'It's opened my mind for when I get out''

21st June 1996 at 01:00
Hazel Thomas, 23, has just relaxed her friend's hair in Styal's own hairdressing salon, where she is working towards a level two NVQ. With its pretty swagged curtains and chatty atmosphere, the "salon" is quite authentic if you don't look too hard at the black and white labelled photos on the wall of nits, scabies and other undesirable scalp conditions.

Now nearing the end of her sentence for robbery, Hazel didn't get much education before prison. "I was pregnant early so I lost out on schooling, " she says. "Before that school was all right but I was in and out of care so I had a lot of problems."

In prison, Hazel has done creative writing, media studies and aromatherapy, as well as getting certificates in hygiene and health. She organised a creative writing group herself for inmates. She has a place at a Birmingham college to study audio engineering, which involves setting up and operating a sound recording studio, when she is released.

"I prefer to do education," she says. "It's opened my mind for when I get outside and given me a better outlook. Before I came I was young and wild. But in here you've got time to put your mind into something. I think it should be just education in prison. Work just passes the time. But education makes people who've never read or writ before realise what their talents are."

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