Carl: “Maths stopped my brain turning to mush”

Carl, a prisoner who began his PET-funded Open University (OU) course in 2007, writes:

“At the age of 18 (9 years ago), I was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in prison. I remember at the time thinking, “I'm going to be in here forever and my sentence is only 2 years shy of how long I've been on this earth.” I felt hopeless, adopted a 'who cares' attitude, and found myself getting into trouble. I was sent over 100 miles away from my family.

“Nothing changed; if anything, things got worse. I was in this strange place with a volatile atmosphere and many different accents. I became such a nuisance that security wouldn’t clear me to do anything, and was left behind my door 23 hours a day watching television programmes, which started driving me insane. I felt my brain turning to mush and knew I needed to do something about it.

“Like most prisoners, my school experience was not the best. I hardly went to lessons, but if I did I’d frequently be sent out or suspended."

"Somehow I left school with some GCSEs, which was mostly due to my mother being a teacher and my dad being friends with my head teacher. After that, I was 'asked to leave' three different colleges, essentially ending my education.

“My parents always pushed the importance of education, and I suppose this was my chance to take their advice. There was much offered, so I looked for something I somewhat enjoyed doing and was not too bad at - maths. The more I looked into it I could see maths covered nearly everything: from finance to statistics to science to computers to building, it was all numbers.

“I asked the prison to sign me up, but was told I needed to work from Entry Level, pass my Level 1 and 2 numeracy and literacy, and then do my GCSEs and A Level before they could even consider me. Lucky for me, I could read; I got hold of an application form for the Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) and applied for their help. Soon after, I was informed that PET would support me and even fund one of my modules. I then got my course material and my studies began.

“It has been far from easy, but the one thing I've always had is the opportunity to learn. Now, 8 years down the line, I have completed my BSc in Mathematics. I firmly believe this would not have been possible without the support of PET, Open University, and some of the education departments at the various prisons I have been to. I would like to thank them for all their help."

Read Carl's sister Mary's perspective.