Words of wisdom from behind bars

We asked inmates from Peterborough Prison who completed Khulisa's 'Silence the Violence' programme what advice they'd like to give the young people we work with in schools. Here's what they shared:

“None of it, drugs etc is worth it. It feels good at the time but you don’t realise until you’re in jail that you fucked up. No-one wants to be counting down the days till their freedom. Learn from other people’s mistakes”.

“Stay in school! At your age you might think school doesn’t matter, that it’s nothing. But it is important, time will fly by and you won’t have learnt any skills. You’ll be stuck inside forever, even in the summer.”

“You don’t start thinking carefully until you’re deep in the shit. Once you’ve been in jail you can go back for anything, you’re on licence and you get recalled for having a spliff, or for defending yourself when someone attacks you – once you’ve been inside everything is stacked against you.”

“Getting involved in crime makes you lose everything you have – family, friends, jobs, everything. You lose it much quicker than the time it took you to gain it all.”

“Prison is what you make it but it’s a dark place at times. You could be anyone, you’re just a number, rich, poor, doesn’t matter. If I could go back to school I would. I wish I didn’t go sideways at school – I’d be really intelligent now.”

“I would push my knowledge and sparks into something good. Jail is no place for no-one. People leave and come straight back in.”

“In prison everything is stressful. You have no power. You have to shout and bang your door like a child just to get out of your cell. You get into fights over a TV remote because it’s the only thing you can try and control. Changing the channel suddenly means everything.”.

“If you’re rebelling, ask yourself if you’re doing it for a reason before it gets too late.”

“Prison is what you make it but it’s a dark place at times. You could be anyone, you’re just a number, rich, poor, doesn’t matter. If I could go back to school I would. I wish I didn’t go sideways at school – I’d be really intelligent now.”

“I would push my knowledge and sparks into something good. Jail is no place for no-one. People leave and come straight back in.”

“The risks get higher the deeper in you get, one bar, ten bars, fifty, and then you’re holding a shotgun. We need to show young people prison. Show them that you only have £12.50 a week to spend, you eat shit prison food. We don’t teach young people about the consequences of crime young enough. It needs to start in middle school.”

“Be careful in your surroundings. You might think you’re with mates cos’ you see them all the time but they’re a circle. They’re not always on your side. Then there’s only two ways out – you go to prison or you die. You’re not always safe with your mates.”

We shared these words of wisdom with members of Khulisa’s Youth Advisory Board. After reflecting on the messages, the group came up with some questions they would like to ask the people Khulisa engaged with in the prison system:

  1. What would you do again if you had another chance?
  2. What do you think about when you’re alone in your cell at night?
  3. What feels more of a threat – prison or prison staff?
  4. What led you to commit the crime that you ended up in prison for?
  5. Did you think about the long-term when you committed the crime?
  6. What is the worst part of being in prison?
  7. What’s been your biggest achievement since being in prison?

We’ll be putting these questions to our next ‘Silence the Violence’ cohort and share the responses with members of our Youth Advisory Board, as well as participants of our ‘Face It’ programme in schools.

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