP, 3rd Floor, Epic House,
Leicester. LE1 3SH. Tel: 0116 299 9802.