Groundbreaking work with Leicester Prison earns DMU nomination for national award


Work to transform life behind bars for men at Leicester Prison has earned student volunteers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) a national award nomination. 

The project, run by the university’s public engagement team at #DMUlocal, showcased the ground-breaking link-up between DMU and HMP Leicester which has played a role in transforming the fortunes of the once-troubled jail.

Choir prison 2
DMU Gospel Choir has performed to men at HMP Leicester

It has now been named a finalist in the Benefiting Society category of this year’s Green Gown awards, which celebrate exceptional sustainability programmes in universities and colleges.

Jess Bogic, Widening Participation Manager at #DMUlocal, said: "It's been a pleasure working with colleagues and students across DMU to support this project. HMP Leicester have been hugely supportive and we could not have done it without the support of the prison staff. The projects have been incredibly impactful both on the inside and the outside and it's amazing to be part of such an innovative project."

So far, the Transforming Life Behind Bars programme has seen a raft of events, most of which have an arts or music theme, carried out inside the jail or on campus.

These have included the first-ever orchestral concert in a British jail, a two-week arts festival called Talent Unlocked, providing rehearsal space at DMU for drum and bass workshops run by ex-offenders who work with schools across the county and supporting Storybook Dads, where inmates can record stories for their children as a way of keeping in touch.

Interior Design students refurbished the visitors’ room to make it more family-friendly, so mums felt able to bring their children to visit, and are now working on a new project. Students have also completed placements at the prison and Health and Life Sciences students are carrying out drugs research at the prison. #DMUlocal also supports another research project called Potential Unlocked, which is run by Soft Touch Arts and involves arts interventions.

Students have also redesigned the garden at the prison, and DMU Music runs regular sessions inside the prison.

* Volunteer at DMU - find out current opportunities here
* THE LONG READ: How student volunteers have helped men at Leicester Prison feel part of the community
* Prisoner art goes on display at Leicester's New Walk Museum 

All projects are co-created by DMU and the prison, and the effect has been transformative. In less than a year HMP Leicester went from being the subject of a damning report which criticized levels of violence and drug taking inside the prison, to seeing a 21% reduction in violence and a 50-place rise in the national league tables for UK jails.

Phil Novis was governor at the time of the 50-point rise in the league table of UK jails. He said: “The impact of the partnership is impossible to measure in metrics, but I have no doubt they go hand in hand.”

The finals of this year’s Green Gowns Awards will take place in Glasgow later this year.

Posted on Wednesday 10th July 2019

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