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Cell Workout smashes £10k goal to start ‘Made in HMP’ clothing brand

Ex-prisoner LJ Flanders started the social enterprise five years ago with a workout book he plotted behind bars. Now he wants women to boost skills and earn cash behind bars with his clothing project

A former prisoner’s plan to create a ‘Made In HMP’ clothing brand has seen him smash his £10k crowdfunding goal despite launching the campaign during the Covid-19 crisis.

LJ Flanders’ body of work has already proved helpful during lockdown – the idea for his Cell Workout fitness programme came while he was serving time at HMP Pentonville.

After carrying out a personal training course, he worked out exercises in his cell that led to a best-selling book and he has continued to train prisoners through his social enterprise since he was released, even giving some the tools to become personal trainers themselves.

The next phase of his plan to help prisoners has been in the offing for a year – Flanders decided to persist with his plan to create a clothing brand dubbed ‘Made in HMP’ and launched a crowdfunder.

It has hit its £10k goal, allowing Cell Workout to offer female prisoners at HMP Downview to boost their skills by making the clothing and earning a source of the income from the sale of the fashionable gear.

“We have been preparing for this campaign since 2019 and the current circumstances with Covid-19 makes us all the more determined to help people in prison and in the community to stay fit and well – both mentally and physically,” said Flanders.

“Working with prisoners to produce our ‘Made in HMP’ clothes reflects our belief that great things can be made in HMP. We want to send a clear message of what this brand represents – new beginnings, second chances, and rehabilitation.”

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Smashing the initial £10k goal has covered an initial print run and triggered a series of stretch goals, including a second run, launching a community gym and a line of workout gear for women inside, with five days of the campaign remaining.

Flanders insists that “as production grows, income generated by selling the t-shirts will mean we can deliver more prison workshops, improve the health and well-being of more people in prison and ‘through the gate’, and make sure more positive change is made in HMP”.

Prisons are currently under extreme pressure with prisoners and staff vulnerable to Covid-19.

A total of 4,000 prisoners have been temporarily released to ease the spread of the virus. But, despite that, official Ministry of Justice figures show a 40 per cent rise in the number of staff who have tested positive for Covid-19. That means 194 staff across 53 prisons have now contacted the virus while 278 inmates across 64 prisons have contracted the virus.

A total of 13 prisoners have died after testing positive for Covid-19 as of 5pm on Sunday.

The number of prison staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 rose 40% in three days, a daily update from the Ministry of Justice shows.

As at 5pm on Sunday, 194 prison staff across 53 prisons were confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, compared with 138 in the last available figures for Thursday.

Image: Cell Workout/Crowdfunder