In May 2010 HMP Swaleside and HMP Standford Hill combined to host the Anne Frank exhibition. The Guest speaker at both establishments was Dr Eva Schloss, who was extremely well received by her audience. Eva’s talk at HMP Swaleside was held in the chapel, in front of 120 prisoners and staff. In HMP Standford Hill there was a more relaxed and slightly impromptu talk with a group of prisoners and staff in the visitors centre. Both audiences listened intently to Eva talk of her experiences, and asked very interesting questions which Eva enjoyed answering. It was extremely memorable and we are extremely grateful to Eva for giving of her time to do this for the Trust.
HMP Standford Hill Cat D (open prison) sited the exhibition in the visitors centre, and Senior Officer Amanda Syddell organised visits from Eastchurch Primary School to see the exhibition. Especially interesting as the prisoners of Standford Hill were the exhibition guides. They were so professional that many did not realise they were prisoners and not guides from the Trust! This was a wonderful experience for the children, and did much to break down barriers, and stereotypes about prisons/prisoners. Both prisoners and schoolchildren got a great deal out of this experience, and even greater community involvement would have ensued had there been the time!
We plan to use the Standford Hill model to further strengthen ties with the community in regions where there are similar establishments – as it demonstrated how important these links can be, and how rewarding the benefits are of this shared experience. It also showed some of the good things that go on in prisons, rarely seen by the general public, and rarely reported in the national press.