Students from today will share classes with some of the most dangerous criminals in Britain as part of a ground-breaking new programme.
Durham will be the first university in Europe to deliver criminology classes to both students and prisoners.
Based on a US programme, the classes will take place inside HMP Durham and HMP Frankland, which has housed some of the most high-profile and dangerous inmates in the UK, including Soham killer, Ian Huntley.
Third year criminology students at Durham University will join equal numbers of offenders currently serving custodial sentences to study a ten-week long course in criminal justice.
They will cover areas such as whether prison works, the causes of crime and the criminalisation of drugs.
Criminology lecturer at Durham University, Kate O’Brien, said: “This will provide a classroom experience like no other and help break down any prejudices against prisoners.
“The students and who we call ‘students on the inside’ will study together as equals through exchange of ideas and dialogue.
“It’s a unique opportunity for our university students to study crime and issues around criminal justice behind the prison walls.
“The majority of them have never even stepped inside a prison before; the experience will be profound.
“In the US, the programme has led to longer term initiatives such as the creation of think-tanks in prisons supported by academics and we hope that the Durham programme will be equally successful.”
Originally developed at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1997, ‘Inside-Out’ has seen over 20,000 students go through the programme in the US.
Durham University is now bringing the initiative to Europe for the first time.
The university’s criminology lecturers have completed the Inside-Out training inside maximum security correctional facilities in the US.
The programme is designed to break down barriers and prejudices and provide prisoners and students with a unique opportunity to study together as peers behind the prison walls.
Angie Petit, deputy governor at Durham prison, said the programme encourages prisoners to make changes in their own lives as well as in the broader society.
She said: “Durham prison is continuously looking for ways to help prisoners break the cycle of re-offending, whether through the work or education opportunities we provide.
“This partnership with Durham University will provide a new opportunity for prisoners to study alongside university students to discuss key issues in the criminal justice system.
“This will not only help them build new skills, it will also encourage them to re-examine the impact of their own actions on wider society.”