Our Founder, Mick Hart

Mick Hart founded what has today become KeepOut – The Crime Diversion Scheme in 1996 while he was serving the last years of a life sentence at HMP Coldingley. Since his release in 2002 he has continued to work closely with the charity. As our Founder, Mick is a positive advocate for KeepOut and we welcome his support for our work, whilst offering him encouragement and assistance in his endeavours as an ex-offender. The Youth Crime Solutions intervention programme that Mick has developed since release, and now takes into schools across the south-east, is based on the KeepOut model. This further cements the strong bond between him and the crime diversion scheme he pioneered so imaginatively.

Here, in Mick’s own words, is how and why he founded KeepOut – The Crime Diversion Scheme:

As a team, we began rehearsing a play in our spare time – we were then given one day a week to rehearse and the use of the prison chapel. I also persuaded the Governor to allow some ‘at risk’ young people to enter the prison and we performed our first piece to 11 young people in 1996, getting them involved with interactive drama. We called our play ‘Joe’s story’ and felt it had done some good with helping these young people to be diverted away from criminal activities. We were encouraged by the Governor to stage our performance more frequently. Eventually we won an award from the Surrey High Sheriff Youth Awards  – by then we were known as the Coldingley Crime Diversion Scheme (CCDS). Later on, we received a commendation from the Home Secretary. I co-ordinated CCDS for the next four years, until I was transferred to HMP Ford. During this time, it became very popular with local magistrates, the police, school teachers and the Surrey Youth Justice team. The charity was on its way.

At the time of my transfer, I handed over the project to the inmates who were on the team. They were all very enthusiastic and did an excellent job to keep it going. By now we had a steering committee of volunteers and the Surrey Youth Justice team were involved with us. 

In many prisons there is not enough work to employ the whole prison population. So giving prisoners a chance to help divert young people from following in their footsteps is both valuable and time well spent. 

If the KeepOut scheme could be activated in other suitable prisons, the benefits to at risk young people and prisoners would be enormous.”

"I was born in 1938 in North West London into a dysfunctional family. I started stealing at eight years old, encouraged by my father. This became a way of life and I was often in trouble with the police. I always worked in the building trade but also broke into shops to supplement my income. I served several prison sentences for shop breaking and using explosives to open safes. Regarded by the police as a career criminal, I robbed a bank in 1976 in London, where a cashier was shot dead. I was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation to serve at least 25 years. Four years into this sentence three nasty things happened in a short space of time. The appeal against my conviction of murder was refused, my wife divorced me and my mother died. I was in absolute despair for a while and then became suicidal.

I was put in a freezing cold cell in the segregation unit at Long Lartin top security prison. My clothes were taken away and I wanted to die. I knelt down and prayed to God, and had the most amazing spiritual experience. One year later I was baptised and confirmed into the Christian faith, and asked Jesus to use me as he would. I prayed and thanked God that my own three children might have a better start in life than I did. When I transferred to HMP Coldingley, I started to think about other children, many from broken families, who may be at risk of following in my footsteps. How could I tell them my story and let them hear the stories of other prison inmates? With permission from the (then) Governor, I enrolled other enthusiastic inmates and started what was called at first the Coldingley Prison Youth Project. 

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© KeepOut 2016 | Registered Charity Number 1139114 | A Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England Number 07170069

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