Durham students will be taught criminology classes alongside offenders at two top security County Durham prisons in an initiative starting today (Wednesday 29 October).
This is not a punishment for stealing library books or previous indiscretions at Klute, but Europe’s first prisoner exchange programme, taking place at HMP Durham and HMP Frankland.
Inspired by the ‘Inside-Out’ programme developed by Temple University in Philadelphia – which has taught over 20,000 students – the project aims to break down prejudices and provide ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ students with a unique opportunity to study together behind the prison walls.
Criminology students in the School of Applied Social Sciences will join together with equal numbers of offenders currently serving custodial sentences as co-students to study a 10-week course in criminal justice.
Pupils will discuss issues such as whether prison works, the causes of crime and the criminalisation of drugs in a course taught by Durham lecturers, who have completed Inside-Out training in American prisons.
The programme encourages inmantes to recognise their capacity to make positive changes in their lives, and equips them with intellectual skills which enhance their employability upon release.
Professor Fiona Measham who is leading the initiative said: “We are really pleased to be working in partnership with HMP Durham and HMP Frankland to offer this unique opportunity to both our students at Durham and people serving custodial sentences.
“This is a very powerful programme which will challenge both the inside and outside students and encourage them to open up about their pre-conceptions of each other. We will discuss the labels we attach to people and the feelings and emotions associated with them.
“In the USA, the programme has led to longer term initiatives such as the creation of think-tanks in prisons supported by academics and we hope that the Durham programme will be equally successful.”
Angie Petit, Deputy Governor at Durham prison, said: “Durham prison is continuously looking for ways to help prisoners break the cycle of reoffending, whether through the work or education opportunities we provide.
“This partnership with Durham University will provide a new opportunity for prisoners to study alongside University students to discuss key issues in the criminal justice system.
“This will not only help them build new skills, it will also encourage them to re-examine the impact of their own actions on wider society.”