Former Manchester United coach-turned-author’s book about Wales’ first prison football team
- Footballer and former coach Jamie Grundy is researcher into criminal justice system
- His first book, 90 Minutes of Freedom, documentes his season-long experience with Wales’ only prison football team, Prescoed FC
- He believes football can stop people going back to prison after release
Jamie Grundy worked at Manchester United as a coach in the ’90s and links football to his interest in the criminal justice system.
The motivation behind the book was an idea of “capturing a season of a prison football team that nobody sees or hears about in a hidden world”.
Jamie, who still plays football, points to his continued involvement in the game as an important attribute that helps him communicate with players effectively.
He said: “In terms of being a footballer myself, you understand the language, you understand the reference points and it’s a great way to break down barriers.”
Playing football outside on a pitch where the prison was not in eyesight gave the men a new perspective on life and their time in prison.
“For these men this is probably the biggest taste of freedom they’ve had in how ever long their sentence was for,” said Jamie.
“Considering that a couple of the men who I interviewed, one of them was a life sentence prisoner for murder and another one had caused death by dangerous driving, their minds were blown by the view and that was the most surprising.”
Jamie does not entertain the idea that prisoners should do other, less enjoyable things, as a punishment for their crimes.
He said: “There’s approximately 80,000 men and women in prison. Barely 100 of those individuals are scheduled not to be released.
“Things need to be done to prepare people for release and what I saw with a lot of these men is that they are all in prison for responding badly to circumstances where you and I may not respond in the same way.
“I’m not excusing it but when you look into their backgrounds and you see some of the lives that these individuals have had before going to prison, you can almost see why they ended up going to jail.”
The former coach stressed the discipline needed to play football in prison and the different sets of rules prisoners they have to follow.
A typical prisoner has one set of rules to follow which are the prison rules, whereas footballers have three sets of rules to follow – the prison rules, the prison officer rules and the laws of the game.
“You can’t just turn around and whack somebody if they tackle you strongly, so these guys have got a triple whammy of behavioural management,” Jame said.
“It was incredibly effective working with a group of young men and giving them personal skills that they can take back into the community.”
The prison Jamie worked in, HM Prison Prescoed, is category D, an open prison located close to Monmouthshire and which has a 20-year history of fielding a football team.
Jamie is still in contact with some of the prisoners who have since been released and none of them have gone back to jail.
He believes that the idea that any kind of engagement tool, even, ‘poetry or knitting’, can help former criminals avoid the route back to a life of crime.