Holloway lets prisoners swap cells for college

TOMORROW morning, Natalie will go to college, as she does every weekday. When she returns she will hand over her bag and be strip-searched before being locked in a cell for the night. For Natalie is serving a four-year sentence for fraud in Holloway jail.

Also tomorrow, Judge Stephen Tumim, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, will launch a report - Unlocking Potential - that will give official approval to Holloway's experiment in educational parole. Since September 1991, 16 women have been offered the chance to attend university access courses, which offer intensive study and a taste of degree subjects, at nearby colleges. Thirteen have passed, guaranteeing themselves a university place after their release.

Most did exceptionally well: 16 credits are necessary to pass; the women averaged around 20, and several achieved the maximum 24. Of the three who failed, only one broke her parole.

The women selected by prison education staff and governors for the courses, which cater for people aged over 21 with poor school records, were serving sentences from four to seven years, mostly for drug trafficking or dishonesty.

None had more than a few low-grade CSEs, and some had passed no exams at all, but they showed great enthusiasm - one even stayed in her cell on the morning of her release until she had finished her final essay. They chose access courses on new technology, science, business, design, media studies and humanities.

Natalie is attending a further education college in Hackney. Her course ends this summer, at the same time that, with good behaviour, she will leave jail. She could then take up a place at Essex University reading English and European literature. Like most of the women, she needed persuading to join the scheme.

'I thought - I'm in prison, you don't do things like that,' she said. 'When I was told I could go out on my own to be interviewed for the access course I was terrified. I begged one of the education tutors to come with me.'

The women are allowed out from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. They receive fares to college, and pounds 3.10 a day for meals - they miss both lunch and supper at the prison. They are strip-searched every morning and evening, and must leave forbidden items such as Tipp-Ex and pencil sharpeners at prison reception, although they can take in books and papers to work on in the evenings.

Judge Tumim's report says that most fellow prisoners and officers support the scheme, although some remand and deportee prisoners, who are forbidden to leave the prison unescorted, resent it, as do some officers whose shiftwork prevents them taking up educational opportunities themselves.

The prisoners varied in how much they told other students about themselves. 'When I said I was in Holloway they thought I was joking,' said Andrea, 28. 'One thought I was an officer.' Ann - jailed, like Andrea, for a drugs offence - told few on her course, and since being freed has told only the tutor on her business studies degree course. 'It was very hard never being able to be honest with the other students, to do the things they did in the evenings,' she said.

But studying from prison has its advantages. Prison education staff provide advice and the women are guaranteed food and shelter - some felt they were better off than fellow students - and there are few distractions. Three women took access courses after being freed, but none completed them.

Ewan Smith, the Holloway access tutor who organised the scheme, said: 'I could find 30 people to do a course tomorrow.'

But their chances may be in doubt. FE colleges have been removed from local authority control, so from September each access student will cost the Home Office more than pounds 500 instead of the pounds 15 concessionary fee now paid. And plans to privatise prison education, due in August, make it too uncertain to set up a course for September.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform