WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
HMP Downview was a ‘closed’ female prison until it’s closure in 2014. It is currently being remodelled as a male prison and is due to open in late 2016.
Prison can be a confusing and disturbing environment for many in custody. Navigating your way through the rules, regulations, regimes and sentence planning is difficult for anyone who is fully functioning but can become near on impossible for those who have social, health, psychological and financial impairments.
There are unique features specific to the female prison population and the understanding of these is important to identify how we as outside organisations can help.
Engaging women in education and effective courses that can bolster self-esteem, confidence and offer qualifications for a future without crime is vital given that the educational achievement of women prisoners is lower than for male prisoners with statistics from the Bromley Briefings produced by the Prison Reform Trust showing that 74% left school at 16 or before. Only 39% of women in prison have any qualifications at all, compared to 82% of the general population and 41% of women prisoners have not worked in the past five years.
Confidence, self-esteem and communication skills are vital for the female prison population in which more than half of women say that they have suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse. In 2008, there were One in four women in prison has spent time in local authority care as a child Nearly 40% of women in prison left school before the age of 16 years, almost one in ten were aged 13 or younger. In 2008 women accounted for over 50% of the total recorded incidents of self-harm, even though they form only around 6% of the prison population (24,686 recorded incidents of self-harm – 11,747 for men and 12,938 for women).
According to the Social Exclusion Unit report, women prisoners are often inadequately prepared for release with only 24% of women with a prior skill having the chance to put their skills into
practice through prison work. Just 11% of women received help with housing matters whilst in
prison and Home Office research has found that 41% of women in prison did not have accommodation arranged on release. Only a third of women prisoners who wanted help and advice about benefits and debt received it.
Many prisoners have learning difficulties and according to the Bromley breifings 70 % of women prisoners have 2 or more diagnosed mental health issues. This interferes with their ability to cope and creates difficulty in communicating, expressing themselves and understanding ordinary social cues.
All of this research shows a need for a communication tool providing awareness to prisoners about access and opportunities in education and training in prison, access and opportunities in preparation for leaving prison, and access and information of how the prison runs and what is expected of you whilst in custody.
In addition providing education with an opportunity to provide good level qualifications that also incorporates transformative and transferable life and social skills.
WHAT DID WE DO?
At HMP Downview we created The Media House which offers a full time education course as well as being the hub of communication for the prison via the prison community TV Channel Time TV.
The Media House is a fully-equipped TV studio and contains three strands of work
• in-work education and employment;
• internal prison broadcasts;
• routes into employment on release.
The Media House centres on an education course and a Broadcasting Unit set up within the prison walls.
BTEC National Diploma in Creative Media Production
Central to the Media House project is the idea that participants’ self-confidence and self-esteem remains low if they have low expectations of themselves. The work in the House is therefore designed to be challenging, providing opportunities for participants to recognise their own abilities. The education provided is a 20 week Level 3 BTEC National Diploma in Creative Media Production and is delivered by Carshalton College. The college provides two tutors and both of these tutors have extensive film making and broadcasting experience. The current tutors are Sian Williams and Fiona Ring. The course covers camera techniques, editing, research, presentation and understanding the media industry. Graduates can apply to stay on beyond the end of their course and become part of the Broadcasting Unit, leading the production of programmes for the prison’s TV channel.
*Over project lifetime SINCE 2006
Time TV Broadcast Unit
This functions as a prison-based, community TV station, where project participants produce shows for broadcast within the prison on their own network, Time TV. The unit provides a ‘real work’ environment where participants can access on-the-job training and work that is creative, challenging, responsible and rewarding. The TV channel is a vital resource of communication for the prison being able to disseminate in accessible format information to a population that is inundated with official posters with a population that has very mixed reading abilities.
The project also seeks to provide routes into employment or further education on release and to this end provides work placements to graduates from Downview to other MFD projects as well as MFD’s filming arm, Inside Job Productions, independent production television production companies, and other media based companies. We work closely with the resettlement officer to find the best, appropriate placements and work opportunities for the women from the media house.
WHO TO CONTACT
For further information about this project, please contact our administrator Alice Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org.