Prisoners achieve better grades than Durham students on pioneering law course

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By Thomas Connelly on

Students at university favoured by top City law firms outperformed by incarcerated course-mates


Prisoners at a maximum security jail studying criminology as part of pioneering new law course have obtained better grades than their Durham student counterparts.

The Inside-Out programme — run by Durham University — sees its criminology students enter two local prisons for ten intensive 3-hour weekly sessions with inmates.

HM Prison Frankland, which previously housed the notorious Charles Bronson and the prolific serial killer Harold Shipman, provides the setting for students and inmates to study side-by-side, sharing textbooks and attending the same classes.

It appears that practice does really make perfect, with some Durham jail birds — described somewhat amusingly as “inside students” — obtaining higher marks in their essays than their free-to-leave class mates.

With other, perhaps more lucky, Durham students attending the lower category HMP Durham, those enrolled on the course — both “inside” and outside — had to complete essays on aspects of criminology and the criminal justice system.

The unique module, rolled out less than 12 months ago by the top uni, replicates a similar model that has been in place in the US for a number of years.

With prisoners unaffected by the trappings of student life — such as J├Ągerbombs down the Union and a crippling addiction to social media — they could focus on their studies and, as a result, outperform many who attend the top university.

Speaking to the Durham Times, professor of criminology Fiona Measham said:

It’s exhausting for them [students]: they cannot bring in their phones, they cannot sit at the back playing with their smartphone, there’s no access to the internet. It’s a real shock to the system and when they walk out of prison, going through the 12 locked gates, it makes them appreciate their liberty.

With LLB students no doubt trying stifle their laughter, the Inside-Out programme will continue into 2016, with plans already in place for the scheme to be rolled out to a third, all-female, prison.