The reading group in Wandsworth jail offers offenders a welcome escape from their restricted lives
Wandsworth prison is an ominous place with its dark brickwork, iconic gates and perimeter walls topped by billowing rolls of barbed wire. The prison library, however, looks a bit like a comfy community library.
I’m here at the invitation of academics Jenny Hartley and Sarah Turvey who have been running volunteer reading groups in Wandsworth and other prisons for the last 13 years. Recent policy has prioritised vocational qualifications for prisoners. But Turvey sees the groups as equally vital. “The majority of prisoners have had negative experiences of school and are wary of formal education in prison,” she says. “We’re helping prisoners develop skills they need before they can even think about qualifications.”