A Howard League volunteer has been supporting prisoners at Christchurch Women’s Prison and Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit with their literacy needs for over two years.
Beverly Iremonger, a former nurse, had cared for a young man who had been in prison.
“He couldn’t read and this caused problems with his treatment and interactions with hospital staff,” says Beverly.
“After I retired, I wanted to do something different. When I heard Mike Williams* on the radio talking about prisoners’ low literacy levels, how that adds to their offending and hinders their chance of getting a job, I thought I could help.”
Beverly currently has two students in the Youth Unit who she teaches twice a week for up to an hour and a half. She uses the Howard League literacy programme as a teaching guide, and tailors her teaching to the prisoner’s interests.
“I ask new students to write about their life, experiences and interests, or tell a story.”
Initially apprehensive about teaching literacy in prison, Beverly has learned to relax and enjoy the time with her students.
“Gaining their trust and seeing them achieve with a few laughs along the way is extremely rewarding,” she says.
“Most start lacking confidence and are sometimes defensive. Once I get their trust, learning happens. It’s the one-on-one time that makes the most difference.”
*Mike Williams is Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.