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How my masters influences my work in prison reform

Student spotlight | Jack Denny, MSc International Human Rights Practice

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Headshot of Jack Denny

Jack Denny is an international human rights postgraduate student at Leeds Beckett. With a background in prison law, Jack has three years’ experience working in prisons and two years’ experience working in the Police.

Engaged in prison reform, he works with the Prison Reform Trust, HM Prison and Probation Service putting forward prisoner perspectives, gives talks for National Prison Radio and is a contributor to the national prison newspaper, Inside Time. He is currently involved in a prison documentary.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what drew you to human rights practice

I wanted to study the International Human Rights Practice postgraduate course as this is a perfect match to my current practice area and my future aspirations.

Working in prison law and prison reform is an interesting area where I come across human rights breaches on a regular basis. The very fact that people are often held in such inhumane and degrading conditions where they are not treated as ‘human beings’ is a human rights breach in itself.

The only rights that are supposed to be taken away from prisoners when they enter prison are those taken away by necessary implication of the deprivation of liberty, yet this is not the case. For example, why do prisoners not have the right to vote?

This course allows me to explore such issues and relate them back to my prison reform work to fight for the rights of prisoners to be better upheld, where prisons can be rehabilitative, creative and educational environments. This allows me to make a positive impact on a wider rehabilitative agenda, potentially preventing prisoners from (re)offending (estimated at £18.1bn annually), reducing crime, making the public safer and reducing the overall prison population.

What made you choose Leeds Beckett?

I chose to study at Leeds Beckett as being able to study from home on a short-term basis (gaining my qualification in a shorter amount of time through accelerated learning) was perfect for me as I could put all my resources and time into gaining my qualification quickly, ensuring quick progression.

Leeds Beckett have been fantastic in adapting to my needs and I was awarded a grant by the university as well as being given part-funding for a laptop to assist my studies. I also chose Leeds Beckett as the course was great for me and I can see the future prospects that will now be available to me through studying here. They have also accommodated for the fact that my parents are classed as being extremely critically vulnerable to Covid-19, so have allowed me to do everything from home without any need to travel to the university for anything. Even my enrolment was from home! I have had no cost outside of my tuition fees, with all materials being provided online, including all of the reading.

What has been your favourite thing about your time studying at Leeds Beckett?

The best thing about studying at Leeds Beckett is the flexibility of the course. The course fits around me. I can study when I want to as it is from home. I also love the fact that I can relate my own professional experience and my work to my studies and vice versa.

I can relate my experiences working in prisons to international human rights practice and apply what I have learnt in the lectures to prisoner rights. For example, I did an assignment on considering whether there is universality between the rights of prisoners and those of law-abiding citizens and considered reform in this area. The flexibility is great, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the course and I get a postgraduate qualification from it. I don’t think that any other university can compare to Leeds Beckett.

What advice would you give someone thinking about studying this course?

If someone is considering studying the International Human Rights Practice postgraduate course, my advice to them would be to go for it! The course gives you so much flexibility in which areas you choose to investigate in more detail and gives you a good solid understanding when it comes to international human rights and their application in society. The course is therefore one that can be applied to your area of practice, as I have clearly demonstrated through my own studies.

I have found that the lecturers and other Leeds Beckett staff are very approachable, even when studying from home. They are available for support and provide answers to any of your concerns, whether this be in relation to a particular assignment or issues outside of your studies. They give a lot of flexibility and support, which I think is often lacking in some universities.

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