On the Inside

On The Inside: a project in HMP Peterborough’s Mother and Baby Unit

We are delighted to have commissioned Geese Theatre to run a series of workshops at HMP Peterborough exploring life in prison as a mother. The project, On The Inside, brings together our research on motherhood in prison with Geese’s 30 years of experience facilitating interactive theatre within the criminal justice system (CJS) as part of the rehabilitation process.

We will be working with playwright and academic Helena Enright to explore 100 years of maternal incarceration and explore how the research resonates with the women’s own contemporary experiences. From the workshops with the women, and weaving through archival material, Helena and Geese will produce a scripted piece of Theatre of Testimony which will have a reading in HMP Peterborough and a life thereafter.

Dr Rachel Bennett and Professor Hilary Marland attended a workshop with the women on Monday 14 May and share some of their thoughts below.

The workshop began with us introducing ourselves and our research and talking to the women in the group to hear a little more about why they had decided to take part in the project. After introducing them to historical sources, including photographs, newspaper articles, and personal testimonies of ex-prisoners and prison staff from the last 100 years, we asked the women to explore the materials to see what themes and issues resonate with their own experiences as mothers in prison today.

This exercise prompted some very interesting discussions of practices surrounding the imprisonment of mothers, and in some cases their children, and how they have changed over the last century. However, they also highlighted areas of continuity, and even areas where current policy could be informed by previous practices. A strong message that came from the day was that the women wanted to be seen as mothers in prison instead of prisoners with children.

Read our initial announcement of the project here