Hello from The Tartan Con!
I am an ex-prisoner who was sentenced to 7 ½ years imprisonment. I served my sentence in 3 different establishments. I developed a prison mentoring scheme called “The Insiders”. It was set up primarily to assist those people new to the prison system. It was implemented to advise them on how to progress through their sentence and how to cope with the unique set of conditions that they will face. It is often acknowledged that prisoners will always reach out to fellow prisoners before dealing with staff members.
Careers in Justice has asked me to write this article to try and help you become better informed on what to expect when working in prison. If you are thinking about it, then all I can say is “Do it!” You will find a no more rewarding venue for your vocation! It will be taxing, infuriating, tense but above all rewarding!
There are some shocking statistics out there about the basic educational scores of those in prison (see Prisoner's Education Trust) Safe to say, they are woefully low.
Education in prison can not only reduce the possibility of reoffending and thereby reduce the prison population, but it can also save lives. If you think as I do, that no prisoner should leave prison illiterate then working in a prison is for you. You will find your pupils genuinely interested in what it is that you have to teach them. You will see rapid turnarounds in the prisoner’s learning skills and genuine gratefulness in their eyes.
Don’t get me wrong you will face infuriating times.
There will be times when your classes are cancelled due to operational reasons. There will be times where the whole department is locked down for some incident or another. Some prisoners will verbally abuse you, but you must not take it personally, they are venting at their situation. I don’t need to tell you that you have chosen a career where you will become an expert at reading people.
You will soon get used to carrying a set of keys that would make the jailor of the Bastille look positively under dressed! You will soon forget the clanging of the doors and gates. However, remember that we prisoners never do.
I think that the best advice I can give you when dealing with prisoners is to remember that as far as you are concerned they are pupils first and prisoners second. Treat them with the humanity and respect that you yourselves would want to be treated. Do that and you will get that back tenfold.
The education department for us is that time where we can forget we are in prison for a little bit. It’s an oasis of calm in an otherwise draconian surrounding.
You must keep in mind that the work you are doing is so very vital to the prisoner, helping them to feel better about themselves and improve their self-worth, in turn helping their family and society as a whole. YOU are helping the individual on their road to rehabilitation, you are making them a better member of society, fit to be someone’s new neighbour.
You wield a power so strong that in my opinion there is no equal; the power of knowledge. What a power that is, you must wield it with care and share it with those that are eager to have it. I must admit I am rather jealous. What’s more you have a captive audience!
By Line: The Tartan Con is a pseudonym used by an ex-prisoner who would prefer their writings to be the subject of conversation not their identity. They are active in Prison Reform and on social media under the tag line of @TheTartanCon on Twitter and blog regularly onTheTartanCon.blogspot.com