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  • Each of those words conjures up a different picture.

  • None of them tell you exactly who someone is.

  • My name is Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski.

  • I'm a PhD candidate

  • and I'm a lecturer in criminology at The Open University.

  • I work with students in prisons.

  • I love what I do.

  • It feels deeply personal to me,

  • because I used to be a prisoner too.

  • All of these labels have been mine.

  • So growing up, life was tough.

  • My father died in a car crash when I was a teenager.

  • And that hit me really hard.

  • I didn't see the world as a meritocracy.

  • I had to grab what I could.

  • But being sent to prison for dealing drugs was a shock.

  • I was sentenced to 16 years.

  • For the first three months inside,

  • I didn't speak to anyone.

  • Eventually, I started working in the kitchens.

  • And as people got to know me,

  • I was eventually assessed for my educational potential

  • and encouraged after that assessment to enroll at the Open University.

  • But the most difficult barrier

  • was actually inside of me.

  • I'd left school with no qualifications. Nothing.

  • I was scared of my future

  • and I decided to try.

  • My day job working in the kitchens and on the servery

  • meant that I had to study at night.

  • So I had to study on the toilet, while my cellmate snored.

  • So when I finished my first module,

  • it gave me hope, and it gave me something I could focus on.

  • There was no going back now.

  • Other prisoners and guards kept asking me why I was wasting my time -

  • studying wouldn't matter with my criminal record.

  • I felt I was changing.

  • I discovered I loved learning. And that was enough to keep me going.

  • I served eight years of my 16-year sentence.

  • By the time I left prison, I had completed my first degree.

  • I had also completed two further degrees at Masters level.

  • So, after I was released, I got a job working with students in prisons -

  • not in spite of who I was, but because of it.

  • It's hard to describe how I felt

  • the first time I went back to prison as a lecturer,

  • and the governor came down, and shook my hand.

  • What I want people to know

  • is that I'm not different or special -

  • anybody can do this.

  • Almost half of all prisoners have left school

  • without achieving any formal qualification.

  • I know how that feels. And it had a massive impact on my confidence.

  • But that does not mean that you're not able to learn

  • Everyone has the potential and the power to change.

  • I've seen it. And I've lived it.

  • It was Winston Churchill who said:

  • There is treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.”

  • What do we want from our prisons?

  • Is the primary goal of prison to punish,

  • or to help find a different path?

  • The policy isn't coherent, you see.

  • Research shows that education does reduce reoffending.

  • It allows former prisoners to make different choices.

  • So when I sit with prisoners, I say to them:

  • “I was in your shoes. But I am now released, on the outside.

  • I've got a good job. I've got a good life. I'm with my family.”

  • Had I met somebody like me when I was younger,

  • things might have been very different.

  • No-one believed in me. I didn't believe in myself either.

  • It's taken two decades to get here.

  • And this is only the beginning.

  • The wordprisoneris just a label.

  • I found freedom within my own mind.

  • You need to remember that you have the capacity to learn.

  • You have the capacity to change your life.

  • There is treasure within each and every one of us.

Each of those words conjures up a different picture.

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A2 prison prisoner lecturer treasure completed capacity

'I went from prisoner to PhD' | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/11
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