Russell’s story: “I hadn’t picked up a pencil in 15 years”

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Russell | 03 June 2020

The word degree is an intimidating one, especially for someone expelled from school at 13, and sent off to the destructive environment of a pupil referral unit.

Russell. Partners. 2020. Pencil and collage on paper.

Because of this, I barely scraped by in my GCSEs, and never realised my predicted grades.

As a student, all my school reports made for familiar reading:

“Russell can be disruptive in the classes, and his behaviour distracts the other students, however, Russell is intelligent, and finds the classwork easy when he puts his mind to it.”

“I have never reached my full potential”

I have made a lot of wrong turns in life, but I refuse to regret any bad decisions. Without all the trials and tribulations, I would have never become the man I am proud to be.

If I was to regret one thing, it would be the fact I have never reached my full potential in terms of education; something I am taking steps to rectify.

Russell. Education is the Key. 2020. Pen on paper.

I have always had a natural talent for art, and by the age of 11, I was working at GCSE level. Unfortunately, I was never able to see it through.

“I have fallen back in love with art”

For the last couple of years, I have been working hard to achieve academic qualifications, and I see this degree as a vital part of the puzzle.

Since I arrived at HMP Pentonville, I have studied Philosophy and Criminology.

This experience has given me confidence in my ability and, for the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in an educational setting.

I had not picked up a pencil in 15 years, but, in Pentonville, I have fallen back in love with art, and for the last eighteen months, I have been the Art & Design class-assistant.

This degree I am starting will help me to achieve my goals in life, and to find work involving art, after being released.

Russell was part of the team that wrote and designed a commemorative book marking HMP Pentonville’s 20-year partnership with PET.

You can read an interactive version of the book here.

© Prisoners' Education Trust 2020

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