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Tuesday 9th September 2014
Entering into Westminster Hall with its stone floor, places where famous people have stood and given speeches and seeing police with weapons can make you wonder where on earth you are. But walking up the steps at the back you enter a statue lined corridor and then you enter the lobby, beautiful architecture which never ceases to amaze me. I half expected to see Nick Robinson conducting an interview, instead I met Jonathan Robinson, an ex-prisoner, now author and prison reform campaigner.
Jonathan Robinson along with Paula Harriott, Head of Programme, User Voice, Angela Levin, former Chair of HMP Wormwood Scrubs Independent Monitoring Board, and Deborah Russo, Prisoners’ Advice Service were witnesses giving evidence on Prisons: Planning and Policies in front of the Justice Select Committee. The complete oral evidence is available from the following link:
I decided to sit in the public area and hear each witness in order to gain insight into what is actually happening in prisons. It is important that prisoners are rehabilitated whilst inside and one way is through using the skills that are present within the prison population itself.
The Toe by Toe project run by the Shannon Trust is an excellent example of this, where literate prisoners help those that are illiterate. This is a peer-to-peer mentoring program. Not being able to read has a negative impact on job prospects and also self-esteem. It’s quite shocking when prisoners that have been in the prison estate many years face release unable to read!
Jonathan Robinson has spent the last three years pushing for prison reform, he has written on his own personal prison experience and is a voice for those inside. He champions mentoring and is on the Advisory Board for NoOffence CIC!