By Namisha Chadha, Palestrina Rolle George and Vicky Meaby
On Sunday June 4, the Race, Crime and Justice Society rode the bus together with the pumped-up Durham University Men’s Football Team and a few cheerful fans to HMP Kirklevington, a prison in Yarm. The match was organized as a ‘rehabilitative community effort’ endeavour. Upon our arrival, we were received by the joyful Stephen Wattson who gave us a tour of the prison and its facilities. Kirklevington is a Category D prison, where inmates housed here are serving the final term of their sentences. We were all amazed with the facilities the prison had to offer with services ranging from 24 hours gym to a beautiful café with Parisian wallpapers and a comfortable setting where inmates eat when bored of the mundane prison food.
It is worthy to note that during the day, prisoners who are employed, are free to go out to their places of employment. Those who are searching for jobs or education also have the opportunity. It was enlightening to see how the inmates live, for some of us were ignorant as to how the justice system albeit a Category D Prison actually functions. We were told that inmates who get the opportunity to go home in order to get use to the idea of freedom would return and report ‘that they missed HMP.’
The well-played match, between the young and swift Durham University Team and experienced Kirklevington Team, brought victory to Durham University in a 3-2 score. While we cheered our guys to victory, we acknowledged the team spirit projected by the opponent team. They gave a very tough competition.
After the match, we were led to the café, where they had arranged for a fantastic spread of food and beverages for both teams and the rest of us. While we awaited the return of our bus back to Durham we were entertained by an inmate who played the guitar and sang some songs he had written during his time in the system. It was exhilarating to listen to his thoughts and witness his confidence grow ‘on stage’. During some of his songs, a few persons were invited to join him to sing, some of which were very touching, and it was at that very moment we were all brought together in unison. Their expressions were content, exploding with pride. This opportunity helped us all understand the very pertinent fact that we are all ‘One’; and at times people make some mistakes, but that does not make them any different or bad. For those of us who went there, we all had a fantastic time at HMP Kirklevington and wished that more people could share this memorable experience. Administrators from both sides expressed their willingness to continue this event and shared contact information for future games. A very good initiative and memory that we all will cherish for the rest of our lives.
I would like to conclude by saying that both the officials and the inmates were extremely hospitable and would like to applaud the efforts of this prison’s staff at reformation. I would also like to extend thanks to all the supporters who gave up their Sundays for a day at the prison.
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