Teaching in prisons with the Shannon Trust

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At Careers in Justice, we work hard to promote jobs in the justice sector because we know that teaching in prison and supporting rehabilitation can make a difference to the lives of the people in custody. The Shannon Trust believe the same. They know that being willing and able to read plays a vital role in our daily lives, yet many people in prison struggle to do just that. They share their reasons for the work they do below.

“For 49 years, I couldn't read. Now I'm reading letters from my children.”

Reading is something many of us take for granted. We often don’t even remember how we learned. Being able to read allows us to function in our daily lives, to shop, to travel, to work. And let’s face it, reading is fun, and books open up a world of possibilities.

So, let’s pause for a minute. Imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t read. Here are some of the things you couldn’t do without help:

  • Read this blog
  • Follow a recipe
  • Read the instructions on medicine
  • Choose what to eat from a menu
  • Apply for most jobs
  • Surf the Internet
  • Read your emails/Facebook/Whatsapp/letters

These are just a few examples, but this is the reality for 16% of adults in England who struggle with literacy. When you step inside a prison, this rises to an astonishing 50%. Not being able to read in prison prevents people from staying in touch with their loved ones, stops them from taking part in education/training courses and destroys self-confidence. All of these, are key factors in helping prisoners make a fresh start when they leave prison.

Many of the men and women in prison who struggle with reading don’t want to admit it to anyone. Some had bad experiences of school or feel like failures; others are embarrassed because there’s still a lot of stigma attached to words like illiteracy.

Shannon Trust - Learning to ReadBut learning to read transforms lives, so at Shannon Trust, we take a different approach to supporting people to learn. We run a peer-mentored Reading Plan, inspiring and training prisoners who can read to teach prisoners who can’t. Working with a peer mentor on a one-to-one basis means our Learners are encouraged, made to feel safe and build up trust with their Mentor.

Learners and Mentors typically meet up for 20 minutes a day, 3 to 5 times a week, and work through the exercises in Turning Pages. Turning Pages is a reading programme designed specifically for adults learning to read and was developed with the input of our Learners and Mentors.

“Within 2 months, I read the 1st Turning Pages reading book which is the first time in my life I have ever read a book.” Learner

And it works, the Shannon Trust Reading Plan not only helps people learn to read but also allows people to see themselves differently, as people who can. Many go onto further learning or training and can share their new skills with family and friends by reading and replying to letters and helping children with homework on release.

“Seeing someone develop from a shy, withdrawn and embarrassed individual into a confident, happy one is so rewarding. The first time one of my Learners wrote his own letter home, we shared a moment that is almost impossible to describe.” - Mentor

Shannon Trust Reading Plan is supported by a team of 125 volunteers from the community and allocated prison staff in each establishment. Together with nearly 2,000 Mentors we are unlocking the power of reading for over 4,000 men and women in prison each year.

Web: www.shannontrust.org.uk
Twitter: @Shannon_Trust
Facebook: shannontrustcharity


Inspired by the work that the Shannon Trust do and want to help? We have a number of teaching vacancies that could support offenders with their basic English and Maths skills. Search our latest jobs by clicking here.