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VIDEO: A glimpse of life inside Glen Parva Young Offenders' Institute


From the outside, Glen Parva feels foreboding. The high fences and colourless facade get your pulse racing before you even step foot inside. This week, Leicester's 808 capacity jail was visited by Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright who was given a tour of the building.

Mr Wright was doing his ministerial duty and meeting and greeting staff and inmates as they went about their business, surrounded by razor wire and CCTV cameras.

Principal prison officer Paul Downs said that most of the 670 inmates serving their sentences at Glen Parva were involved in some sort of work or educational programme.

One such youngster is 21-year-old Martin Jones – who is on his fourth stretch in a young offenders' institute.

"I've had enough of this now," he said. "I think it's time for a change."

The only thing I was told not to ask is why the inmates had been jailed – Martin was locked up in November 2011 and is due for release in May.

"If you add together all the times I've been in, it's about two-and-a-half-years," he said.

He is one of a number of prisoners taking part in a scheme called Trackwork, which teaches the practical skills needed to build and maintain railways.

Martin is aiming for an NVQ and has been given contact details for someone who will help him find a job (something he has never had before) once he gets out.

"The course is quite enjoyable, I'm looking forward to actually having a job.

"It's my first proper chance to do something different."

Fellow inmate James Porter, 20, was convicted in November and returns to the outside world in June.

He's also part of the scheme.

"It would be boring without it," he said. "I'd probably be more likely to get into trouble.

"I've done quite a few courses, but this is the best one I've done so far.

"It's the one that gives you a proper feel of what it's like to be doing work and I think it's going to be the one which gives me the most opportunities to get a job when I get out."

Mr Wright, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, backed the scheme and said Glen Parva was one of only a handful of prisons to offer the course.

"It think there are two ways in which this kind of course is beneficial," he said.

"The first is providing those harder skills – the kind of training they're getting here is the same as they would receive in the outside world.

"But it's also about the softer skills, the idea of getting up in the morning, going to work, working in a team."

Mr Wright was given a tour of the rest of the prison by the governor, Alison Clarke.

We followed them to Unit 15 – the induction wing.

All prisoners spend their first week here when they arrive.

It looks like you'd expect – cell doors on three levels with metal grates everywhere so officers can see all corners of the wing at all times.

The rest of the prison was quiet, except for a few inquisitive glances at the camera and my notepad, followed by colourful language and gestures for our attention.

Some of the prisoners barracking Will and I looked very young, which is probably a reflection of my age rather than their's.

Even so, all of the inmates are aged between 18 and 21.

Mr Wright said the aim of the prison service was to punish, but also to rehabilitate and make sure institutes such as Glen Parva were not incubating future criminals.

He said: "People need to understand that if they offend, and offend, and offend again then they'll get longer and longer prison sentences.

"In order to break that cycle, we have to persuade them that what they really should be doing is buckling down to activities and learning the skills they need to get and keep a job."

The site itself is huge – much bigger than Leicester's Welford Road Prison.

It would take about 45 minutes to walk the perimeter fence, said chief officer Mr Downs, who guided us round.

He also warned us not to film or photograph the officers unlocking doors.

"It's a nice but expensive shot," he said.

If footage of the keys was published the prison would have to change every lock in the compound – at the Mercury's expense – which would cost about £250,000.

And he wasn't not joking – a television company recently had to pay £100,000 towards changing all the locks and keys at Welford Road prison after footage appeared on TV.

VIDEO: A glimpse of life  inside Glen Parva Young Offenders' Institute

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