‘Behind Bars’ Conference: Lessons from Convicted Criminals

28th February 2018

This month we held our annual ‘Behind Bars’ Conference, which offered our students a different perspective on crime, courtesy of ex-convicts.

Four speakers, all with different experiences of the criminal justice system, gave moving presentations to our criminology, law, psychology and sociology students.

Talk by Janis Fovargue

Reformed drug addict, Janis Fovargue, pictured above, gave a hard-hitting talk about the shocking realities of life as an addict, and her time in a women’s prison.

Ms Fovargue, says, “We are talking about sensitive issues. I told the students about my relationship with my son and how difficult it is that he now won’t speak to me”.

After the presentations, our students worked in groups to apply sociological theories to real-life examples of crime. Throughout the day they were asked thought-provoking questions which evoked interesting responses, such as ‘Does prison work?’ and ‘Should the criminal justice system be a revolving door which allows offenders to be reintegrated into society?’

The students are learning about reasons behind crime and different factors/aims of sentencing in their lessons, so these discussions were invaluable and something that they can reference in their exams.

Paige Garrod, a student of sociology and criminology, says, “It showed us how important it is to know a person’s back story. Not every criminal is a bad person”.

During the afternoon sessions students were given the chance to ask the ex-offenders questions about their experiences, and gain honest and genuine responses.

Kamil Balin, a student of law and psychology, says, “This was a once in a lifetime chance to talk to a criminal about the crimes they committed in such an open way. I found it absolutely fascinating!”

Miriam Roberts, our law teacher, says, “I truly feel the students benefited from this conference not just on an educational level, but also a personal level. They were able to appreciate how one wrong decision could lead to several others, and how situations can be out of someone’s hands.

This will be a good experience for students to add to their personal statements and discuss when interviewing for work experience or jobs”.

Alex Evans (centre), and Janis Fovargue (right) pictured with our humanities students