Ellis The Printer, Released

Some time ago (2002) there was trouble with one of the workers at the Kaloko Press, the printshop which the director founded as a kind of self-help operation.

This printer, Ellis, was one of the longest-serving trainees, and on the death of the printshop manager Matthews, it seemed that he would take over the running of the project. But something went missing, Ellis was accused of stealing, and eventually sentenced to six months hard labour.

While the director was in Zambia some months ago, he decided that he couldn't possibly let the man go forgotten in prison, so although he wasn't too pleased at the theft, he decided to search out the right prison (not an easy job!) and see how Ellis was faring.

Finding the right prison was not easy, nor was gaining access - the officials had no idea how to deal with Europeans, and had never seen anything like the passport which was shown to them as identification. And then by chance the director and his driver saw a team of skeleton-thin, shaven-headed, barefoot convicts who were coming back from work - with Ellis among them!

The guards allowed Ellis to talk to his visitor. There were tears on both sides, he confessed to having stolen to get money to feed his family, and told the director that not only had he no visitors, but the prisoners existed on just a few beans - ten beans a day!

Deaths in the prison were frequent, and Ellis clearly expected to be one of them before long. The director was allowed to give about £10, an appreciable amount of money in Zambia, to the guards so that food could be bought for Ellis - and amazingly, it was, when the guards might have been expected to have kept it.

"And now he's out, and he's been taken back into the printroom," reports the director. "He looks well, but he isn't - he says he feels his whole body is swelling, and that's malnutrition. So he's on medicines, given by Mpongwe hospital, he's been told to drink constantly, and we hope for the best. But he tells me he had an awful time in prison. Most of the prisoners were regular offenders, which of course he isn't, so he was picked on by the guards and the prisoners alike. The guards beat him every morning before work. Now he's busy in the printroom, where things are looking up - they've picked up 35 orders from a hospital!"