Criminology students send ‘distraction packs’ to inmates at 25 prisons
A group of criminology students have created ‘distraction packs’ for prisoners after examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the lives of inmates.
The University of Suffolk students found that prisoners were spending longer in their cells as a result of the crisis.
Criminology lecturer Laura Polley, who worked with students on creating the packs, said: “As an ex-prison officer myself, I recognised the strain my former colleagues were under.
“When discussing this with students, I framed it as: ‘Picture being on lockdown in your bathroom. Replace the bath with a bed; eating, sleeping and spending 23 hours a day in there. Then add another fully grown person.
“My students understandably empathised with prisoners, and I gave them some ideas for how we could help to alleviate some of the strain on prisons, using paper-based activities.
“The term ‘distraction pack’ is used widely in prisons already. However, these tend to be puzzle books and stress balls etc.
“In terms of the reception, it has been fantastic. We have now provided 25 prisons with these resources. From an academic perspective, in-cell activity packs are crucial during lockdown to ensure the wellbeing of prisoners is maintained.
“Solitary confinement is really anxiety-inducing, so anything that helps alleviate that is useful and can take the pressure off prison officers. At the moment, visits have been cancelled and workshops have been closed, so prison officers are their only source of support.”
Prisons including HMP Brixton, Stafford, Isle of Wight, Nottingham and Hull have all benefitted from the packs.
Student Chloe Potkins said: “After learning so much about prisons and prisoners, it was a chance to actually do something.
“We have included Sudoku puzzles and word searches in the packs.
“It was really lovely when Laura sent us an update telling us about the reaction from the prisons. It felt like a ‘full circle’ moment from studying penology and then potentially supporting prisoners’ mental health while in lockdown.”
Fellow student, Kayleigh Haney added: “I am pleased that so many prisons have wanted them and how far the packs have spread, and I hope it has made a difference to them.”
Visit uos.ac.uk/criminology for more about the course.
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