A GROUP of released prisoners visited a school to share their experiences of life behind bars.

They visited Varndean College in Brighton on Monday to speak to pupils.

The convicts were from a “range of social backgrounds” and had served sentences of between four and 20 years for crimes which ranged from fraud to murder.

They spoke about the different experiences they had encountered in and out of prison, including the crimes they had committed and the psychological effects of labelling.

To demonstrate this, four of the students were given the opportunity to wear prison clothing – pictured above – and see the reaction their classmates had to this.

More than 70 psychology students attended the event and many said the day had taught them to value the educational opportunities they had access to at their college, as well as forcing them to “address their own prejudices”.

Jas Badesha, tutor for psychology at Varndean College, said: “This conference has been a means for our students to broaden their knowledge of criminal psychology and test whether the theory matches reality.”

The visit coincided with the launch of the college’s new standalone criminology diploma course which will begin in September.

In Sussex, help and support has been offered to former convicts by Lewes-based charity Sussex Pathways. Formed in 2008, the organisation offers its Through The Gate Volunteer Key Worker scheme which works with prisoners in the six weeks leading up to their release.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Our volunteer key worker programme promotes progression towards education, training and employment.

“It supports the development of life skills such as improving personal relationships, interpersonal and communication skills as well as helping to integrate into the community.

“Our Restorative Pathways programme provides a volunteer based restorative justice (RJ) service enabling victims to tell offenders about the real impact of their crime and to get answers to questions.

“RJ also offers the offender an opportunity to understand the impact and to say ‘sorry’, hoping to make amends with those who have been affected.”