This two-part blog written two weeks ago comes from a Full Sutton-based student. What is said in this blog needs little introduction and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have.
Having now been a life sentenced prisoner for almost 11 years I can confidently say that the prison and criminal justice system is not fit for purpose. It has been a great achievement for HMP Full Sutton, being part of the High Secure estate, to have been able to set up the first accredited third year university module that is being delivered to 12 Leeds-based students and 12 students within HMP Full Sutton. I am lucky enough to have been selected to be a student on the course and I can say that to date the course has made me feel like a human again. It is a great feeling to be accepted as an equal with the other students and the quality of the lecturing has been second to none. Despite a few teething problems with the e-mail communications I can say that the continued support from the university has been both welcome and encouraging. We have now met the university students on three occasions and each time we meet the more comfortable it gets and the learning experience is just getting better and better.
I started this blog by saying that the prison and criminal justice system is not fit for purpose, but the Learning Together programme has given me a glimmer of hope that there are people who do care and are interested in what happens within the prison walls and recognise that the current system is in need of a complete overhaul. As part of the course, a Professor joined us from the University of Cambridge, who is a pioneer in trying to comprehend the complexities of prison life and has produced a number of studies over the past 30 years. In my opinion, the current Government need to grasp the nettle and hold an open and honest public debate, asking the question, ‘What do we want and indeed need from prisons today?’
I hope that this Learning Together programme will be acknowledged by those in power as it would be a comforting change if some focus could be placed on the positive rather than the negative aspects of prison life.
Maybe, just maybe from these humble beginnings we can ALL start a dialogue that may reconstruct the justice system to better serve the populace.
One of the interesting aspects of the Learning Together programme is the stark realisation for me that the media portrayal of life inside the prison walls is not fully accepted by the general public. It seems to me that the perception of the public (including the Leeds-based students), lies somewhere in between the sensationalised media reporting and the reality of what life inside prison is really like. The Leeds-based students seem eager to get the true picture of what life is really like for us on the inside, and it is a privilege to be in the position to study with the Leeds-based students. The module aims to enable all students to analyse the nature of imprisonment through sociological analysis.
So far the course has been informative and the group dynamic is now turning into a settled format where we have the chance to discuss informally amongst ourselves and also debate as a group in a more structured way. The learning experience has been developed to make sure that all students are provided with the same study materials, so not to disadvantage the Full Sutton-based students. The course facilitators are acutely aware and understand the limitations that are placed on students within the prison, such as not being able to access the internet for further research. This was clearly at the forefront of the minds of the module leaders when they were developing the course.
To date the one phrase that really resonates with me is from the lecture delivered by the Professor from Cambridge when she talked about ‘intelligent trust’. I was gripped to what was being said and I left the lecture wondering why the concept of intelligent trust has not been picked up and developed into a new, albeit radical focus within the criminal justice system as a whole.