More than just specs

More than just specs

Discover our history

  • Start business image
    2009

    The Prison Opticians Company was registered with the aim to provide prisoners with better opticians services (eye tests and spectacles) and train prisoners in spectacle making. Tanjit was motivated to set up this social business as he spent many hours visiting his father in prison and he has read about a similar training programme for prisoners in Californian penitentiaries.

  • Prison bars
    2011

    We asked the Ministry of Justice to help set up a UK optical lab to train prisoners in spectacle making. The MoJ were unable to help the company move things forward but gave us their best wishes.

  • Original lab in HMP Standford Hill
    2012

    The company funded the set up of a optical training lab in a prison and Tanjit volunteered 2 days per week to get the training programme off the ground. This project became known as Liberty Glasses after Tupac Shakur's poem, Lady Liberty Needs Glasses.

    This training lab showed us there was an appetite amongst prisoners to learn more technical skills whilst in prison. We could see our work was making a difference to the lives of these prisoners but to make an impact we needed to make this long term and sustainable.

  • Sainsbury logo
    2013

    The Company's pilot project was noticed by the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trust and they made a grant of £100,000 if we could secure match funding.

  • Phf logo rgb
    2014

    Eventually we applied to The Paul Hamlyn Foundation for a grant and after several meetings they awarded a grant of £72,000.

    In the same year we began to make progress with prison opticians services. We pitched to Care UK Health in Justice division and they immediately awarded us contracts to provide the prison opticians services into 3 London prisons.

  • 20150901 113910
    2015

    January - registered a charity, The Prison Opticians Trust, to take responsibility for the reducing re-offending programme.

    March - secured premises in Maidstone town centre close to the 2 open prisons in Kent.

    September - started training our first group of 6 prisoners.

    December - 2 of the 6 trainees went to interview at a local opticians and both secured jobs.

  • IMG 20190611 102331 1
    2019

    By June 2019 we had trained 65 prisoners, 42 of them getting jobs in optics whilst still in prison, and 27 of them carried on working in optics post release.

    The company provides prison opticians services into 53 prisons. Prisoners are making spectacles for Prisoners and we are reducing re-offending at the same time.

    Our training for prisoners is FREE for the taxpayer because we use profits from our prison opticians services to give back.

  • IMG 20191029 212431
    2020

    UK prisoners making spectacles for the prison sector & refugees.

    Started working with Light Without Borders who deliver eye tests in Lesvos refugee camp. Prisoners learn how to do something meaningful & it helps refugees who have no access to spectacles.

    Launched a website to sell spectacles direct to the UK public to help keep our charity financially self sustainable & allow the general public to buy high quality eyewear at affordable prices.

    The Just Specs website is owned by the prison opticians company and we donate all profits from web sales to our charity. Just Specs will become the place for socially conscience consumers to buy their spectacles online, create more jobs for our trainees and gives us a way to raise awareness & support for the groundbreaking work we are doing through the charity and the company.

Tanjit Dosanjh - Founder of The Prison Opticians Trust & JustSpecs

Tanjit Dosanjh is an Optometrist. In 2003, his father commenced a long prison sentence for a serious criminal offence. He visited his father regularly and quickly observed the lack of decent vocational training available to offenders. Tanjit completed his optometry degree in 2008. He was encouraged by news of an optical programme in California prisons where one optical lab in 1989 had grown to five labs, manufacturing over 400,000 spectacles for state health insurance companies. Several offenders have, since leaving prison, set up their own optical businesses and some have done further education to become qualified opticians.

Inspired, Tanjit set out to turn his vision into reality. In 2010, he approached the prison service to establish an optical lab in prison that could manufacture spectacles at below market rates and had the capacity to service the demands of the entire population. Frustratingly, even though he was supported by the prison service, Tanjit could not make any headway as commissioning arrangements for optical services were contracted out by other departments. Undaunted, Tanjit self-funded an optical lab in Standford Hill prison and gave up two days a week of his time to train a group of prisoners in optical skills. The pilot project became known as Liberty Needs Glasses. By the end of 2014, Tanjit could no longer continue without funding. Nonetheless, the pilot had proven that offenders could respond to training and gave him the confidence to apply to independent grant makers for full funding.

We now operate as The Prison Opticians Company & Trust - Providing eyecare services to UK Prisons. We are now the largest provider of optometry services into prisons in England and Wales. We have a team of 16 Optometrists, A lab Manager, Lab Deputy, Training Manager and Assistant General Manager, plus our regular intake of trainees studying the training course and helping with day to day tasks.

JustSpecs has been brought to you to not only provide quality eyewear with a difference, but to raise awareness of our groundbreaking work and to continue to reduce re-offending by providing prisoners on a second chance.