The original spelling, grammar and syntax have been retained.
I’m a criminal, lived a great life o’crime;
Gunshots n’ blood, or gold from time ta’time.
Sittin’ in prison, I wish I changed that life o’mine
Eatin’ gruel n’ feelin’ every minute grind.
Now I aint’ dim, n’know not all poetry hasta’ rhyme,
But I’ll give this one a shot, to see if I can shine.
Neva’ been educated n’ from the school of ‘ard knocks,
Feelin’ hated n’ fightin’ with soap bars in socks.
I’ve seen fings that’d turn your ‘edd inside-out,
But my ‘art sings for opportunity, to no-longer be a lout.
I no-longer wanna be a gangster, a fug or a vandal,
I wanna study, education, sumfin’ fun I can ‘andle.
So ‘ere I am, tryin’ for a degree or just an award,
Givin’ all I got, I’m so tired of bein’ bored.
I’m not gonna’ rest, I gotta’ do sumfin’ ta’ change my luck,
Doin’ my best, prisoners ask “Why bother, who gives a fuh?”
Education can be done with ease and helps time fly,
determination produces opportunities, that’s why!
Day after day, I learn how to spell, write and speak,
Using all I’ve learnt to improve, week after week.
Why not have a hand in your own fate?
Write a new chapter and forget the hate.
Knowledge is my gun and words my ammunition,
Conquering degrees and PhD’s, is my ambition.
These are big words whens silence is broken by a yob,
Incommensurability personified when spoken by a snob!
Now I’m not saying this will win any prizes,
But if opportunity knocks, be the one that rises.
Don’t let your person time fall by the wayside,
You can still make a difference and fill hearts with pride.
Who knows? It might be heard by the nation,
It’s worth writing every word, if it gives others inspiration.
As for now its bang, doors lock, lights off, night night,
Just remember; at the end of this road, there is always more light.
Education’s really helped
My time in HMP
left school with no qualifications
A-levels or GCSE’s
Turned to crime to survive
Stole food to stay alive
And in the process
Pushed family to the side
But I knew that one day
My crime would fail
I would be caught
And spend time in jail
I was in my cell for months
Unable to get a job
The stress was killing me
Didn’t know if I could go on
Then one day I was reading
And right out of the blue
A slip came under my door
“Education has allocated you”
I started the next day
And I must admit
Wasn’t really optimistic
Thought it would be s**t
But in only 5 weeks
I have truely learned
More in that time
Than my school taught me in a year
First I was in art
Started using stencils
learned different painting styles
And types of shading pencils
Next there was Music
No clues of where to start
But now I play the drums
And a few songs on the guitar
I now have qualifications
More than I could’ve foreseen
All thanks to education
For taking a chance on me
No longer feel depressed
I am actually over-happy
As I spend my sentence
As an NHS healthcare orderly
When I get released
I may now stand a chance
It’s all down to education
From the bottom of my heart, thanks
You’ve got to be in it to win it
I love competitions they are great
Ive got to admit this ones tough
I hope it gets there on the right date.
I still havent been sentenced
Its all thats on my mind
but whatever the outcome
I will knuckle down + do my time
See all ive known for the past few years
is long nights, prostitution + drugs
I want to be a better person
to carry on this life id be a mug.
As my door opened for unlock
Staff said, “your on a course for 8 weeks”.
I havent learnt anything in years
I thought learning was for geeks.
So i got into my cleaning class
+ met a lovely woman called Ilene
Ive now learnt shes firm but fair
and wants you to follow your dreams
The girls in the class are fab
and we always have a laugh
learning at the same time
and we’ll have the cleanest of gaffs
Prison is helping me this time
and ill gladly say its deffo my last
I want to make my family proud
and want the past to be the past
my 7 kids are only gettin older
and they need a drug free mum
thats why im now ready
to think any different would be dum!
This is dedicated to the inspirers
Who make us believe it is possible
That while being serving prisoners
We can go and obtain a doctorate
My self-coined turn of phrase is
‘It’s all about the documents’
2:1s and FIRSTS
Those are super documents
How do we educate
When we weren’t even college kids?
Expelled from school beforehand
head teachers gave us rollickings
Hence likely to be indicted for
High profile murder and robbery
No regard for authority
We were hungry to escape poverty
Trying to survive inside
Got us fast-tracked to solitary
Spending my time wall-gazing
I felt like I was wasting my qualities
In these isolative moments
Came clarity and the prophecy
A seminal message got transmitted
‘SEGREGATION SPACE IS NOT FOR ME’
I since unlearned how to fight
I saw violent practices as obsolete
Instead I learned how to write
And correctly use apostrophes
I did a complete 180°
Like the angles in an isosceles
Set up camp on enhanced wings
And took drug tests voluntary
I conversed with philosophers
And performed my philosophies
I’ve mulled over many schools of thought
Like I’ve been trained by Socrates
And one day when we’re ancient
They’ll wonder, how did we survive justice policies
And rise to the occasion
To become part of mythology
I bring back focus to the inspirers
Who make us believe it is possible
That we can mentally bounce back with gusto
And go and obtain a doctorate
Once disgruntled in the dungeons
Because society ruled them dishonourable
Now they’re geniuses with honours
They should be seen as gentlemen RIGHT HONOURABLE
Graduation ceremony like a victory parade
Spectators applaud, prideful and cacophonous
Cap and gown demands acknowledgement
Your achievements are phenomenal
With my own personal business studies
I hope I’m one day able to follow yas
And turn from a wild dog to a more intelligent one
Like an infectious Border collie dog
Because I see education as the greatest restorative
But that’ll be subject to infinite commentary
For now we sit with pride for the outliers, the anomalies
Who literally took change to the next degree
And showed us all new angles
Not knowing what I wanted to do,
in a life that has been unkind.
So many days feeling blue,
I know happiness I must find.
It has been a long time coming,
but I now know what I want to do.
No electric courses or plumbing,
but help for prisoners is what is due.
I have engaged in Maths and English
to get where I need to be.
No more times in anguish
this is somethink that will set me free
Prison is a difficult time for many,
PET courses can give us hope.
It won’t cost us a single penny,
so untie your hands from that rope
My future is set on helping others,
In a place that can break you down.
Tired of losing family and lovers,
It’s time to turn that frown upside down.
Thats it, its done, Ive really pushed it this
No getting of in court for this with a fine!
The judge told me, “its time to change your ways,
So he give me 2 sentence of 4yrs 8mths & 5days,
I couldn’t believe it, panic setting in, heart starts
I bet my family & friends could tell by the look on my face.
The look, I never want to see again, they all looked
I thought in the end, this place woulda driven
All this coz of drugs, alcohol mainly crack,
I guess I’ll have to just cope and bounce back.
Now its time to learn new skills, I hope stops the
My heads shot, working over time in this silence.
Going to groups and seeing mental health for Quite
hopefully after all this, Ill get out and be just fine.
Enough is enough, I dont want to live my life
But only I can change the things I need to is
what they say.
Today, I’m feeling like I have some great prospects, despite being in prison with 20 years left to serve; I have good ambition.
Education has been the foundation from which I’ve developed a growing sense of self-belief, which I didn’t have before, but step by step I have flourished more and more, over the last 7 years.
Gained 22 qualifications, became an education mentor. I enjoyed helping others to realise their own potential and watch their confidence grow. Became a Library Orderly. I went on to gain further achievements, which wouldn’t have been the case if it wasn’t for P.E.T, who kindly funded my first G.C.S.E at the age of 33! An A.Star was the result, and this was like a special gift to me, because at the young age of 8, I was permanently excluded from mainstream education.
Emotional victim of sexual molestation, silenced by shame, confusion and fear. Behaving disruptively, an expression of my inner anguish…
I was 13 when a placement in a ‘special school’ finally arose – 2 hours a day, 3 days a week, but it didn’t last for long; teachers saw I had a good level of learning ability, and that my behavior wasn’t the same as described 5 years previously, so I was back on a waiting list for a more suitable location…
But at this time in my life I had long grown up with friends in the same situation, we shoplifted on a daily, and had no sense of academic aspiration.
Every other week end up in a police station, not ever really acknowledging how this would soon work out to our detriment…
My criminal behavior was a barrier as I reached adulthood, couldn’t get a job, continued to break the law, as I couldn’t find a fresh path; would comfort myself with weed and alcohol, not realising I was digging myself a deeper hole to sink into.
In and out of prison, homelessness & depression, stress and heaps of aggression, never any progression, never learning the lesson, wallowing in self-pity, led to other forms of depravity, rock cocaine, heroin, even prostitution; suicide attempts – ashamed of my self-exploitation, always chose the wrong solution, could never rise above; eye tears as I write now as I realise I had no self-love…
But today I see hope on the horizon, I’ve gained so much insight studying A level Sociology – again, thanks to P.E.T! This time got a ‘B’! My confidence has risen, academically growing, creative energy positively flowing, 4 highly commended awards from the Koestler Awards…
2022 has brought me great blessings!
The desire to truly better oneself
is where reform begins,
plus remorse for your offences, and
prayerful thoughts for your victims,
Since the age of 12 I’ve built up 54 convictions, something I’m not proud of, but this reflects a lot – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always got…
In prison, education has been one key area of stability for me, and where I still have 2 decades left to serve, I am not prioritised for any programme addressing offending behaviour. However, I have sought to address some of the issues surrounding my offending, I’ve engaged in distance learning courses with the charity, Alternatives to Violence Project, and also Criminon UK, who provide personal-development courses such as ‘Restoring Self-Respect’, ‘Understanding & Overcoming Addiction’ which are also accredited.
I’m about to study a course provided by Prisoners’ Education Trust, ‘Understanding Substance Misuse’ at Level 3.
All these things I believe , will shape my future for the best fresh start.
Thank you so much to the charities named above.
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
Being in prison can leave you feeling hopeless, demoralised and at times lacking self-belief. I know this from first-hand experience. I have been on an emotional roller-coaster, searching for something positive to give me hope, focus and a true sense of purpose. Education has helped me in so many aspects of my life and I have been on a learning journey since the day I decided to re-engage with education. The word journey is key because it allowed me to create a real change in my life. That change did not happen overnight, it came about by me setting goals and putting 100% effort into studying. I set myself goals which subsequently led me to completing a number of educational qualifications such as, Peer Mentoring Level 2, IAG (Information Advice and Guidance) Level 2, Employability Skills, as well as undertaking training to support others through the Shannon’s Trust mentoring scheme.
Completing this work gave me a sense or pride, purpose and self-confidence. Thanks to the Prisoners Education Trust funding my Open University Access Module I completed Arts and Languages with a distinction which is something I am proud of. This gave me the motivation to pursue a degree in Business Management (Economics). I am now in my Third year of studying and the assistance and funding I initially received from PET was instrumental in reigniting the flame I had inside of me to study and achieve. At first, I was apprehensive about studying at university level especially from the confines of a prison cell however, it soon became apparent that having something positive to focus on was the best escape mentally and physically given my circumstances.
Studying has not only given me a sense of purpose but has also given me important life skills which are transferrable such as perseverance and problem solving which I can use in everyday life as well as on my educational journey. I was given the opportunity to learn and achieve and I grabbed it with both hands. Education is about more than just reading and writing. It is about growing as a person and using the knowledge we have attained in order to better our own lives and the lives of our peers. It is more important than just the ending its about the journey. Our failures as well as our successes.
I never thought I would be doing a BA HONS degree in Business Management especially not in prison. It is my long-term goal to become self employed post-release and I now feel that I have the tools and skills to achieve this goal regardless of my past. Education has given me a second chance and I hope it will do the same for my peers. The journey I have been on has made me believe. I believe I have a purpose. I believe I have been given a second chance. I believe education is the key and although I am incarcerated education has unlocked my mind.
I know now what people mean when they say knowledge is power. This is something I live by now and I know I can reach my full potential, we all can. How do I know this? Well it’s simple, because knowledge is power and education is key. Remember, don’t count your time, make your time count.
September 2019, I arrived at the jail terrified of what was ahead for me. Aged 55 and previously an upstanding citizen I knew nothing of incarceration. Previously I had served time in the forces so decided to treat my first weeks like “square bashing”. Get to know the rules and how everything is run as well as what is expected of me. This is when I came upon my first major hurdle. The P.I.D (prisoner information desk). Run by prisoners for prisoners, and I thought a great way to begin to understand how the regime was run. It became painfully obvious that those working the desk didn’t care or just could not be bothered to help anyone, never mind a newbie with a lot of questions. My pad mate was brilliant and steered me in the right direction so despite P.I.D I got the information I needed to survive. It was then that I set out to become a P.I.D worker myself or any other position that would give me a chance to help other prisoners.
To become a P.I.D worker I needed level 2 Maths and English and level 2 I.A.G (information, Advice and Guidance). This created my second problem. Although I classed myself as educated I could not prove it. I left school in 1982 so my records were no longer available. Because of this I had to sit an assessment in both. I assessed at level 2, and thought this would mean I could move on to the I.A.G. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, Education insisted I begin with the level one courses. My disappointment wasn’t that I had to do this. I love education. It was the time it would take me to get to the standard I needed, to even apply for work that would enable me to help other. That had me frustrated. I also wanted to get some distant learning courses in, but again the criteria meant I would have to get level 2 to apply.
Four weeks later I began the trek that would help me to towards my goals. By February 2020 I had completed level 1 English and Maths, and even though I wasn’t at level 2 had been accepted for the I.A.G course. I was feeling optimistic. I had also successfully passed level 1 and level 2 Health and Safety in the workshop and was training others how to use the sewing equipment. I felt I was helping even in a small way. It was a start.
A week later and I was moved to another HMP establishment and had to start all over again! I hadn’t as yet received my certificate for Maths so I was forced to do the assessments again, assessed again at level 2 (finding out later level 2 was the highest you could achieve). I enrolled on to the English course which I completed the Friday before Covid 19 closed everything down.
Welcome to in cell learning.
I had already began writing different types of poetry, and story lines for a story I had promised my children I would one day write. Before prison I dabbled in a bit of poetry. I entered a selection of my poems in to the Koestler awards, having won a library competition for “Windrush 1948” I was quite hopeful.
Before moving another inmate helped me with the drawings for my writings, I couldn’t draw a stick man. However I realised I would either have to find someone else or do them myself. Now in lock down my options became me. I put in a general Application requesting to be able to do art in cell. I was sent first level 1 and when completed, level
2. From then and on I have constantly had some artwork on the go. My characters and artwork for my writings are now all done myself, I really enjoy writing with a picture in mind to follow up with. That really helped me keep myself busy through lock down.
I then completed my level 2 English before deciding I would like to use my art and writing as a business after my release. While I waited for an I.A.G course to become available I enrolled onto courses that could help me in business. I studied Specific Learning Difficulties level 2 followed by level 1 Enterprise, finishing with level 2 Customer Services. These completed I eventually got a place on the I.A.G. early 2021, which I gained the level 2 in. this allowed me to apply for the role as the prison I.A.G. champion. I also received five certificates of accomplishment from the Koestler awards 2020, and wonderful hand written feedback. About that time I joined the Shakespeare Club as part of the cast of Othello, also creating the magazine front cover art work.
Now I had the required qualifications I started looking for a distant learning course that would be of benefit to my goals. I applied for PET funding for the Creative Writing course. In August after a successful interview I get the job in I.A.G, the only drawback to this was I now could not be a Listener as both jobs were in conflict, I could do one or the other but not both. As I had worked so hard for the job I chose I.A.G. My skill levels in art were also coming on in leaps and bounds. Due to the continued look down, I didn’t begin the I.A.G. job until late September by which time I had started the ITQ course. I was a few weeks in to the role when my Creative Writing course came through, funded by PET.
Then guess what? I was moved again! I was so disappointed even distressed but despite my complaints there was no changing minds. I was a few weeks into my new job, just started my Creative Writing and a week away from the opening day of Othello. I was truly gutted.
Moving on again
October 29th 2021. I arrived at my new prison to find that although the one I had come from was in level 1 covid the new one was still in level 4. Back to full lock down. I continued my art and writing but could not get anywhere trying to get feedback for the Creative Writing work I had sent, or instructions on how to send new work for marking. It took till March 2022 before it was sorted out and I could continue my work. I did manage to get 12 weeks in the Art class and learned even more new skills. I entered four art pieces and a pamphlet of poetry for the Koestler awards, fingers crossed. I have since completed level 2 in Self Employment. Learnt to do Braille in the work shop and finally completed my Creative Writing.
At the time of writing this I have become a Wing Buddy helping those who cannot help themselves, studying a Team Leaders level 2 course and have applied for more PET funding for A level English language.
Without the education support in prison I don’t know where I would be. It has helped me immensely, giving me the tools I believe I need to survive on the out. Even at 55 Educating Michael has been possible. Just remember, inside or outside we often get knocked down….. you know the rest.
© Prisoners' Education Trust 2023