‘Bars in their Eyes’ project
‘Bars in their Eyes’ is an interactive teaching project for prisoners. Student lawyers work with prison resettlement staff to inform prisoners of their legal rights and their legal obligations under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in an engaging and entertaining way.
Many offenders can lose their jobs or go back to prison just through a lack of knowledge of the Act and the information they disclose on their job application forms. The project was initiated to tackle this problem.
To stimulate and maintain interest, information about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is presented in an entertaining and interactive way often using celebrities who have been convicted of criminal offences as examples. Prisoners felt more confident about their own prospects after hearing about how some famous people had broken the law, and yet managed to get through it and go on to build successful careers.
The presentation, handouts and quiz are tailored to meet the needs of different age groups. This model, involving the participation of prisoners in the learning process has proved to be very successful, and has been delivered in prisons and Youth Offender Institutions by other law schools in different parts of the country.
Impact on Lives
A high percentage of prisoners fail to find paid work after leaving prison and re-offending can be as high as 74% for prisoners who fail to find accommodation and employment.
There has been an increase in the number of young offenders. Many have poor literacy and numeracy skills and research has found that nearly three quarters have been excluded from school at some stage. Finding work on leaving prison is life line for many young people.
Alexander Simmonds from Nottingham Law School created ‘Bars in their Eyes’ following work experience in HMP Doncaster in 2007. Alex created and developed links with the prisons involved as well as managing volunteers and co-ordinating the delivery of the presentations. Since leaving law school Alex has continued with the project and plans to expand it nationwide through other law schools.
In 2009, Alex was awarded the runner-up award in the LawWorks and Attorney Generals Student Awards in the category of ‘best contribution by an individual’, and was ‘highly commended’ in the category of ‘best new student pro bono activity’.
Published: 24 January 2009