Behind Bars

Is prison a place for Punishment, Retribution or Rehabilitation? A group of Sociology, Law and Public Services students considered this at ‘Behind Bars’ a conference run by True Life conferences. The day featured real life released prisoners discussing all types of crime.  Students listened to speakers including a forensic psychologist, Brian, a successful businessman who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years imprisonment for the embezzlement of 21 million pounds, and Jim who has spent over 19 years Behind Bars.  He started a life of crime at the age of seven, shop lifting from local business.  Eventually after spending several years in care homes and young offender institutes, Jim eventually became a full time burglar. The conference was relevant to all three subjects with links to all of their specifications and enhanced the curriculum. For example, in Sociology the second year students study the unit 'crime and deviance'. The interactive lectures and more in-depth Q&A sessions brought topics alive for students and provided them with real life experiences that they will be able to apply to their learning. For example, in Sociology students need to understand what white collar crime is, why it happens, why it is less detectable, they need to be able to analyse why people commit crime and how a person's background can influence the likelihood of crime and also how important the labelling process is. All of these things were touched upon by the speakers. A lot of the A level students that took part in the conference are going on to study criminology/ forensic psychology related courses at university, so the conference was an excellent addition to their classroom studies. 

The students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and gave us some feedback –

Lara Keville, previously at Marlborough College, currently studying Sociology.

‘The conference was insightful and the speakers challenged the stereotypes society holds of criminals through their approachability and willingness to answer questions to further our knowledge as sociologists.’

Liam Jenkins, previously at Farnham Heath End School, currently studying Sociology.

‘The speakers' experiences were interesting, captivating and informative. We were able to gain an in depth view of how the prison environment is, as opposed to the 'holiday home' portrayal we are given by the media, which is extremely useful for the 'Crime and Deviance' topic in Sociology.’

Annie McMullan, previously at Eggar’s School, currently studying Sociology and Psychology.

‘I found the conference really interesting. We were able to see how society has labelled individuals who have committed crimes and how this label has affected their life outside of prison. I'd highly recommended the conference!’

Emmy Hunt, previously at Mill Chase Academy, currently studying Sociology, Law and Psychology. 

‘The conference provided an extremely valuable perspective on prison life and the criminal justice system. It highlighted some of the problems with the criminal justice system and taught me that the law isn't perfect.’

Katie Carlisle, previously at Eggar’s School, currently studying Law.

‘I found the conference really valuable and fascinating. Not only to put academic studies to practise by having to apply knowledge when faced with real life situations, but, also on a personal level the hearing from the man who committed murder really impacted me. I've always been an extremely law abiding citizen in every institute I'm involved with but it hit home to encourage friends, siblings, and even acquaintances to make good decisions because as shown, even really normal nice people can find themselves in trouble from making a split second choice.’

Yvette Wands, teacher of Law said: ‘This was a hugely valuable opportunity for our Law students, which challenged their thinking as to offenders and what it means to be imprisoned. It also highlighted issues we've been exploring in the classroom as part of the A-level Law specification, such as proposed reforms to the law on murder.’

Find out more about studying at Alton College here