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Face to face with criminal justice

Every December, A Level Psychology and Sociology students attend the 'Behind Bars' event run by True Life Conferences to learn more about the criminal justice system. Here, A2 student Faith Mills writes about the impact the day had on her.

I feel confident in saying that the Behind Bars trip experience went down very well with students across the Psychology and Sociology departments. Having completed work for A Level exams on crime and the prison system, it was very interesting to gain an insight into the motives behind criminal behaviour and the reality of life behind bars.

We were one of about six colleges at the conference, so the atmosphere before the talks began was a mixture of excitement and uneasiness, knowing that we were about to have real criminals speak to us and that we could ask them any question we wanted. there were four speakers at the conference: a forensic psychologist, a fraudster, a serial thief and someone who had burnt millions of pounds-worth of cash as a cry for help, due to his mental state. Those who had served time in prisons spoke of their experience there but also their crimes. Based on their offences they were all sent to different category prisons and they all spoke very openly about their individual experiences. Listening to the news and seeing pictures of the situation in prison is one thing; hearing first-hand from a prisoner what it was like gave everyone a completely new outlook on how dangerous prisons can be.

The main shock of the day was finding out that the presenter of the show, whom few in the conference hall had any suspicions of, was a convicted murderer. At a young age and under the influence of alcohol, he was approached by a naked man and pushed him off by kicking him to the ground. The man later died in hospital from a ruptured spleen and the attacker was charged formally with murder. This story demonstrated how a single act of violence can result in disastrous consequences; not only does he have to live with the guilt of having killed somebody, he also still suffers from the stigma of being a convicted murderer.

When the talks had finished, we all had the opportunity to pose questions to the criminals and the forensic psychologist. Although some questions asked for a lot of detail about their personal lives – in particular questions asked to the man with depression – it was fascinating to hear their views on the severity of their crimes, why they felt they turned to crime, what prison was like inside and the possibility for rehabilitation in prison.

Overall I feel that the Behind Bars trip was not only very interesting but also really helped develop my knowledge of the prison system and crime, which will contribute to my understanding of psychology.

Tuesday18November2014

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