March 2016

Studying the causes of crime at Birmingham Prison

Read time: approx 1 mins

Students from UCB gained a fascinating insight into the reality of life behind bars on a special visit to Birmingham Prison. 

Undergraduates on the Youth, Communities and Families BA and Health and Social Care BSc helped inmates to stage Prison Council elections. The voting is overseen by User Voice, an organisation largely staffed and led by ex-offenders.

The elections are designed to give prisoners the opportunity to democratically elect representatives who will campaign on their behalf to improve the prison experience and environment. The process aims to encourage prisoners and management to work together to resolve disputes and problems.

Craig Pinkney, lecturer in the School of Education, Health and Community, organised the visit for students taking his popular criminology module, titled “The Causes of Crime.” The group also included students who previously attended UCB’s EU Gangs National Conference “Responding to Youth Violence.” 

Working in pairs, they were sent to different wings of the prison, a category B jail in Winson Green housing 1,450 adult remand and sentenced male prisoners. 

Craig said: “The students did not waste time in interviewing prisoners and gaining knowledge and understanding of the triggers that caused many of them to commit crimes. This was a perfect opportunity to gain an in-depth insight into the reality of criminality and the criminal justice system.” 

The students acted as volunteer helpers during the prison vote, supervising the ballot, and had the opportunity learn about the prison experience. 

Craig added: “Each of the students came back with a different perspective. They were really engaged after the experience and some of the students are now working in community centres and youth centres to get a better understanding about crime and why young people turn to crime. 

“These students did exceptionally well and for me it is good they had the opportunity to see what prison is really like. Many people talk about prison, or watch prison shows on TV, but very few have had a real-life experience inside. I am really proud of these students and I can tell they enjoyed the visit because their recent assignment grades have reflected how motivated they are.” 

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