Bronzefield Bees WI

Set up as the first prison-based Women's Institute, Bronzefield Bees is changing the lives of its members.

This WI meets in person in a prison.

When was the Bronzefield Bees WI formed?

In 2010.

How did you come about the idea of setting up a WI in prison?

The idea came about following the “Care not Custody” resolution which passed in 2008.

How many members does the WI currently have?

We are looking at a membership of around 40 women.

Can you name some of the biggest misconceptions about WI’s in prison?

A prison WI doesn’t follow different guidelines than other WI’s. It has been successful in having staff members as President and Treasurer. Members also enjoy a variety of speakers and the opportunity to interact with one another. Members are known only by their first names.

What do meetings look like? 

Meetings often take place in the visitors’ centre. Members may sit in rows, around tables or in groups. They enjoy tea, coffee and usually homemade cake during the meeting. Sometimes they are busy planning their next craft sale or coffee morning to which WIs from the area are invited to.

Name some of the positive impacts the WI has on the women.

The Women’s Institute presents the opportunity to co-operate and work together and to experience what we all know as “normal”. As a result of learning new skills, achieving something and being creative, we are witnessing a reduction in self harm and rise of self-esteem. The WI has also shown to have a positive outcome on attitudes, thinking and behaviour.

What are the biggest challenges when running a WI prison?

Continuity regarding committed staff who will take on a lead role is a challenge in any prison WI and has been central to the success of the Bronzefield Bees. There have been changes over time and fortunately to date the officers remain dedicated and generous in the giving of their time. Flexibility on the part of the Federation team is also key to success.