Howard League story about Wakefield Prison

9 Nov

The Howard League for Penal reform are currently seeking stories from people who have experience of the legal system and this story came to mind. After writing it I realised that perhaps there was a wider audience to whom it might appeal! So here it is.


I was involved in helping to set up the Children’s Play facility for visitors to Wakefield High Security Prison. The inspiration behind this was Barbara Tamminen who was a Play Worker trained at Leeds Metropolitan University. She had used her work at Wakefield as part of her quite ground breaking dissertation.


My story is about what the unit did for a young girl coming up to her GCSEs. Along with the children of drug addicts, children of prisoners are quite possibly one of the most discriminated against in our society, often treated as guilty on their parent’s account, even at the schools that they attend. This particular girl was a regular at the Unit, outgoing, contributing and supporting younger members of the play facility.


One day she came to the Unit and sat without speaking to anyone, clearly troubled and upset. Barbara approached her to find out what was wrong and she confessed that she was coming up to taking her GCSEs and was desperately anxious about her English. Her teachers had refused to help her and her parents were unable to and she didn’t know what to do. Barbara took her on one side and spent the whole of that session with her teaching her about how to take exams and how to do better with her English. A few months later we heard that she had passed.


I found this incredibly moving, where else had she to go? it has made me passionate about the importance of these facilities in Prisons and I am always grateful when I read of the work that the Howard League do to help these children. It can never be enough!


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