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Prisoners bring realities home to pupils

PUBLISHED: 02:25 15 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:40 03 March 2010

PRISON will be the end of your life - that was the stark message given to a group of school children about to start out in their lives.

In a hard-hitting presentation, prison officers and inmates from Hollesley Bay dispelled the myths that being behind bars was a glamorous place to be.

PRISON will be the end of your life – that was the stark message given to a group of school children about to start out in their lives.

In a hard-hitting presentation, prison officers and inmates from Hollesley Bay dispelled the myths that being behind bars was a glamorous place to be.

At 15 you think you know it all, but a group of year 11 students from Kesgrave High were about to find out the real truth about life in prison.

In a 60 minute presentation entitled "Prison, Me – No Way" faces turned from quiet contemplation to sudden realisation, verging on fear.

These sessions have been running for around five years at schools around the county.

Hollesley Bay Officers John Smith and Jim Rainsford often do them in their own time, for no pay, because they are convinced the sessions get through to so many children.

One of the prisoners who did not want to be named is serving a life sentence.

He said that if he had known what these youngsters were finding out now, maybe life would have been different.

He said: "You would tend to listen to a prisoner more than an authority figure at that age."

Hollesley Bay runs both an open prison and a closed prison for juveniles, and it was life in the closed prison that the officers wanted to highlight.

Juveniles not being able to see their families, living in an 8ft x 9ft cell sometimes alone but sometimes sharing with drug addicts and murderers – not to mention the toilet, the sink, the bed and the cabinet.

Their own clothing taken away leaving them wearing the clothes and underwear that hundreds of other prisoners had worn before them, sleeping on stained mattresses and being subjected to strip searches if officers deemed it necessary.

Mr Rainsford took the youngsters on a journey through the humdrum day of a prisoner – for some, 23 hours a day in a cell is no lie.

Although there are televisions, pool tables and table tennis on offer during 'association time' in the evening, choice is still not an option.

Mr Rainsford said: "When the TV is on, the hardest guy in the room decides what you watch.

"You get to play table tennis and pool if the hardest guys let you get on there."

John Smith, who headed the presentation, left nothing to the imagination as he described the horrendous lives many inmates are subjected to because of violence and bullying that officers are fighting to control.

A selection of 'home made' weapons, including knives cobbled together from a razor blade melted into a toothbrush were shown to the children in an attempt to make them realise that prison was one of the most dangerous places they could ever be – even a phone card can be used as a weapon.

The intention was not to scare the audience but to make them think twice about entering into a life of crime.

He told them: "Life is not a dress rehearsal – once you have come into my world you are finished."

After the presentation Mr Smith said: "I have had teachers say to me that some of the pupils still remember the presentation two years later.

"I am not out to scare anyone – I just want to give them the choice."

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