Education brings families separated by prison together

3 Dec 2014

At Prisoners’ Education Trust’s Carol Concert on 2nd December 2014, visitors gained an insight into the experiences of people in prison with speeches from guests including Terry Waite CBE who recalled his memories of spending Christmas in captivity, PET alumnus Junior Smart and Maryse, who spoke about her brother, Carl, a current PET learner.

Maryse said her brother’s education has had a positive impact on the entire family and spoke proudly about his achievements.

Maryse says: “Education is so important no matter what your situation and in prison it is all the more essential.”

"Everyone loves education, whether you like to admit it or not. It doesn't necessarily mean going to classes or doing coursework, we all learn when we try something new. We do it for many reasons; to better ourselves, expand our horizons, and for a personal sense of achievement. The world is your oyster.

“However when your world shrinks to four walls with a barbed wire perimeter and you are effectively rejected by society, what do you do? This is the situation my brother found himself in nearly 10 years ago. He went through various emotions including anger, denial, frustration, and boredom. He was getting into mischief, spent way too much time watching TV and finding himself in pointless situations just for something to do. Then one day he turned up to an education fair and had a look at what he could do, and he found out about Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET). He started to recap on what he used to enjoy and came across Mathematics and when he signed up for a degree with the Open University, funded by PET, everything changed.

“Unlike other students he was learning alone without classmates, without computer access and at times without a calculator thus restricting his access to certain modules. He was moved to 10 different prisons throughout his course, and had little or no support from some of the prisons, making it hard to get course material or even submit coursework or be entered for exams. However with PET’s support, six years later he got his BSc degree in Mathematics.

“I've never had a prouder moment than when he received his certificate at his graduation ceremony earlier this year. His hard work and dedication meant that he got to be with his entire family, something that had not been possible since 2005. He sat in a chair in his graduation gown with about 10 education professionals and PET staff praising him for his achievements - something no prisoner expects.

“As a family we are so pleased that he made a conscious decision neither to be a statistic nor what society expects of people in prison. He has proven that with perseverance and dedication you can still achieve the things you could if the world was still your oyster. He has now begun studying Business and we have seen a huge change in his confidence. He has a great outlook on life and is adamant he will be on The Apprentice and looks forward to setting up his own business working with ex-prisoners. He has inspired those around him, including myself.

“One of the best things for me is that when someone asks me what my brother does I can proudly say 'he is studying a degree in maths'. Education is so important no matter what your situation, and in prison it is all the more essential. This is why the work of Prisoners’ Education Trust is so vital. Access to education changes perspectives and opens up opportunities for the future.”

PET is grateful for the generous support of Phoenix Equity Partners, the choir Fever Pitch who gave a captivating performance leading congregational carols, and to St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, for hosting the event.

Approximately £2,300 was raised to support prisoner learners in 2015. We thank everyone who came and donated for their support.