Westminster Criminology students study with inmates
Westminster undergraduate students studying Criminology had an opportunity to learn with inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Pentonville.
“My experience of studying in Pentonville prison can be summed up in one word, enlightening”, said Faizullah Muhammedali, a third-year student studying BA Criminology.
Dr. Andreas Aresti and Dr. Sacha Darke, lead the British Convict Criminology (BCC). They undertook the project with Jose Aguiar, Education Consultant at HMP Pentonville.
This project ran for the first time as a pilot last year and this year, it is running from 25 January until 29 March, 2017. 15 inmate students from HMP Pentonville study once a week in the prison library with 15 Westminster students. This 10-week programme on prison studies will end in a graduation ceremony for all the students.
Faiz further added, “The first day I walked in, I genuinely thought I would be scared. Instead I felt sad. You can smell a mixture of industrial bleach mixed with a stale cigarette smell; and not a single noise can be heard.” While the prison itself can be “sad like a hospital”, he said, “The actual learning experience is completely different.”
The students on this programme are allowed to learn and socialise with the inmates, designed to give them an insight into prison conditions and prisoner treatment. Faiz recalled, “Naturally, it is a bit awkward at first as you don’t want to ask questions that may offend the prisoners. But the fact is that, the prisoners want to talk and are eager to tell you about their pasts and what led them to being imprisoned.”
He also said that the programme helped them learn many things that “are not often reflected in mainstream media”. He told The QH,” I believed that all the prisoners would be critical of the justice system and annoyed at their imprisonment. But a lot of them actually accept that they have done wrong and thus deserve to be imprisoned.”
HMP Pentonville, informally known as The Ville, is actually not in Pentonville but is located further north, on the Caledonian Road in north London. Recounting his experience, Faiz said, “Every person in that room (in Pentonville) has something to bring to the ‘learning’ table.”