Studying the Bachelors of Law degree with the Open University and what that meant to me as an individual

The Open University has long been an important route for students who are in prison to access higher education. The Open Justice team is currently working to develop opportunities for OU students in prison to take part in pro bono activities. In the following guest post an OU law student reflects on his experience of studying whilst in prison.
Many years before my incarceration, I struggled with education as a whole. I had no idea of how to apply myself, I did not understand a lot of the information, and I did not like to ask for help because I was embarrassed. My mother never had a great education herself as a result of having dyslexia and my father’s first language was not English; they realised I needed extra help that they could not give me, so they found someone to tutor me at home. My grades improved; however, they were never good enough. I attended college and re-sat my GCSE’s over and over again; only to gain low end grades.
I had wanted to study law when I was young, however, with the grades obtained I could not go to University.
Some years later I found myself in prison and I decided I had to do something with my life, so I started to study languages. I all of a sudden realised that my ability to learn had improved significantly. I passed a GCSE in Italian and gained a grade A. at this point I knew about the colleges, but had no idea that I could study with a University from inside a prison; until a lady (the coordinator) from the distance learning team asked me if I wished to study a degree.
I embarked initially on a language degree; however, it was not possible to complete it due to courses having been discontinued.
Consequently the coordinator came to me with a prospectus and said you can pick any subject you want to study.
I had seen prospectuses over the previous two semesters and there had never been law courses on offer before; in prison it is a bit of taboo subject!
Straight away I was drawn to it and I asked the question, am I allowed to study this as a full degree? The response was of course.
W100 was the first year; rules, rights and justice. Previously I had not been interested in subjects but this this was different it gripped me and I could not put the books down. The tutor for that semester was outstanding; he gave me great feedback, which enabled me to gain the skills necessary complete the module and improve my grades on each assignment.
The subject was difficult and my grades were not great; however, I was not going to give up; I had grown to love the subject already.
Many hurdles were thrown in front of me over the years by the prison system and its strict regimes. Luckily I have spent quite a lot of my time in the Private sector (G4S) and they have been very supportive and tried to accommodate me as much as possible over the years.
Year on year I studied the various components that make up the degree and I found my grades kept rising up each year. It was fascinating to learn how vast the law truly is and how far it stretches into everyday life. Each tutor every year is responsible for the improvements that I made, as it was there feedback that helped me to learn.
Before I embarked on this journey it was almost as if I was blindly walking around and always banging into things or tripping up. With what I have learnt I now conduct myself completely differently and I believe that I will be able to make a real contribution to society upon my release.
Of course whenever you study any subject there will be parts you like more than others. For me I excelled in Criminal Law and Land Law. I found both subjects; although very different, riveting.
I graduated last month and received the Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree; upper second-class. The Open University (OU) attended along with the Faculty of Law and the afternoon was quite special to say the least. Unlike most of the days of my incarceration that I will wish to forget, this will be one I will cherish and not let go of.
Thanks to the OU I have been able to change as a person and I have been given an opportunity that will help me to start a fresh life; a totally different life, a life with real purpose.
So in answer to the question studying the Law degree with the OU has meant the world to me and I hope that sometime in the near future I will be able to further my education and embark on the Masters of Law.