Maghaberry prisoners restoring wheelchairs for countries in conflict

Date published: 11 October 2016

Prisoners in Maghaberry are restoring old and obsolete wheelchairs for use in Africa and countries in conflict across the world.

Hundreds of wheelchairs, disposed of by the National Health Service, have been repaired and rebuilt in the prison’s workshop and shipped out to third-world countries through local charity and missionary groups.

Maghaberry Prison Governor Stephen Davis said: “Each month around 80-100 wheelchairs are restored by prisoners and sent to countries including Africa, Romania, Malawi and even Thailand, Libya and Syria.

“The wheelchairs have been deemed obsolete by the NHS. But in the workshop prisoners will steam wash them, strip them back, rebuild, restore and even repaint them.

“The completely refurbished and fully functional wheelchair is then collected by our charity partners - Mediaid4kids, Bike Aid for Africa, Tell Romania and Faith in Action Missions. They are then shipped out in containers to countries outside the EU.”

Up to a dozen prisoners using basic hand tools are involved in the work to restore the wheelchairs, following check-lists to ensure they meet health and safety guidelines.

Governor Davis added: “There’s a lot of good work done by the prisoners in the wheelchair workshop. The work is both educational and therapeutic for prisoners and helps build on rehabilitation and preventing re-offending, which will ultimately help in the future to make our communities safer.

“We’ve had quite a number of letters back from individuals and hospitals on the other side of the world and for staff and prisoners it makes them realise how much their work really is appreciated.”

Robert Jones, Chairman of Medaid4Kids, speaking after a visit to Maghaberry said: “The work by prisoners in the wheelchair workshop is tremendous and has given hope to people in areas of the world where they believed there was none. During a recent trip to Libya I witnessed first-hand the real need for wheelchairs and walking aids. The people who receive them are very, very grateful and always ask me to pass on their gratitude to the Governor, prison staff and the men who have provided the wheelchairs for them.”

Notes to editors: 

1.  Maghaberry Prison is the largest of three prisons that make up the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Maghaberry is the only category ‘A’ high security prison and operates as the committal prison for all adult male prisoners including remand prisoners, sentenced prisoners including life-sentenced prisoners, indeterminate, extended custody and separated loyalist and republican prisoners as well as fine defaulters.
2.  All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office 028 90526444.  Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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