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Makeright: A range of anti-theft bags that make a difference to society

Makeright: A range of anti-theft bags that make a difference to society

A new range of ‘conscious fashion’ bags, offering a form of crime prevention, were launched on 24th November.

The first range of Makeright bags has been designed by inmates from HMP Thameside in South London which is managed by Serco. The all-male prison was supported by staff from the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, who initiated the project in 2015. It aims to teach inmates new skills such as “purposeful learning” and to show restorative justice in action.  Putting criminal ‘knowledge’ to good use, the inmates have designed the bags with ’anti-theft’ features. A small selection of the designs will be available to buy at the Sue Ryder shop in Camden.

Professor Lorraine Gamman, Design Against Crime Research Centre said:

“Makeright is a Design Against Crime response to pickpockets, bag theft and street crime delivering designs by inmates who want to put something good back into Society. Our emphasis is on the design process, as well as producing anti-theft bags, because it is through rehabilitative design education that we are able to teach prisoners new entrepreneurial skills which will help them in the outside world. Makeright bags and wearable accessories assume that people are prepared to take measures to protect themselves against thieves, while helping inmates gain qualifications and deliver bags that can be sold for a charitable cause.”

Keith Jarvis, Serco’s lead for prison industries at HMP Thameside comments:

“Working with offenders on employment skills is not exactly revolutionary. But what is different with this course is that inmates learn design skills and knowledge that can be transferred to many aspects of their lives, not only for employment. Even before the Coates Review May 2016 recommendations, at HMP Thameside Serco has employed design graduates in our Textiles studio and pioneered a ‘graduate volunteering’ scheme with staff, students and alumni of University of the Arts London. Our Makeright learners are mentored one-to-one by UAL and other design volunteers, and this support helps inmates find ways to reduce re-offending.”

Carol Davis, Sue Ryder Prison and Community Justice Manager, said:

“Our Prison and Community Justice Programme has been going since 2006 and helps rehabilitate offenders by giving them new skills that might help reduce re-offending.

“This innovative new scheme with Serco at HMP Thameside we hope will eventually help us raise vital funds while the prisoners gain qualifications and skills to help them into employment on release. The first five designs (Appendix 1) will be available to the public in November 2016.

The bags are made out of lorry tarpaulin donated to the Makeright course by Abel & Cole, the organic food company. The cloth has been overprinted with a design by CSM Graphic Design graduate, Claire Matthews. Each bag is individual, stylish and designed with security in mind. Reduced opportunities for thieves could change the lives of both the victims and potential perpetrators which is the ultimate aim of all the work done by Professor Gamman and the Design Against Crime team.

“For many years we’ve recycled our delivery boxes and packaging wherever possible, always keen to reduce waste and reuse where we can, but I never thought I’d see the day we’d find such a brilliant new use for our old van panels,” said Abel & Cole’s Sustainability & Environmental Manager Marta Salvà Cifuentes. “We are always looking for new ways to do the right thing by the environment and help to make a difference in our local community so when we heard about the project being run by the Design Against Crime Research Centre and realised we could help we were really excited.”

The five bags in the first MAKERIGHT range are – Decoy Messenger Bag, Holster Bag, laptop Case, Tote Bag and Arm Lock Day Bag. They are all designed to discourage dipping, fit close to the body and to be easy to use and wear.  Images are available in the link below.

Film maker, Lotje Sodderland has worked with Design Against Crime to make a six minute film about the project, ‘Making it Right’.  Stretch Digital, an ex offender led organisation, has produced some three minute videos of inmates speaking personally about their motivations for engaging with Makeright.  Other interviewees are the volunteer artists and designers who worked with UAL staff to mentor the inmates, speaking about their motivations. The anti-theft Makeright bags designed by inmates from HMP Thameside, are being mass produced at Kilmarnock Prison, Scotland where textile production is already incorporated into the facilities.

In 2015 Lorraine Gamman met Praveen Nahar of the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad during an AHRC/British Council funded creative incubator trip to “Unbox India”.  They came up with a plan to work with Serco in London and Ahmedabad on a range of co-designed anti-theft bag prototypes.  The partnership between UAL and NID was successful and led to AHRC research funding and the creation of educational materials in London shared and tested in Ahmedabad in 2016.  The success of the project led to a British Council INDIA-UK Excellence Award for Collaborations in Higher Education under the “Innovative Partnerships” category.