I was set to prison in April 2007. I was a 44 year old woman and it was my first experience of prison life. I was feeling very despondent, frightened and had lost my self-confidence.
I was sent to HMP Bronzefield where I discovered a programme called ‘Toe By Toe’ which helped to teach adults, who for whatever reason couldn’t read. I went through a short interview and became a mentor for the project. Although for me this was not a certified course it was for the mentees. I soon discovered however that the rewards for me were so fulfilling and that it helped my confidence grow again. I was the only mentor on the project for 6months and by this time the number of mentees had grown so much that we had to recruit more mentors. I was given the task of training two ladies to train as mentors for the project. Shortly after this time I was transferred to another prison HMP Downview.
At this prison the level of educational courses available to me was quite basic. But then I saw and advert for a course in media production. I didn’t have a clue what exactly this would entail but I applied and was accepted on to the course. I took it up as challenge to myself and to discover something new. I only had very basic computing skills and discovered that most of the work was computer based – especially the editing. I had embarked on a huge learning curve and once again my confidence seemed quite low as I did not know if I could ever achieve what was being asked of me – especially as most of the other students were younger than me.
There were times that I thought I would never be able to see this through to the end but week by week I began to feel more confident in what I was being taught and week by week I became more experienced with the computer. I completed the course and proudly received my certificate for a BTEC National Award in Media.
Armed with my new skills and growing confidence I asked to join the media house Broadcast Unit to be one of the team making the prison community TV channel Time TV. Once part of the Broadcast Unit I continued to develop my skills in filming, editing producing and directing. I am currently the longest standing member of the Broadcast Unit having been working there for over two years. I have been rewarded with the job title of Senior Producer/Channel Editor. As well as having made numerous creative, entertaining and successful programmes for the channel and recently winning a Koestler Award for a short film I act as mentor for the new women and also encourage other prisoners to take up the challenge of the media course. I also felt very privileged to be asked by the Governor of the Juvenile Unit to be one of two mentors to help the juveniles produce their own induction DVD.
I can honestly say that this course has been one of the most exciting things I have ever achieved in my whole life. It has also given me hope for the future because the skills I have learned have made me feel that even though I have a prison record, I have hope that once I leave prison my life with my new skills is just beginning.
Having seen my Broadcast Unit colleagues go on to placements within the TV industry I know what possibilities lie in wait for me when that day comes for my release on temporary licence and beyond.