International Book Giving Day

The 14th February is not only Valentine’s Day, it is also International Book Giving Day. The day is a volunteer initiative aimed at increasing access to books. We asked staff to suggest some books from their subject areas (both fiction and non-fiction) that they enjoyed reading and that others may find interesting.

 

 

Blue: A memoir: Keeping the Piece and Falling to Pieces by John Sutherland

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director

 

 

 

 

 

Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials that Defined Modern Britain by Thomas Grant

Suggested by: Jo Beswick, Law Lecturer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing the line: Lessons from a Life on Duty by John Sutherland

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director

 

 

 

 

I am Pilgrim: Can You Commit the Perfect Crime by Terry Hayes

Suggested by: Dr Fran Stubbs-Hayes, Forensics Lecturer

 

 

 

 

In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence by Rhodri Jefreys-Jones

Suggested by: Associate Professor Tony Craig, Lecturer in International Studies

 

 

 

 

 

In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

Suggested by: Jo Beswick, Law Lecturer

 

 

 

 

Isis: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M Berger

Suggested by: Aman Jaswal, PhD Researcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Farm: Robert Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancourver’s Missing Women by Stevie Cameron

Suggested by: Emma Tilley, Policing Lecturer for the Institute of Policing

 

 

 

Police Socialisation, Identity and Culture: Becoming Blue by Sarah Chapman

Suggested by: Dr Lauren Metcalfe, Policing Course Director

 

 

 

 

 

Research Ethics: In the Real World by Helen Kara

Suggested by: Sarah Page, Criminology Lecturer

 

 

 

 

Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister

Suggested by: Dr John McGarry, Law Lecturer

 

 

 

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Suggested by: Professor Graham Williams, Forensics Lecturer

 

 

 

 

 

The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken

Suggested by: Abbeygail Standen, Policing Lecturer for the Institute of Policing

 

 

 

 

 

When the Dogs Don’t Bark: A Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth by Angela Gallop

Suggested by: Professor Graham Williams, Forensics Lecturer

Natter Me Duck

Policing Lecturer and Mental Health Coordinator, Deborah Sproston-Bewley, talks about the ‘Natter Me Duck’ initiative she created to help out students during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Within a few days in March the measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 became immediate and were drastic. You don’t have to be at the epicentre of the pandemic for your life to be turned upside down; due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it is a scary time for students.

Our campus became quiet and our classes moved on-line, all of which impact on the students.

We have students who are still living on campus and maybe feeling sad and isolated.

I am the Mental Health Coordinator for the school, and as such I thought about what I could do while we were all in lockdown and unable to communicate with each other on a regular basis. 

I came up with Natter Me duck, which is a platform through collaborate that students can log into on a specific day and just have a natter, not just with me but with other students.  For those of you that don’t know in Stoke-on-Trent duck is a common phase used.  E.g. you OK duck?

The idea behind ‘Natter Me duck’ was for students to natter about anything.  From how I cut my fringe? how do I bake a cake? or I’m suffering with anxiety due to void 19. It is a place where students can share their experiences and support and advise one another.  

The main aim is just to have a natter and for students not to feel isolated and on their own.  

An e-mail is sent out to all 750 students in our school which informs them of the date and time of a ‘natter me duck’ session and gives them the link to join.

Supporting the Probation Service During COVID-19

Farida Zerglanie is a Criminal Justice with Offender Management student who is volunteering for Change Grow Live (CGL) and working at HMP Foston Hall with the resettlement Team. She has written a blog on her experiences of volunteering under COVID-19 conditions.

Change Grow Live (CGL) is a charity funded by councils and local authorities to support the Probation Service.  I have been a part of CGL since November 2019, after beginning my [Criminal Justice with] Offender Management course at Staffordshire University. I was soon made aware of CGL by several students who were volunteers from Staffordshire University. Some of the Level Five students were already in fully paid managing roles; their successful reputation was admirable. I knew that getting involved with this organisation would enhance my knowledge and skills. In only a short time I have taken part in various support strategies, such as ‘Through the Gate’ which entails greeting the prisoners being released (service user) at the gate of various prisons in Staffordshire and South Derbyshire. My role as a volunteer is to support people who have been released from prison and take them home or to the Probation Centre. We then support them as they reintegrate back into the community; each case is tailored individually to meet the needs of our service users.

We have all been placed under restrictions in this current pandemic, and this has affected our positions, roles, activities and social contact. This seems to be the new norm for our society currently. At CGL we are aware that our support is crucial for people being released in these difficult times; our continued support is a necessity to many. We feel that our service users rely on our effective through-the-gate support.

Other students and I have continued our volunteering duties in supporting people through this pandemic. We have successfully continued to provide the support that our service users require, to the best of our ability. We have been following Government guidelines and taken the appropriate safety precautions, such as adopting social distancing and wearing PPE whilst providing support to our service users. Staff from CGL have temporarily stopped escorting in vehicles to maintain the two meters social distancing and adhere to Government guidelines.

However, we have continued the travelling assistance support and the community support with adjustments. This has been achieved by the CGL team applying safety measures in place for volunteers, to continue providing support to service users ‘in and out’ of custody as safely and effective as possible. Measures such as on the day of release volunteers have been waiting for the service user at the visitation centre, where once released they are greeted maintaining a two-metre social distance, wearing PPE as per the Government guidelines.

The volunteers give the released prison a mask, a bus pass with unlimited travel, and an email address, to pass on to their probation officer if they require any support in the community. The re- settlement team have adapted new measures to maintain Government guidelines and follow legal requirements that the ex-offender must abide by following licence conditions. In addition to being greeted by the volunteer, a member of the re-settlement team is also present to provide a telephone to maintain contact with the allocated Probation Officer, which would also then be used to communicate with the volunteer offering community support.

All the students who are part of CGL will continue to volunteer under these challenging circumstances as we feel that we provide a crucial but not well publicised service to the community.

 

Step Up to Criminology

If you are thinking of studying at university, but are worried about your qualifications or haven’t studied in a long time, then have you seen Staffordshire University’s Step Up to HE programme? Gemma Jones, now a Criminology student, is one of many of our undergraduate students who progressed through the programme and has shared with us what she thought of it.

What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

I wanted a change of career, I felt I was capable of doing more in life than what I was currently doing. I did go to college but ended up dropping out in my final year due to personal circumstances. Step Up gave me the opportunity to gain the extra UCAS points I needed for a degree. It also gave me the skills and confidence to achieve and learn at a university degree level after taking a few years away from education. 

How do you feel now you have progressed on to your degree?

I feel proud and so happy I took the opportunity to better myself! I look forward to what the future holds and I’m exited for all the future opportunities that may now be presented to me as a result of finishing my degree! I no longer feel stuck in a rut and I feel that I can achieve almost anything I set my mind to!

Has Step Up helped you in anyway, did it help prepare you for your degree?

Yes most definitely! Step Up helped me in more ways than I could of predicted. It increased my confidence as well as giving me the skills I need to write successful assignments and information on where I can get help should I need it! They have also helped me since leaving the programme with applications to things such as Student Finance. The staff who run Step Up have been especially amazing with me as I found out I was pregnant on my second day of the programme!

Thanks to their support I managed to complete the programme and continue onto my degree without feeling like I needed to drop out. They still offer me support to this day alongside with my amazing lecturers who have all been so supportive after the birth of my beautiful baby girl. I managed to continue with my degree only five weeks after she was born and it’s thanks to all of the amazing staff at Staffordshire University! 

What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

 Absolutely do it! Step Up has definitely changed my life for the better and shown me it’s never too late to go back into education! They have so much support it’s hard to think of reasons not to!

Research Opportunities for Criminal Justice with Offender Management Students.

Students who chose to enrol on the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management course soon found themselves working on projects for Governors and Prison Managers. In this blog, Louis Martin reflects on some of the activities first year students engaged in as well as studying on their course.

The Deputy Governor at HMP Stafford asked me if some students from the course could help him with a couple of projects in the prison. He wanted some work doing on the culture of prison officers in the prison and two of the first year students stepped up and went into the prison and set up focus groups to discuss some of the key themes operating within HMP Stafford.

Sinead Bowles and Farida Zerglaine interviewed staff and compiled a report for the governor with their findings. I proofread the report and with a few amendments this report is now on its way to HMPS Headquarters for perusal by one of the senior executives. Sinead even had the opportunity to meet Stan and Olie, the prison goats.

First year student Debbie Ball is set to work on a project for the Deputy Governor of HMP Drake Hall as soon as the ‘Lockdown’ lifts. I went over to meet with the team from Drake Hall in February and negotiated a partnership agreement with the Deputy Governor. He agreed to provide Debbie with security training and projects to get involved in. We also have our own Civic Fellow, Tim Bailey, who is a Prison Officer at Drake Hall to help out too. Tim is the Outreach Officer and his role is to find employment for the women in the prison. I hope that Tim will be able to help Debbie when she is working in the prison, so this is very exciting.

Sinead Bowles has also been working with me on a project in HMP Dovegate. We have been at work with the trainers at SERCO to deliver some training on report writing skills and the use of Microsoft Teams. Sinead delivered sessions using her own experience of report writing at Stafford to share tips and hints for the trainee officers to right incident reports. We are set to teach the new recruits how to use Teams for their own studies.

Taken together the first year students have had a fantastic opportunity to get engaged with field work and to enjoy a real flavour of the custodial sector.

My Experiences of Microsoft Teams on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Course

With the move to remote working, due to the Covid-19 virus, our teaching methods have also moved online. Staffordshire University are doing their best to ensure students do not miss out on their learning. Sinead Bowles, a student on the BA Criminal Justice with Offender Management course, takes us through how Microsoft Teams is helping her studies, as well as her own teaching experiences using the programme.

Microsoft Teams is a fairly new platform which can be used in a variety of work or educational settings. Teams is a Microsoft 365 app, which allows members to form teams, broadcast messages, hold video conferences and to communicate with other individuals on a professional basis. As a first-year student at Staffordshire University, I was initially introduced to Teams on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Degree as this platform was used to convey lecture and workshop materials. As this platform allows for several teams to be formed, I had one for each module including numerous channels for a week by week breakdown of content which made it easy to follow. The messaging function on Teams meant that it was trouble-free to contact lecturers or other students; as a result, it made the introduction to university work extremely streamlined and simple.

As I progressed through my course, I was invited to deliver some teaching about criminal justice to prison officer recruits at HMP Dovegate. Serco had already transitioned over to using Teams as their main platform and this proved to be advantageous to the presenters from Staffordshire University. We created a Team with the training staff at HMP Dovegate, so teaching materials could be created on Microsoft Teams simultaneously by all of the team members. I delivered a session on report writing skills using Teams on a large monitor in the prison’s Training Centre.

“Microsoft Teams has meant that students learning has not been compromised at this unprecedented time”

Teams is available on a comprehensive selection of mobile devices, allowing us to easily keep in contact and access files. Technology has proven to be an issue in the past when teaching at prisons; however, using Teams we were able to provide a problem-free teaching package.

The learners were required to submit essays on a chosen topic, which would then be marked and count towards their apprenticeship, it was decided that this would be done through Teams. The team found that marking the assignments online was more effective and less time consuming as the Word document can be opened in Teams, marked in collaboration and saved automatically. The prison training manager opened up the documents and saw the progress of marking and got an idea of the level of engagement by the officers before the work had been returned back to them. Teams made the teaching and marking experience effective, organised and effortless.

Sinead Bowles using Teams to teach at HMP Dovegate earlier this year

With the recent developments of Coronavirus and the United Kingdom lockdown, Microsoft Teams is more vital than ever. Tutors at Staffordshire University have been holding online lectures through Teams, by using the meeting function lecturers are able to lecture the class live through video call and present the slides which are mirrored onto student’s devices. Whilst using the meeting function, Microsoft Teams can still be used as normal as the meeting is minimised; consequently, workshop exercises can still be completed individually, with the support from the lecturer. Students are able to use their microphone to ask questions, or answer questions, therefore interactive learning is not lost. Microsoft Teams has meant that students learning has not been compromised at this unprecedented time.

Offender Management Experience at HMP Dovegate

Katrina Robinson, a level 4 student on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree, and students from the School of Law, Policing and Forensics went on an educational trip to Dovegate Prison last month, with Course Leader Louis Martin and lecturer Dave Simmonds. 

I didn’t know what to expect when walking into the prison, as it was my first time being inside a male Cat B prison.  I was aware of the variety of sentences being served by the prisoners, being high security and I kept an open mind.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Custodial Manager Brendan, and Prison Custody officer, gym instructor and staff trainer Simon. We all gathered in the reception waiting area where it was explained to us the itinerary for the day. [We then] proceeded to the training room, where current prison officers were undertaking their annual training programme and continued to the security check area where we were all searched before entering the prison grounds.

Once on the grounds, I was surprised to see how big the area was, and the prison itself was set out in different buildings rather than one big building.  We followed the walkway around the buildings and was told to stand aside as an alarm was set off and many prison officers ran towards the alarm. Brendan, after checking on the situation, explained that prisoners inside the visiting area had set the alarm off by accident.

The first building we entered was the gym where it was recorded 45 prisoners were there all using the gym equipment, some of which had use of the facilities 4 times a week due to their being on enhanced level of Incentive and Earned Privileges. 

Once we left the gym, we carried on the walk past the Vulnerable Persons Wing, which we weren’t allowed to enter due to the severity of the risk involved and headed towards the Offender Management Unit.  Within the Offender Management Unit O9MU), it reminded me of a standard office setting, with Multi agency staff all working together.  Here we were met by the Manager of the department who talked us through the daily running’s and what the OMU’s staff responsibilities were, such as sentence plans and rehabilitation plans.

After leaving the OMU, we headed towards the Therapeutic Centre (TC), also known as a prison within a prison which had a completely different feel from the main block. Brendan and Simon explained that we were going to meet and talk to 6 prisoners serving a range of different sentences.  Brenden advised us to ask as many questions as we would like, due to the prisoners being in therapy, anything they talk about they are open and willing to do so.

Here, we learned the reasons why the prisoners committed the crime and their childhood experiences; [they] all showed immense remorse for their actions, and the one thing that was great to see was their attitude towards life and looking forward to their future once released.  All the prisoners that we spoke to all agreed that the therapy that they were having has helped them massively to move forward and towards being a better person.  The conversations were accompanied with lunch that was put on for us all. [It] was a relaxed and calm atmosphere and I felt very safe.

We were then shown the wing in which they live and were lucky enough to see inside one of the cells. The TC wing was segregated from the main block, which I feel was a good choice, as the prisoners at the TC chose to enter therapy and not to get mixed up in any trouble that may occur within the main block.

After leaving the prison and back on the coach, I had time to reflect on the events of the day. I was so happy to have been able to go to Dovegate.  It was a fantastic opportunity for us all, which we’d never have the chance to experience without Louis, Dave, Simon and Brendan for which I’m extremely grateful.

 

 

 

The Significance of Volunteering

Danielle Hackett, a second year student on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree, explains the significance of volunteering, how it has helped her course and how the course has helped her volunteering experiences.

I did not understand the significance of volunteering, until I became a volunteer. In my first year of Criminal Justice with Offender Management, I became a volunteer for a rehabilitation charity called CGL. Whilst volunteering for CGL, I was able to use my knowledge and skills from my university course whilst working with offenders and other sectors, and I was also able to use my experience from volunteering in my university course.

Through my volunteering, I have had the chance to work with a range of offenders from prisons all around Staffordshire and have been able to visit prisons such as HMP Dovegate, HMP Foston Hall, HMP Drake Hall and YOI Brinsford. It has provided me with a vast experience of the prison system, as well as the probation service and other important services around Staffordshire as we all work together in a partnership.

I recently applied for a job at CGL, the post is for a year as a volunteer co-ordinator, they oversee the Staffordshire volunteers. I was successful in my application and I am eager to soon start my new job and I believe that becoming a volunteer was a very imminent part of receiving this job. I also have a job as a student ambassador at Staffs University and the job allows me to earn money and gain experience at the same time, it is a perfect job for students as I can choose which hours I work. The job has allowed me to meet different people such as students and staff members, but also other academics and professionals. It has enabled me to develop even more skills such as interviewing people.

I have just spent three days at a Cat B male prison, training to become a key handler. The three days consisted of personal protection training, corruption training, suicide and self-harm prevention and security training. Therefore, I am now able to draw keys at this prison, which is another step in the door in the future, but I am also now able to hold meetings with the prisoners about CGL and what help we can provide them with when they are released. Attending university is important, however, I have learnt that volunteering in the industry is also very beneficial for my future and that it works hand in hand with my course.

Whilst volunteering for CGL, I was able to use my knowledge and skills from my university course whilst working with offenders and other sectors, and I was also able to use my experience from volunteering in my university course.

My First Year as a BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management student

Debbie Ball is a Level Four student on our Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree. She has written a blog piece explaining why she chose to study with us and how the degree will help her career. 

In September 2019 I became a mature student of the Criminal Justice with Offender Management course (CJWOM). I have worked for several local agencies for over 10 years across the city. I have worked for many years for a drug treatment service and in the housing sector working to find suitable accommodation for newly released prisoners. I have been privileged to have worked closely with the local prisons, probation service and other third sector agencies in my professional career.

My decision to apply for the CJWOM course was influenced by a female probation officer that I worked closely with to house a vulnerable gentleman with complex needs. This proved to be a difficult task due to his criminal record and complex needs, unfortunately before we managed to find housing for the gentleman he sadly passed away. This experience had a profound effect on me, I felt that I wanted to be able to make a real difference and had a passion for rehabilitation and supporting people wanting an opportunity for change. Working in the public sector can be very rewarding but also very sad, the clients I have worked with have been my greatest teachers over the years but felt that it was now the right time to cement my experiences into academic knowledge.

The Course Leader, Louis Martin, spoke at the open day for the course about gaining experience in the criminal justice sector as he felt that this would help build skills and gain experience. Due to my working relationship with the female probation officer I had previously worked with, I contacted her regarding returning to university and she encouraged me to apply to work at the national probation service approved premises as a sessional worker.

A sessional residential worker is paid employment and you are required to cover shifts for sickness, annual leave or general staff absence. The role includes supporting people with every day requests, general admin and a close multi agency approach with the police, probation and PPU (Public Protection Unit) and more.
An approved premise is for high risk offenders who been assigned to live at an address owned by probation services as part of a licence agreement on their release from prison. Some residents can be released to the premises as part of a ROTL (release on temporary licence) short stay, an alternative to a recall to prison or a longer stay to ensure integration back into society. There are several approved premises located across the west midlands and by becoming a sessional worker I could choose my location, hours and days to fit around my university studies.

The application and clearance/vetting stages are both lengthy processes which I began in June 2019 and finally received my clearance in October 2019, the process includes a DBS and background check. I completed a number of shadow shifts as requested by the approved premises manager over a number of weeks for training purposes and to get a feel for how the AP operates before I was able to complete a shift as a full sessional worker.

I have been at the AP now for 3 months and really enjoy it, it can be challenging and complex at times and I am sure there are a lot of misconceptions regarding violence and the environment but in my own experience I have not found this to be the case. Working at the approved premises has given me a good insight to the probation service but I still have a lot to learn.

UK Home Office found in breach of the Human Right of Liberty regarding detention practice of asylum seekers

On International Human Rights Day I want to briefly highlight a Human Right violation that has occurred in the UK for asylum seekers regarding the Right to Liberty ~ Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology

You might have seen recent press reports in the Guardian and Independent about the Home Office being found guilty of inappropriate detention of asylum seekers by the Supreme Court. 

Inappropriate detention of asylum seekers occurred between 1st January 2014 and 15th March 2017 due to ineffective policy implementation of Dublin III and those detained in this time frame are entitled to compensation. 

Here in the UK we typically use detention or imprisonment when there has been a crime, or the person is a significant security threat to the public, or briefer periods of detention when a case is being investigated.  

In my own research on asylum seekers in Stoke-on-Trent I found that many asylum seekers are in fear of being detained.  Professionals talked to me about how asylum seekers can be detained for administrative reasons, rather than due to them having committed a crime, or being a significant security threat to the public. 

Asylum seekers are typically nervous about complaining because they fear that complaining might impact upon their application to remain in the UK.  However, some brave asylum seekers have spoken out about their detention experiences and you can listen to an account of a woman detained on the BBC website. A locally based asylum seeker also talked about her experience to the Sentinel newspaper and describes detention as “inhumane”. 

Detention can cause significant deterioration of mental and physical well-being.  When you consider that many asylum seekers have mental health issues from the trauma of what led them to flee their country and the journey they have been on to escape.  Others have been victim to trafficking and exploitation.  It is inappropriate to incarcerate such people.    

Academics across the UK have highlighted that Asylum seeker policies in the UK are restrictive and lack compassion.  Despite media portrayal of the UK flooded with asylum seekers we host less than most European counterparts per population head. Those seeking asylum in the UK only get basic needs met, if that.  Often asylum seekers get insufficient resources to live off – significantly less than a UK citizen on benefits.  Such poverty issues raise Public Health concern.  Especially when asylum seekers become destitute and homeless when their applications are rejected, and they are appealing the process.  Professionals that I interviewed inferred that decision-making process and quality in the UK is poor.   

On this International Day of Human Rights I want to highlight the importance of the right to liberty and also the importance of a compassionate response to asylum seekers.  Asylum seeker policy in the UK needs to be reviewed and revised to ensure that Public Health and Human Rights concerns are addressed.

The research that I conducted was in association with students studying on our degree programmes.  I would like to say a thank you to Michael Dean, Sarah Carter, Val Ngock, Jack Whalley, Oliver Turner, Dana Wade and Sarah Johnson for your work on this project and also to Penny Vincent who was a staff member at the University and involved in the inception of the project. Our findings were shared with the Home Office to help inform future changes to policy and practice.  The research undertaken forms part of the Staffordshire University Crime and Society Research Group portfolio.