HMP Downview prison for women to become a male Category C prison.

Within a couple of hours of this morning’s announcement about HMP Downview, I received an email from one of the graduates of the Level 3 BTEC in Media Production we run there.

‘It really is so sad!  The course offers a lot of value to women.  It is so important to have something productive and creative to do to help towards rehabilitation and resettlement.”

We’ve been running the Media House in HMP Downview for the past ten years and over that time 180 women have achieved the level 3 qualification.  The course is an engaging and effective way to gain some of the essential skills of today’s job market – the ability to meet deadlines, to work as part of a team, to use computers, present yourself confidently, to sift and present information – and those graduates who have then left prison have an impressive track record of finding work in a range of different organizations and capacities.

The prison staff at Downview have been fantastically supportive over these last years and we hope to carry on running similar provision in its new incarnation, but it’s impossible not to regret the passing of this particular opportunity for women.  Niace’s recent report ‘Learning for Women in Prison’ stresses the particular need for women’s education to ‘support women to develop higher levels of self esteem and confidence’ and we have testimonies from all our graduates about just how much the course has helped them in this respect.  Students’ films have often reflected an important personal journey: how they prepare themselves for release; how they cope in prison without the support of a family; how they deal with being away from their children, often for the first time.

We have a graduation ceremony where families are invited to see the work and so often there’s just one response:

‘I had no idea she had it in her to do something like that.’

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