One thing that DIS promises its students is Europe as their classroom, not only within the country their program is based, but also extend elsewhere with a week long study tour. My forensic psychology course traveled to Glasgow and Edinburgh, where we met with a variety of people to give us insight on the prison system in Scotland, and what options are available to those who have had convictions. Some amazing visits that I won’t go much into detail, but highly recommend looking into include Vox Liminis (rehabilitation through music), Willow (services for women with convictions), and Kibble (education, intervention, and security center for youth). Each organization we visited was unique, showing a more humane approach to helping people’s needs, and working towards preventing people from re-offending, not simply punishing them. Because our schedule was so tightly packed, there is so much to say, but instead I would like to highlight a visit in each city. If you would like to know more information about anything mentioned you can ask me, ask Google, or find Abby’s blog for her perspective on this trip!
Glasgow: Positive Prison
We had the opportunity to meet with men who had been through prison, and for the past five years, have been working to improve Scotland’s justice system and treatment of prisoners as well as aid those upon their release. Positive Prison not only helps rehabilitate people coming out of prison, but also now serves as a mediator between government officials and people with convictions (check out their website for a list of their accomplishments!) These men were very charismatic, not so much lecturing us as having a conversation with us, no powerpoint needed, just a big inflatable elephant and a banner on display.
A few words of theirs I would like to share with you:
In relation to mentoring: “We don’t just help people with their dreams, but help them get through their nightmares, too.”
Working with government officials: “We went from breaking the law, to writing it.”
A testimony to their sense of humor: “[To establish ourselves as a charity,] It took us 3 weeks to find the money…legitimately.”
Positive Prison is a perfect example of how people can and do change despite barriers, and what can be accomplished when people communicate while showing compassion; a reminder that I will not forget when I return to the U.S.
Edinburgh: H.M. Prison
Upon arrival we had to put all of our belongings into a locker and show our passports in exchange for an identification tag to take with us during our tour. No photos were allowed, so I took a picture of the sign across the entrance. HMP Edinburgh was our final visit where we met with a manager, security guards, and forensic psychologists to learn about their experiences working within the prison. We were also shown areas such as the education center and library, health and clinic center, and different types of cells within the sex offenders’ section. I am grateful for this opportunity, though I must admit parts of it felt like we were invading the prisoners’ space. This prison does strive for a more humane approach and admits that they still have need of improvement, but in comparison to prisons within the US, Scotland is on the right track. Some comments on the system made by the guards included the importance of single cells in that it is better for prisoners to have their own space, but without isolating prisoners, and also mentioned the ineffectiveness of short sentences in that they do little for the prisoner’s learning and costs money. (Not saying that all sentences should be longer, but instead have different options in place other than imprisonment.) This visit was also a very unique opportunity that I would most likely not have experienced had I not chosen the Forensic Psychology program with DIS.
I honestly can’t say if I will continue studying forensic psychology and work in the field, but this week has definitely inspired me to contribute to improving the system somehow!
Other noteworthy moments:
Not included in this post: Afternoon tea at world famous Willow Tea Rooms, my independent visit to a cat cafe, and a walking food tour where I got to try haggis and good ol’ Scottish whiskey. I absolutely loved Scotland, and I can’t wait to visit again!
Until next time!