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Leeds Trinity expert appears in Scottish Parliament to present recommendations on improving prison conditions

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Andrew Brierley (Andi), Head of Access, Participation and Outcomes at Leeds Trinity University, was invited to contribute to a debate at Holyrood, Scottish Parliament, where he presented recommendations on improving the Scottish prison system.

A group of people posing for a photo in a wood-panelled room..

Andi appeared in Scottish Parliament following an initiative by Audrey Nicoll MSP for Aberdeen South and Aid & Abet, a peer-led Scottish organisation that supports prison leavers. He was joined by the authors of his latest book, The Good Prison Officer: Inside Perspectives, which he edited and launched in May of this year. The book is written by several authors who are ex-prisoners turned professionals and educators, whose background is shared by Andi himself. 

Andi, who left prison for the last time in 2005, after serving four prison sentences, is committed to help shape and inform UK prison policy and practice. Now with an extensive 15-year career in Youth Justice, Andi has written and published three books relating to crime and justice.  

A key outcome of the conversations Andi was part of alongside ex-prisoners and Members of the Scottish Parliament, is that The Good Prison Officer: Inside Perspectives is going to be read by every prison officer recruited into the Scottish prison system which is estimated to be around 700 per year. 

Other recommendations include safely reducing the prison population in both England and Scotland, as both systems are underfunded and overstretched, and providing clinical supervision for prison officers, who are currently underequipped to cope with experiencing secondary trauma and exposure to violence, self-harm and suicide. 

Andi Brierley, Head of Access, Participation and Outcomes in the Office for Institutional Equity at Leeds Trinity University, said: “I have a belief that it is difficult to address social problems if we are not listening to those closest to the problem. Appearing in the Scottish Parliament and having the Justice Minister talk about the contents of a book written by ex-prisoners is a huge achievement. 

“I am studying a PhD in the strengths and challenges of employing people with lived experiences of criminal justice as professionals. I hope that my work can contribute to the wider criminology literature and develop a strengths-based approach to reducing offending and reoffending by involving the communities most affected by crime and punishment. In line with my role at Leeds Trinity University, I am committed to place social justice at the heart of everything we do, both within the University and the wider community.” 

Earlier this year, Andi started his role as Head of Access, Participation and Outcomes for the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at Leeds Trinity. In his role, Andi coordinates the Access and Participation Plan (APP) which enables disadvantaged students to access education and experience the same transformative transition he did. 

Dr Tamsin Bowers-Brown, Director of the Office for Institutional Equity, said: “Andi’s contribution to the Office for Institutional Equity at Leeds Trinity University is making a real difference in terms of who we engage with and the reach that we have in our communities. Andi’s incredible work in relation to influencing the justice system demonstrates how living the values of social justice is a quality that we should encourage in our University.” 

In September 2021, Andi Brierley became a Senior University Teacher at Leeds Trinity University delivering the MSc in Applied Custodial Leadership in partnership with the Unlocked Graduates programme.  

Leeds Trinity University has worked in partnership with Unlocked since 2020 to deliver the Unlocked Graduates programme, a national leadership scheme that involves a combination of classroom-based learning, as well as practical frontline work on the landings as Prison Officers. 

Professor Danielle McDermott, Professor of Custodial Practice and Head of Prisons and Custody at Leeds Trinity University, said: “Andi’s practitioner background within Youth Justice, together with his own personal lived experience, created an incredibly unique and meaningful student experience on the MSc Applied Custodial Leadership. The importance of embedding research and practice from people with diverse backgrounds is fundamental to our ethical underpinning within the University, and ‘The Good Prison Officer’ book is a great example of this, which is now key reading for participants on the Unlocked Graduates Programme.” 

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