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DMU criminology students get insight into prison service thanks to partnership with Gartree

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has teamed up with HM Prison Gartree to create a programme to benefit students from both institutions.

Senior staff from the category B prison visited DMU to give criminology students an insight into the prison service and a day in the life at Gartree, near Market Harborough.

Gartree main

The lectures are part of a project that could offer a powerful new experience to students, says criminology lecturer Ross Little, as well as raise awareness of career opportunities.

He said: "The aim is to move to a model so DMU creates its own 'learning together' programme with Gartree.

"We organised a visit to Gartree in January to meet the prison council and the next step is the staff come here to give lectures.

"For now the outcomes are to build meaningful relationships with people in prison and develop a new and potentially powerful experience for students, both inside and outside the prison walls."

Matthew Davies, Head of Reducing Re-offending, said the link with DMU will benefit the people in Gartree.

"The men are really up for sharing their experiences," he said.

Phil Novis, Governor of Leicester (previously at Gartree), says this model happens at a few other prisons and so there is evidence it works for people serving longer sentences. Reasons include reducing social stigma and giving the men learning opportunities they may have previously been denied

He said: "It's a break from the norm. Having the students come in is a motivating factor."

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First year students were invited to the lectures by Mr Novis, Mr Davies and Jo Gunkel, which raised awareness of working in prisons, tying in the challenges faced with course topics.

Ms Gunkel, Head of Residence and Specialist Units, said: "We looked at how best to manage people in jail and statistics regarding violence in prison as well as crime in general and the pressures around the ageing prison population."

Students found the events motivational. Lauren Shepherd, 19, in the first year of her Criminology and Criminal Justice course, said: "Listening to people from the industry is really useful and makes people more engaged."

Psychology with Criminology student Mariya Rauf, 19, said: "It makes learning more fun and easier to focus. It made me think it's an area to go into."

The lectures follow on from a visit to Gartree, which aimed to break down barriers and change attitudes.

Lauren Ashby, 19, a first year Criminal Investigations with Policing student, said it was an "incredible experience".

She said: "I'd never been to a prison before let alone spoken to anyone who was serving a life sentence for murder.

"I went into the prison with the view that prisoners 'got it easy' and I soon saw that they don't but they are people who have made mistakes and are being punished for that and they have to work hard for their luxuries such as phone credit or nicer shower gels.

"We had a long discussion with the prisoners' council and it felt like I was just speaking to a 'normal' person and not someone who was in prison.

"The trip made me rethink my own opinions, which had been shaped by the outside world and the media."

Posted on Wednesday 30th March 2016

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