US students explore life beyond bars
A BEHIND-the-scenes tour of Scotland's prison system was enjoyed by a group of American students this week as part of a month-long exploration of the UK's criminal justice system.
Staff at HMPs Barlinnie and Edinburgh welcomed the visitors from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, as they rounded off a four-week tour across the UK.
The 12 sociology students, accompanied by Professor Joanna Gregson, had visited police stations and courts prior to visiting the Scottish prisons.
During the visit, which included a presentation at the SPS's headquarters in Calton House, the students, who were due to travel back home this weekend, were given information about a variety of initiatives, such as the highly successful PrisonWatch scheme and The Wise Group's award winning project Routes out of Prison.
One student said: "We learned so much that we can take back to the states.
"It was obvious during our visit that the Scottish Prison Service was extremely innovative when compared to other penal systems elsewhere in the world, and was frequently held up as an example of good practice by other countries."
The group was particularly impressed by the relationships that staff in Edinburgh and Barlinnie cultivated with prisoners to encourage respect and trust, and the programmes operated by the SPS and partner agencies to combat problems such as drug abuse, education deficits and reoffending rates among prisoners.
Another commented: "We were struck by the attitudes exhibited by both prisoners and staff. People were people, and no one appeared to be your stereotypical 'criminal'. They were treated with respect."
Professor Gregson said: "I know our students will never forget their time in Scotland thanks to the hospitality and generosity of Scottish Prison Service staff.
"We are looking forward to continued collaboration in the future."
The picture above shows the students, Professor Joanna Gregson, and HMP Barlinnie unit managers Philip Woodlock and David Marsh touring the Glasgow prison today (Thursday).