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Transforming Life Behind Bars was a ground-breaking link-up between De Montfort University and Leicester Prison that has helped transform the fortunes of the once-troubled jail. HMP Leicester was the focus of a damning report by the prisons watchdog, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, at the start of 2016 with a legacy of violence and plagued by drugs. After a chance meeting between senior university staff and the prison governor, both sides felt that involving student and staff volunteers in projects and engaging with inmates could make a difference.
The idea was to create change through projects, including building a memorial garden, the first-ever orchestral concert held in a British jail, arts performances, a two-week arts festival and workshops and a redesign on the visitors’ room by students.
The result surprised everyone – a 21 per cent reduction in violence as the prison surged 50 places up the league table for UK jails.
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