Tash was shell-shocked to find herself in prison, taken straight from court with no time to say goodbye to her husband and three small children. It was a totally unexpected sentence.
Luckily, she was in jail for less than a month – but the biggest challenge was to keep herself busy and occupied while she served her term.
“I wanted to keep my brain working, so when I was offered the chance to join the maths class, I was delighted – even though I hated it when I was at school,” she said.
“One of my children is showing real talent in maths, so I also thought it would be useful for me to brush up on the basics again so I could support him with his school work.”
All prisoners take a numeracy and literacy test when they arrive, and can leave with useful qualifications if they take maths or English classes.
Tash’s experience was very positive. “The teacher was amazing – there were seven of us and we all had varying levels of interest in learning, but with the help of the maths mentors (who were prisoners themselves) it was a very constructive class.
“The mentors were able to diffuse some of the situations that arose, as a lot of the women had issues with concentration. I was quite shocked how many of the class had real difficulty understanding the values of a number – whether something was pounds or hundreds of pounds. But there was another inmate who wanted to set up a business when she left prison, and needed help understanding how to do books,” added Tash, who is 37.
“The mentors played a really vital role. It certainly opened my eyes to what a mentor can do to support people and it’s something I would like to do myself in my local community now I am out of prison. There are all sorts of mentors in prisons – there are listening mentors, and people who will welcome you and show you around so you can understand what’s expected.
“Being in prison was totally horrific for me – but the maths class helped keep me sane.”