Prison, Politics, Privilege and Purpose: Ashish Prashar’s keynote speech at Leap’s 2019 Pledge Dinner, Mercers’ Hall

Alicia Edmund
Friday 1st November 2019

On Tuesday 29 October 2019, Ashish spoke at Leap’s annual Pledge Dinner on how individuals and organisations can use their privilege to invest in the lives of young people. During the evening, he shared the internal conflict he experienced as a young man and how his actions resulted in him serving a short sentence in HMP Feltham at 17 years old. The support of his Aunt while he was in prison, as well as work experience offered by a political editor upon his release, acted as the motivation he needed to change his life around.   

The evening opened with Dionne and Natasha, two programme graduates who have become Leap trainers. They introduced guests to the work done by Leap to support young people in environments where conflict has as negative impact upon their life outcomes.  

After the starter and main courses were served, Ashish took to the stage to share his life experience, from a young man growing up in Putney to his current role as the Global Director for Communications at Publicis Sapient. He spoke openly and candidly about his time in HMP Feltham and the trauma he witnessed. His journey has shaped both his character and vocation as a campaigner for criminal justice reform and mentor for young men leaving prison in the United States.

 Prison was not the only catalyst for change in Ashish’s life. Individuals also played a big role: from those willing to support him to finish his AS/A level exams in prison, to a political editor in Fleet Street taking a risk and offering Ashish an opportunity to build a career in UK politics. This breakthrough enabled Ashish to progress to the role of press secretary for several Conservative and Labour politicians before moving to the US to work for Democrat candidates in 2008, and more recently for the upcoming 2020 presidential campaigns. 

Ashish recognised that not every young offender leaving prison will share the same ‘luck' he didupon leaving prison. Nonetheless, he invited individuals in the room, including leaders from the media, financial, corporate and property sectors, to consider how they can use their ownpersonal and organisational privilege to offer young people – with or without a criminal record –a chance to begin fulfilling their ambitions.  

My purpose is to use my privilege to change the narrative around formerly incarcerated individuals. My purpose is to use my privilege to support them and provide them real opportunities. My purpose is to use my privilege to make sure returning citizens have the right to vote and don’t have to tick that box anymore when applying for a job, but instead are given the opportunity to talk about how they got there.   That’s how I decided to use my privilege. But this isn’t just about my privilege.  


Ashish Prashar Keynote Speech_Pledge2019.pdf



If you work within the corporate or creative industries sector and can offer support to Leap programme graduates, please email Ana Atherton

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