Youngsters visiting their dads at Leicester Prison won’t miss out this Christmas.
They are set to receive a fluffy teddy bear from them thanks to an initiative run by De Montfort University (DMU) in conjunction with the Prison Service.
Around 100 teddy bears have been wrapped by volunteer students from the DMU Local team made up of volunteer students and staff. They are being delivered to the prison where inmates will be handing them out to their loved ones over the next week or two.
The teddy bears were intended as graduation gifts for students, but have been re-purposed for the inmates.
Harriet Pole, widening participation coordinator for the university, said: “We’ve been working with Leicester Prison and its governor, Phil Novis, for about the past 18 months on a number of educational and practical initiatives, among them a redesign of the visitor’s centre by students who had to pitch their ideas.”
The teddy bears are aimed at bringing inmates’ families together at Christmas, despite difficult circumstances.
Karen O’Donnell, a supervising officer at Leicester Prison, said: “We run special family visits and those inmates with young sons and daughters will be able to give them this gift of a teddy and show them that they are still thought about and cherished.
“The family visits enable the dads there to do craft activities with their young ones and write stories with them among other things and they will take place in the run up to Christmas Day. This will mean a lot to the men. Our governor believes that having strong family ties and a good relationship can help to prevent re-offending in the future.”
Click to playTap to play
DMU student Andrea Porter, 37, is studying a masters in English.
She volunteers for DMU Local and said: “I have a friend who is a prison tutor and she said it’s very important for the children of prisoners to feel as if they are still part of a family.
“It’s important for the children to still receive Christmas presents in spite of their circumstances.”
Fellow student Swabra Batanda, 18, is studying medical sciences.
She said the scheme “provides a way for inmates to give gifts to their family when they might not be able to afford to. This time of year is one for families.”
Mark Charlton, manager of the DMU Local initiative added: “Our work with the prison, including health and education projects is helping to raise the aspirations of the men and is thanks to the relationship we have with the governor who is passionate about preparing inmates for life on the outside.”