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What is the elephant in the room for people in prison?

Posted January 25th 2017 by Alice

An inflatable elephant

A few months ago I shared how co-production can be used to help people who have been in prison so it was great to be at an event hearing about this in action.

As part of Fire Starter Week 2017 I went to 100 Stories: Sharing experience and sharing evidence to strengthen Scotland’s co-production movement. We heard from Sarah Currie who shared on the work she has been doing as the national lead for co-production and community capacity building. Pete White then spoke about how he works with people who have been deliberately excluded from society. Pete himself has spent time in prison and this has given him the real life experience of just how judged people are when they leave prison. Pete has worked tirelessly to challenge the perceptions people have about people who have been in prison through making changes in legislation and by ensuring different language is used so people are not permanently tarred by labels like ‘offenders’ and ‘ex-offenders’. Pete explained that he was aware of how much privilege he had in prison as he was able to read and write, had no mental health difficulties nor addictions and he had the safety of knowing where he would live when he left.

Pete’s campaigning was supported by The Robertson Trust. One thing that really struck me was the importance of being non-judgemental. Pete explained how he had told the Robertson Trust straight away that he had been in prison; the response he got was simply a question of how he found it which he said was the best response he has ever had to him sharing his experience. The Robertson Trust saw that Pete’s experience meant he could use his experience to help other people who are, or have been, in prison.

Pete has so far worked on several areas for making life better for people in prison and those who have left. From challenging the practice of releasing people from prison on Fridays (when services close early so it’s harder to access help with housing and medication so suicide rates are much higher), challenging dehumanising language that is used and changing procedures so people in prison can open bank accounts, Pete has already made a huge impact on the perception of people in prison.

Pete explained how the label ‘co-production’ wasn’t used at any point, as it can seen scary, but it was clear to see how important it is to have people who have experienced life in prison to have their voices heard so councils can be genuinely aware of the real issues that matter most to people in prison. To find out more about this work go to the Positive Prison’s website and to see what Outside the Box are doing in this area, look at our Moving Forward project.


  • Posted by Tom Jackson on January 30th 2017
    The campaigning work of Positive Prisons Positive Futures is helping to make a mouse of the Elephant in the room (sorry Nelly!)

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