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Project Story: Hydebank Wood, Belfast

Geraldine Keenan, Literacy teacher at Hydebank Prison:

“The Get Into Reading project has proved to be extremely successful in Hydebank Wood Prison. As a teacher, I have a great deal of contact with many of the females, and in addition I run an evening book club in the residential house, enabling me to further develop relationships with both prisoners and the staff who care for them. I have observed first-hand the great benefits of participating in the GIR programme.

Many of the females who come into custody are extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable. Often they lack self-esteem and confidence and are reluctant to engage in any activities. They often feel that they have no value and have nothing to contribute. GIR allows these women to have a voice to explore many of their experiences and personal issues in a safe, non-judgmental and caring environment. They are able to share and connect with others in ways they could never have done before. Without doubt this has improved their individual wellbeing and has promoted more positive relationships and interaction with others.

Those who have participated in the GIR appear to develop a greater sense of self belief and this has encouraged many participants to engage in other activities such as education classes and vocational training. Prison staff have also commented on the positive impact of the programme on individuals. Staff have reported that particular individuals who previously were rather introverted and difficult to reach are now more open and appear more positive in their interactions with those around them.

Get Into Reading provides enormous therapeutic benefits for all those who participate. It has opened doors to new possibilities and allows these women to experience a sense of empowerment for the first time in their lives. I cannot stress enough the very real value and importance of continuing this programme with the females at Hydebank Wood Prison.”

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