Public legal education at HMP Altcourse: Part 3 by Sharon Taylor

Legal Eagles in HMP Altcourse prison by Sharon Taylor

“I am going to prison in Liverpool!” – these was my words during the first three Tuesdays of my summer right after the final exams. I am an Open University student studying Law who’s recently taken Public and Criminal Law. Being an OU Law student gave me the privilege of working00 on a very exciting project alongside a fantastic group where there were four more student like myself and an amazing tutor were formed as a team. The project was a radio broadcasting programme to address the prisoners legal and some general queries and concerns as obviously they were not able to access this information. Our team? we were the Legal Eagles!

First things first – I am sure I am not the only one who when they hear the word prison, the initial reaction would be “criminals” or maybe some would even say “hell”. Well dare I say, we are all fools and ignorant! Walking into HMP Altcourse was like going back to my university days. The buildings, the footie ground, the canteen, the healthcare clinic, the tutorial rooms where they teach basic English to Level 3 and IT courses and “mini zoo” as I call it– all very well laid out and managed properly! Rigid checks were carried out by the friendly staff at the reception where we were given visitor’s IDs and then went through to meet our hosts Pete and David.

Welcome sign to HMP Altcourse managed by G4S

The initial visit was quiet nerve racking I must admit… walking into an alien place not knowing what to expect gave me cold feet. But once we met the staff and the small group of prisoners who were going to assist us with our project, we immediately felt at ease. They made us feel very welcome and their hospitality was extraordinary, which made our subsequent visits all very easy. We were spoilt! Not only with the amount of information but also with the food that they fed us!

The project was a radio program where we were given tasks to interview prisoners regarding legal related issues they have, and they wish to address. We had a couple of meetings with Pete, David and the very polite inmates and all the questions boiled down to five topics. We picked one topic each and carried out reliable research to deliver dependable information. We researched Family Law about father and child Shared Arrangements; Proceeds of Crime Act; Sex Offenders Register; Home Detention Curfew and the arguably most boring topic – Data Protection Act 2018.

Oh we also did a Desert Island List! Yes that’s right, we DID!

This opportunity provided by OU has given me, I must say, hand on heart, has changed my view of prison completely. Going in to speak to real people who have committed mistakes in their lives is not only a good experience but also an eye opener for me that I surely will take with me as I venture on not only with my legal career in the future but with me as a person.

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