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Durham University

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Durham University launches Europe’s first prison exchange programme

(29 October 2014)

Prison camera

Durham is the first university in Europe to deliver criminology classes inside prisons - based on the US Inside-Out programme - to both students and offenders.

As part of a new educational opportunity, the classes are taking place inside HMP Durham and HMP Frankland, high category prisons in Durham.

Criminology students in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University are joining together with equal numbers of offenders currently serving custodial sentences as co-students to study a 10-week long course in criminal justice. They will cover areas such as whether prison works, the causes of crime and the criminalisation of drugs.

Originally developed at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1997, Inside-Out has since seen over 20,000 students go through the programme in the USA. Durham University is now bringing the initiative to Europe for the first time. The University’s Criminology lecturers have completed the Inside-Out training inside maximum security correctional facilities in the USA.

The Inside-Out programme is designed to break down barriers and prejudices and provide ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ students with a unique opportunity to study together as peers behind the prison walls. 

For ‘outside’ students, many of whom will go on to pursue careers in criminal justice and related fields and some of whom have never entered a prison, the programme allows them to learn about crime and justice in a profoundly different way. 

For ‘inside’ students, those serving prison sentences, the programme encourages them to recognise their capacity to make changes in their own lives as well as in the broader society, and for many, to be challenged intellectually by Durham University’s School of Applied Social Sciences, potentially enhancing further education, training and 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."

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