Exterior of HMP Pentonville Prison

HMP Pentonville launches new course to help promote rehabilitative culture

An Islington prison has partnered with the University of Westminster to train staff in how to create a rehabilitative environment for the prisoners.

Leadership in Rehabilitative Cultures is the second collaboration between Islington prison HMP Pentonville and the University of Westminster.

The scheme focuses on educating staff across the prison in how to create a culture within the facility that would make prisoners less likely to reoffend.

Jose Aguiar, a prison educator at HMP Pentonville who came up with the concept, said: “We want to create an environment where prisoners can flourish, and hopefully not return.”

Aguiar teamed up with Dr Tom Moore, the Associate Head of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Westminster, in order to plan the curriculum of the course. 

Leadership in Rehabilitative Cultures will cover a wide range of content including mental health in prisons, resilience, leadership and communication. 

The course also focuses on looking at the importance of education in prison and the limitations of deterrence theory.

Aguiar also believed it was important to help staff gain a wider understanding of prison systems and how it can be improved.

He said: “We look at comparing prisons in terms of what we do here in relation to what Norway, the US and Brazil does.

“We also look at whether the prison system works in general and the importance of the role that prisons play in leading to desistance and reoffending.”

Staff across the whole prison will be able to take part in the course and it will not be limited to the correctional officers. 

Aguiar said: “It’s for people working across different departments.

“I think it is really important for everybody that works in prison to be aware of these issues.”

Classroom where HMP Pentonville's staff are being trained.

The course will take a practical approach with staff placing an intervention at Pentonville as part of their final assessment in order to put the different topics they have learnt into practice.

While the course only recently begun, there has already been a positive impact with improved communication between staff already noticed in the prison.

Speaking on this, Aguiar said: “In the prison people usually work in silence, and there is little communication between the different departments.

“After the first session one of the positive outcomes was that people from different departments were meeting and communicating with each other and gaining knowledge about these other departments.”

This is the second course HMP Pentonville have created in association with the University of Westminster.

Prisons and Desistance was launched in 2016 and aims to give prisoners a taste of higher education.

The course allows prisoners at Pentonville to study remotely and in person in the prisons library alongside Criminology students at Westminster and gain a level 3 accreditation.

Andreas Aresti, a senior lecturer in Criminology at Westminster, teaches on both courses.

He commented: “We are trying to recreate the university environment within the prison walls. 

“Some of the guys would say to us ‘I love coming here, for two and a half hours I forget that I am in prison’.”

Arresti, who previously did a sentence in Pentonville, added: “I always say at their graduations that I wish we had something like this when I was here.”

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