• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

North East Connected

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Students get an education on prison life

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 09.51.17ARE birthdays celebrated in prison, do offenders get an education and do prison officers feel like they can make a difference?

Those were just some of the questions students at The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, put to a senior official who came to give them an insight into life in three North East prisons.

Dr Sheena Maberly MBE was one of the first visitors to speak at the academy’s new Wednesday afternoon sessions covering a variety of topics in which students are encouraged to participate.

As head of learning, skills and employment for North East Prisons, Dr Maberly’s role covers Deerbolt, at Barnard Castle, and Kirklevington and Holme House prisons on Teesside, which between them can hold just over 2,000 male offenders.

She said work to change attitudes and behaviour, education and training in the prisons was designed to lessen the chance of offenders reoffending.

“We want people to go back into their communities and be a positive influence,” she explained.

Asked if prison work was frustrating, she said: “You have got to go into work in a positive frame of mind. You’ve got to have a belief that if you can identify the root causes of someone’s criminal behaviour and address it then you might make a difference.”

Another student asked if it was difficult not to discriminate against men who had committed the most serious crimes. Dr Maberly said: “Imprisonment is the punishment for a crime and my role is not to judge. We have to give everybody a chance, that’s the ethos of the prison service. We have to have a level playing field and equality of opportunity and encouragement.

“I don’t know anyone who works best by discouragement. Where we see people flourish is where we focus on the positive, get them to acknowledge what they have done but also help them to move on. At Kirklevington, they come to understand that contributing positively to society is actually more rewarding.”

Praising the students for their “insightful and tricky” questions, she said people had achieved degrees and masters qualifications in prison and retrained in new careers.

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Although extra visiting is allowed at Christmas she said the budget for catering was the same as any other day, and that prisoners’ birthdays were not marked.

Afterwards student Rhys Williams, 16, said: “I didn’t know that in category D prisons offenders could come out into the community and work.”

Chelsea Ward, 17, said: “I had no idea they got 30 hours education a week in prison. We take it for granted that everyone can read and write.”

By admin