Prison becomes venue for criminologists' national conference

When criminologists from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) were planning a conference on a bold new project which lets students learn alongside prisoners, they knew just the right place to hold it.  

HMP Leicester was the venue as delegates from universities across England went behind bars for the first sitting of the two-day Learning Together conference.

They were joined by community organisations including the Prisoners Education Trust, a senior representative from the Ministry of Justice, prison staff and men from the jail.

INSET prison story 2

The Learning Together programme at DMU is run by criminology lecturer Ross Little, and began in 2016 with a link-up with Gartree prison, which saw students visit the category B jail and attend lectures given by senior staff at the jail back on campus.

Last year, the project switched focus to HMP Leicester, when the-then governor of Gartree, Phil Novis, took the helm at the city prison.  

Mr Novis welcomed delegates to the conference. “My men get so much from the Learning Together programme in terms of skills such as interacting, listening effectively and confidence from being able to articulate their own views,” he said.

“I know the men love it because they continue to talk to me about it even weeks afterwards and then ask “what’s next”?

“I also realise the benefits it has for my staff as they have seen the lift the prison has been given since our collaboration with DMU on LT but also on other initiatives such as choirs, orchestras and the redesign of our visits centre.

INSET prison story
Students helped to redesign the prison visits area to make it a more welcoming space

“I realised a long time ago that a prison cannot reduce reoffending, and that collaboration is the only way and my focus has all been about opening the prison to the community to dispel the myths.  

“The Learning Together programme has opened so many doors for this prison and introduced me to folk I simply would never have met.  

“Our amazing gateway visits centre was created by DMU design students, our memorial garden was created by a collaboration of multiple courses amongst other things.  

“I talk a lot about a symbiotic relationship between the prison and the community and I am keen that our partners benefit from the collaboration.”

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The Learning Together programme was launched by criminologists Drs Amy Ludlow and Ruth Armstrong of the University of Cambridge.

The national conference attracted academics from universities including Cambridge, Royal Holloway, Northampton, Leeds Beckett, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Newman University, Oxford Brookes, Edge Hill and Liverpool John Moores. The second day of the conference was held at De Montfort University.

“The Learning Together conference here in Leicester was a great success because it was a real team effort, said Mr Little, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at DMU.
 
“I am particularly grateful to the support from colleagues in the DMU Local Team and the staff at HMP Leicester to help make it happen.

“Feedback from delegates was incredibly positive. The work has progressed a great deal in the last year and we look forward to further developments over the coming year.”

Posted on Monday 26th June 2017

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