Today a rather bleary eyed group of students from Leeds City College went on an educational visit to HMP Humber through Prison Me No Way.
After a slightly delayed (and too early for some!) start, we arrived at HMP Humber’s Everthorpe site. Surrounded by high prison walls, HMP Humber is somewhat disguised by its picturesque country surroundings. It is indeed quite a contrast to the typically imposing Victorian design of HMP Leeds that we are used to seeing.
Upon entering the prison our IDs were checked and searches carried out. We were shown through to the large visiting area and introduced to a prisoner officer, Mark, and four of his colleagues. The visit started with an informative presentation detailing the ins and outs of life within HMP Humber. After the presentation students attended two workshops. Workshop one was delivered by a prison drugs worker and two men convicted and imprisoned for offences due to addiction. The prisoners explained the 12 Steps Programme and how it was helping them overcome addiction. Both myself and students felt quite moved by this presentation, particularly hearing the life stories of both men and the stark reality of living with addiction.
The second workshop was delivered by a prison officer who’s specialism was all things security. Students were shown examples of confiscated items including: homemade weapons and chargers, mobile phones and blades. The resourcefulness of prisoners when it comes to hiding contraband was an eye-opener to say the least!
Lunch time meant our group reconvened in the visiting room with Mark and his colleagues. It is worth mentioning at this point that the other four men had taken a backseat role after their introductions and up to this point had engaged in brief chat. It was therefore very interesting to watch the surprise on the faces of my students when the four men introduced themselves further; the first man was serving six years for manslaughter, the second a lifer for murder, the third man was serving an IPP sentence with a 99 year tariff for conspiracy to murder and the fourth 11 years for the offences of Section 18 and kidnap.
This really was a fantastic aspect of the visit. Students were initially really surprised and then engaged in discussions around stereotypes and individual offending behaviour, particularly risk factors. Conversation over lunch was kept fairly informal and then we were given a tour of the prison.
Our group were shown a live wing and had the opportunity to go inside an empty cell. Students again expressed surprise at the conditions (it’s not the sort of ‘cushy’ number we are sometimes led to believe). We were also shown the prison gym, workshop buildings and the segregation unit aka ‘the block’.
Once the tour was over, the final part of our trip took place; the prisoner question and answer session. Each prisoner explained their life story. They described their upbringings, gave information on their offences, and spoke about prison life. The prisoners were open and honest with students and really encouraged them to ask questions which created a brilliant learning opportunity. Although nervous at first, students began to ask lots of great questions and the conversation flowed well but unfortunately time constraints meant the visit had to come to an end.
The visit to HMP Humber turned out to be a fantastic and unique learning opportunity for all. Students were engaged throughout the visit and gave nothing but positive feedback. The prison staff and prisoners all did a great job in assisting the learning of the students and making them feel welcome and safe. I would highly recommend this educational visit to anyone studying law/criminal justice studies etc and look forward to taking the next group from Leeds City College!