Durham University students study alongside prisoners


Third year undergraduates at Durham University are studying alongside prisoners at high security HMP Frankland, in a unique 10-week module of their Criminology course.


Durham University is offering third year undergratuates in Criminology a new and completely unique experience, the opportunity to study alongside prisoners at HMP Frankland. The 'Inside-Out' programme gives students the chance to work with a group of inmates for a 10-week module that counts towards their degree.

The Inside-Out programme is run by Durham University with two local prisons and will now be expanded to a third, having been described as potentially life-changing for both undergraduates and inmates. 

Set up a year ago, groups of students were taken into Frankland and the lower category HMP Durham for ten intensive three-hour weekly sessions with inmates. In addition to this being a great learning experience for Durham University students, both "inside" and "out" students received the same formal academic credit, as well as a certificate, for completing the course.

The benefits of this for both the inmates and the undergraduates cannot be underestimated. As is well documented, real-life experience is absolutely crucial to any aspiring graduate, with work placement opportunities rising to an all-time high. For a Criminology student, what could be more 'real life' than working alongside prisoners, the people they have often been studying for the past two years. Fiona Measham, Professor of Criminology at the University of Durham said “We have gained a deeper understanding of humanity and the inhumanity of the prisoners’ experiences”, something that can only help in the students chosen field.

For the inmates, the benefits could be even better. Many prisoners state that they feel dehumanised by their time in prison. Not only does this have an affect on the confidence and desire to improve of these individuals in the short-term, but it can also have a terrible long-term effect of rehabilitating and re-entering the world when released.

Professor Measham has stated that “The prisoners say they feel like humans again for the part of the week they do the course.” This is fundamental for these inmates and the opportunity to work alongside these students can lead to a real increase in the drive and determination to turn their lives around through education.

There have also been some surprising results in the programme, with inmates coming top of the class in many areas of the module. This is a testament to prison education standards in the country, which are rising fast. For example, a number of these prisoners are already studying at a university level, through the use of the Open University. Even 10 years ago this would be almost unthinkable, but thanks to a serious commitment to rehabilitation through education, prisoners are better equipped than ever for release.


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