University students will study with prisoners in new scheme

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Ten students from Nottingham Trent University will visit HMP Lowdham Grange prison every Wednesday afternoon from January to March.

The project is designed to promote learning together with both students and prisoners set to debate against each other.

Course leader for criminology Dr Paul Hamilton said: “What the HMP learners get from this is an opportunity to connect with learners from another organisation and to engage in critical dialogues about what prison is for, what education is for and what justice is.

“Within that framework we will be working together as a group to critically engage with debates about rehabilitation, resettlement and transitions from prison to the community.

“It is not a ‘formal’ qualification, but the hope is that the learning space enables the HMP learners to think further about these transitions, thus giving them the relevant skills and knowledge.”

The project also aims to support prisoners in developing the knowledge and skills required to effect a successful reintegration into mainstream society.

Principal lecturer in Academic Studies in Education Dr Anne O’Grady said: “The partnership between NTU and HMP Lowdham Grange has afforded opportunities for NTU students to understand their role and responsibilities in society in relation to social justice and civic engagement – a significant strategic endeavour of the university.

“This partnership provides opportunities to expose the stereotypical assumptions made upon groups in society, and to enable all partners to explore their legitimacy.

“We are delighted to be working with an organisation who are similarly ambitious for their students.”

Trish Mitchell, deputy custodial contracts director for Serco who runs the prison, said: “The Learning Together initiative with Nottingham Trent University is an exciting new project for everybody at Lowdham Grange.

“It builds on the broad range of education, training and work experiences that we provide at the prison, all aimed at encouraging prisoners to lead productive lives once they are released.

“I am especially proud of this new partnership with Nottingham Trent University and look forward to the positive outcomes that I am sure it will deliver.”

This scheme follows the news that on Friday 8 students from London South Bank University completed a 12-week “learning together” course with 10 inmates from Pentonville Prison. 

Every week since October, the students, who study social justice within education, have taken part in two-hour workshops in the prison learning the history and theory of the education system. One module, for example, focused on the Marxist theory that elites are promoted through the system while the poor don’t get the same opportunities.

Certificates were presented to both students and inmates on Wednesday afternoon. One prisoner said: “If I am honest I never thought the students would want to come back to the jail. So I was happy when they came back.”

And student Dan Dunham admitted: “I feel comfortable to admit that when first entering Pentonville I was hesitant, anxious and speechless.

“On arrival I continued to ask myself questions such as ‘what if the prisoners don’t like me?’, ‘what if I don’t like them?’, ‘how much should I tell them about myself?’ and ‘how much should I ask?’

“Within 30 minutes of setting up our introductory session and meeting the Pentonville students all these questions had been answered – none of it mattered.”

Course leader Jenny Fogarty said she hopes to make the Pentonville partnership a permanent fixture on the course.

Source: Notts TV, Islington Gazette