Maryse: Learners must be recognised for achievements

A prisoner's sister, Maryse, writes about the need to recognise learners' achievements:

"It is not often that the achievements of a prisoner are recognised by the 'outside world', or used to make a positive impact for others in a similar situation. Knowledge is power; education and skills are so important to creating better opportunities. It is true that prison puts people at a disadvantage, but there are things prisoners can do to stay out of trouble, develop skills, expand knowledge and not be seen as another statistic.

'Make the most of a bad situation' has got to be the best advice given to my brother Carl and now he has completed a BSc degree in Mathematics.

He is in the eighth year of a 16 year sentence, and to me he is using his time wisely and not letting his talents go to waste. From talking to Carl, it is clear it is not as easy as it should be. Access to materials differs from jail to jail. Access to computers and simple things like a calculator can be hard to find. He has had constant battles and frustrations trying to get hold of course materials, submitting coursework and sitting exams but the buzz he gets from his achievements outweigh the difficulties.

Support to learn

Carl has had great support from some of the education departments; his tutor has been excellent in assisting his long distance learning and the support from Prisoners' Education Trust proves there are people out there who will encourage you and help you create a positive image for yourself. Dedicating time to education will build your confidence, put positive statements on your review, which is a huge bonus for parole and moving through the prison system.

Carl is now studying for an Honours' degree which will lead him onto a Masters. After this he wants to expand into business and accountancy as he has the desire to run his own business, hiring ex-prisoners, giving them the opportunity they deserve. With his degree he could potentially go into accountancy, insurance, logistics, transport planning, market research, tutoring. Neither of us are naive to the fact of the hindrance of a criminal record but there are people willing to give prisoners a chance if they have something worth investing in. And working for yourself is not a bad idea if you have the right skills and knowledge behind you.

I am extremely proud of my brother and what he has achieved so far. I am excited to watch him graduate and see what comes next. I am pleased he has not classified himself as a write off and is working hard to prove all those who have that opinion wrong. I hope he can inspire others in a similar position to make use of their time. Prisoners have the right to learn, so why not make use of whatever facilities you can, and make the most of a bad situation. People may not immediately open doors but they won't keep them locked if you come up with something with listening to."

Read Carl's story.