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Former prisoners’ stories give students thought-provoking sessions at Behind Bars Conference

Havering Sixth Form College students heard from real life former prisoners at a Criminology conference titled Behind Bars – are prisons a place for Retribution, Rehabilitation or Punishment?

Sponsored by the College’s security firm CIS Security Ltd, the whole day conference was organised by True Life Conferences and Criminology tutor Alistair Hook. It was attended by students studying Law, Psychology, Criminology, Sociology and Politics.

The four speakers, who had all been in prison themselves – one serving 24 years for murder and another turning to crime to feed a heroin addiction – discussed different types of crime in interactive lectures which gave students an insight into how crime and violence infiltrate people’s lives and what it is like to be in prison in the UK.

The Question & Answer sessions brought some emotional responses from the speakers who have all managed to avoid crime and build a working life since being released from prison.

Hearing about the real life experiences brought the subject alive for the students which they will now be able to apply to their learning, such as analysing why people commit crime and how a person's background can influence the likelihood of crime.

Four students were asked to volunteer to dress up in typical prison clothes (pictured right).

Criminology tutor Alistair Hook said: “Through the discussions and interaction with the speakers, students have developed a deeper understanding of the Penal System and the question: Does prison work and what happens after prisoners are released back into society?”

He added: “Many of the sessions were powerful and enriching, and challenged students’ thoughts and stereotypes. The Conference was a valuable opportunity for the students and it has highlighted some of the issues we have explored in the classroom.”

One student said: “I found the Conference and the speakers’ stories fascinating. It made me question whether everyone who had been to prison deserved to be there. Everyone should have a chance to change, we shouldn't judge."


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