I recently wrote a blog about the Prison Partnership Project – a creative partnership between the Faculty of Arts at York St John University, HMP Askham Grange and HMP New Hall. The Project gives prisoners an opportunity to develop, in line with their resettlement plans, creative and life skills as they approach release.
This particular series of blogs focuses on lifelong learning so here I would like to discuss briefly the impact of the Prison Partnership Project in terms of lifelong learning.
On International Women’s Day I went to a talk at York St John delivered by YSJ lecturer Rachel Conlon, Director of The Prison Partnership Project. Rachel introduced the Project and then showed a film which she had been commissioned by Barnardos to produce, about the experiences of female prisoners who are mothers. It was incredibly moving. The film is being launched soon by Barnardos and I would highly recommend it.
Numerous questions and comments were asked afterwards including one about the benefits of the project. At this point, a woman who had not spoken raised her hand. Rachel recognised her as one of the women who had been in HMP Askham Grange and taken part in the acting work with the Project. She spoke passionately about the value of the experience to her personally and then went on to say that since being released from prison she had gone on to use the drama skills which she had gained through the project to give a voice to other young vulnerable women.
We often read attestations about the benefits of lifelong learning and community outreach projects but to sit and listen to someone’s personal experiences delivered with such conviction was truly powerful.
I think this example shows that lifelong learning does not just benefit the individual and can have a much broader reach to the whole community. Universities, with all their resources and passion are well-placed to step out into the community and make a positive impact on people’s futures.