Neville Lawrence campaigns for murderers

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Neville Lawrence, the father of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered by racists in 1993, has been conducting weekly face-to-face meetings with some of Britain's most violent criminals inside Brixton prison for the past seven months.

Mr Lawrence believes passionately that convicted murderers and other serious offenders should be treated with greater humanity and afforded improved conditions behind bars, and he sees it as his responsibility to offer encouragement and support.

His commitment is particularly remarkable given that the racist gang that murdered Stephen, 18, at a south London bus stop eight years ago, has never been put behind bars.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Lawrence said he would be "prepared to help anybody," even killers, and that he bore no bitterness towards those who had murdered his son.

"Even the boys who killed my son, I don't have any hatred for them. These guys were brought up with hatred. They thought they were the 'be it all' and minority people didn't count; if you killed one of them it didn't matter. Sometimes when people have done something wrong or are in prison, there are those in the Prison Service who feel that person should lose their rights as a human being and they should be able to do what they like to that person. That's wrong."

Absenteeism among jail staff was leading to inmates remaining locked in their cells and unable to gain access to education and skills classes, he said. "I wish there was a way that could be found of letting in extra [staff] when 20 or 30 officers are off work so that prisoners' work is not disrupted."