On Friday 1 July, Mary visited HMP Wakefield with the Shannon Trust charity, whose mission is to make ‘every prisoner a reader’.
Shannon Trust is currently working with HMP Wakefield to deliver its Turning Pages scheme to improve prisoner literacy rates.
Through Turning Pages, prisoners mentor fellow prisoners as they learn to read. On Friday, they talked to Mary about their experience on the programme, and she gave out ‘Award for Progress’ certificates to a number of inmates who are taking part in the programme as learners and mentors.
More than 40 per cent of prisoners have literacy skills so low that on release they are ineligible for more than 90 percent of jobs.
Not being able to read also reduces their access to training and rehabilitation programmes, reducing their chances of successful rehabilitation.
Many prisoners have specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia or disrupted school experience; too often it is simply that they didn’t have someone in their life with time and patience to teach them.
The one-to-one peer mentored approach of Shannon Trust Reading Plan appeals to prisoners who are reluctant to engage in classroom learning. It allows them to progress at their own pace and they gain confidence in themselves when they realise that they too can successfully learn to read.
Following the visit, Mary said: “It was fantastic to see the impact that the Shannon Trust’s work is having on improving prisoner literacy in Wakefield prison. If we are serious about giving offenders the best opportunities to rehabilitate and make a fresh start once they have served their sentences, programmes like Turning Pages are crucial. Let’s not forget that the Tories flip flopped on this issue, putting prisoner rehabilitation under threat and costing taxpayers more money in the long term.”
One learner said: “I’m not saying my reading and writing are perfect but doing Turning Pages has opened more avenues for me now. I feel more positive in asking for help and wanting to do further education.”
For more information on the Shannon Trust, visit www.shannontrust.org.uk.