Transforming | how we reform lives

Pressure on Prisons: education is key

Are UK prisons in crisis? Many argue that increased violence, drug use and high levels of suicide plus overcrowding and a lack of resources are undermining prison safety and opportunities for reform.

Dr Helen Nichols and Dr Bill Davies, Senior Lecturers in Criminology and Co-Leaders of the Prison Research Network (PRisoN) at Leeds Beckett University, are helping to transform UK prisons through the power of education in rehabilitating prisoners. The Learning Together initiative, developed with Cambridge University, takes university classes into high security prisons so that inmates complete a module alongside university students.

Bill: “This model of learning connects all students, enabling them to learn with and from each other through discussion. It breaks down social barriers and creates positive social change. Students can challenge their existing ideas about people from different backgrounds while realising their own potential, and the potential of others.”

Helen adds: “Education is a crucial component of prison life that universities can support. We can really only open minds through learning if we are able to break through obstacles that might appear difficult to overcome. What’s been really impressive about the course is the way people have worked together: it has been really collaborative. The students and prisoners have learnt so much from each other and perspectives have changed: the experience broadens the minds of the students and contributes to the rehabilitation of the prisoners. The opportunity for them to use this to make positive changes in their lives and create better futures after they are released is very powerful."

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Leeds School of Social Sciences

The Leeds School of Social Sciences undertakes high-quality research and teaching in the disciplines of Psychology, Criminology, Sociology, Speech and Language Sciences, and Politics and International Relations. We have a strong commitment to research-led teaching and to supporting the development of our students as critical, creative and capable individuals, able to contribute to society as active and enterprising citizens and pursue successful careers.

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Students working in a seminar