Victim Support is considering a fundraising partnership with 25 prisons across the UK after the success of a sponsored weight-lifting event at HM Prison Belmarsh, a high-security institution in south London.
Seven inmates at Belmarsh lifted more than two million pounds in weight in two hours to raise money for the charity. A total of several thousand pounds is expected to be gathered from sponsors including other inmates, prison staff, family and friends.
As well as raising money, the weightlifting challenge inspired the participants.
"It gave the inmates a chance to put something back and to enjoy it," said Phil Nash, landing officer at Belmarsh, who organised the event.
"The response from them was brilliant and there was a really good vibe in the prison afterwards."
Ken Madine, head of fundraising and marketing at Victim Support, said: "We are delighted that the inmates at Belmarsh decided to raise funds for Victim Support and would like to congratulate them on their achievement.
We are now looking at the possibility of building on the event and offering it as an opportunity to other prisons.
"We know that victims can become offenders and vice versa, so we don't discriminate at any level. We've wanted to work more closely with prisons for a number of years now."
The prison authorities were also conscious of the significance of backing Victim Support.
"We wanted to put something back into the local community," said governor John O'Sullivan. "We decided that the best and most appropriate charity was Victim Support."
The charity first worked with prisons on a large scale to raise money last year. It arranged a sponsored transatlantic rowing challenge for nine prisons after being approached by officers from Wormwood Scrubs.
The event, which raised £7,000 and involved offenders taking shifts on gym rowing machines, was less successful than expected because it was difficult to arrange and disrupted prison routines.
Madine recognises that the weightlifting challenge could provide an answer to the problems thrown up by the rowing event.
"It is an innovative idea and, unlike the rowing, it doesn't create the same logistical problems," he said.
- See On the Ground, p4.