There are many advantages to studying whilst in prison. Education can inspire you to engage in a fascinating subject; it can keep you in touch with loved ones; it can give you a new language in which to communicate how you experience the world; and, it can give your time focus.
There are, however, some obvious drawbacks and difficulties, some of which Amy and Ruth explored in their recent conference presentation at the ICPA in Prague. Being given hope that you can live your life in a different way can often be painful, even when the endeavour is an eventual success. These feelings can be compounded in the face of brick walls and hurdles. It can feel cruel to be shown a door for which you don’t have a key and there are many things that can keep the door to the ‘freedom’ of education locked.
One significant hurdle to learning is accessing funding. Finding funding for distance learning courses, taking steps to organise continued learning upon release and accessing the support and materials that you need to study well are some of the things that can seem like a minefield. In our search for some clarity, we found that even when you find the right organisation, there are often criteria, such as sentence length or type of course, which affect the eligibility of many prospective applicants.
So, you have all of this energy to learn something new – to see something in a new and informed way – but what do you do with that?
We have tried to respond to reflections from some of our students who have come up against problems whilst trying to find help to continue education in prisons by compiling a funding resource pack, which we hope sets out, clearly, some of the options that are available to those who wish to pursue their learning.
Our HE Resources Pack sets out what sort of funding is available, the criteria for applying and the steps needed to apply. Where possible, we have collated application forms, application form guidance, terms and conditions for applicants and catalogues for those seeking reading materials so that our pack, hopefully, has everything you need to get started. Inside you’ll find:
- a list of organisations, trusts and charities who provide support for people studying in prisons;
- a summary of criteria and what is offered by each organisation;
- directions for pursuing an application to each organisation;
- relevant literature, such as application guidelines, where they are available;
- application forms, again, where available.
The clear front cover sets out specific criteria for those seeking higher education support. Some organisations only consider applications for post-graduate education, for example. Others request that you be within a certain time-frame of your earliest date of release. This information is laid out as comprehensively as is possible, with the hope of supporting people to make informed decisions about relevant ‘next steps’ organisations. Taking ownership for realising our value and our future selves is a key aspect of Learning Together’s philosophy. This document, hopefully, allows people who are passionate about education to do that.
So, we aim to provide anyone who needs this resource with a copy of it FOR FREE. We are starting by sending copies of the resource to all Learning Together partner prisons in England and Wales. If, however, you are struggling to get funding and cannot access this document through your Education Department, feel free to write to us to request a copy at: Learning Together, Institute of Criminology, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DA.
One of the core principles at the heart of Learning Together is co-creation. With this in mind, we invite anyone who uses our guide to reflect and feed back on their experiences of using it and their interactions with any of the organisations which feature in it so that we can improve the quality of the information that we share. We understand that there are many more organisations that help people in education in different ways. So, we are keen to continue to develop its content and usefulness for all keen learners and education providers. We look forward to hearing from you!
Gareth Evans, Mentoring & Alumni Coordinator