A former inmate who won the Standard’s Dragons’ Den-style prison battle to launch a business today called on the government to improve rehabilitation for young offenders.
Pablo Sharpe, 23, impressed judges earlier this year with his business idea of an ecologically-friendly cleaning service that employs ex-offenders.
He was one of five prisoners from two London prisons who won an £8,000 start-up grant, a business mentor and a 10-month programme with the School for Social Entrepreneurs, as part of the ‘Evening Standard’ Frontline London campaign funded by £108,000 from Mark and Mo Constantine, co-founders of Lush Cosmetics.
After spending the last eight years in and out of prison, Mr Sharpe was released from HMP Isis on Friday.
He told the Standard: “All the other times I didn’t think I wanted to change… But this time in prison I realised there was support out there.
“If the government could teach officers not just to lock doors but communicate with people and help maybe it would be a lot easier. They need to look at giving more money and resources. There are a lot of able-bodied people in prisons who keep reoffending because they don’t know anything else.”
Mr Sharpe, from Peckham, is now living in east London.
Of his business plan, he said: “I always wanted to start a cleaning business because it was something tangible for me. This was a fast track to one of my goals and I’m not going to rush it. I will probably achieve it by myself but having a team to help boosts my confidence.”
He was speaking at Shoreditch House at the launch of an album raising money for Key4Life, a charity helping young offenders to rehabilitate.
The one-year programme begins in prison where inmates work with horses, QPR Football Club and leading musicians, and are introduced to mentors who prepare them for work.
After their release they are given work placements, are linked with a family for support and attend workshops.
James Hyde, a City head hunter who mentors Mr Sharpe, said: “The system has failed him as a young man but despite all that he has picked himself up and has a vision of where he wants to go. He has caught a lot of people’s attention. He has a wonderful future.”
John Kavanagh, CEO of insurance company Willis Re, is the voice behind the album, The People’s Republic of Stepney and has already raised £125,000 through donations.
He said: “I grew up in Stepney but I was one of the lucky ones who got away from crime.”