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Public Lecture – Some Truths About Prisons by Erwin James
Date: 16th October 2014
Time: 6:30 pm
Venue: University of Winchester, Stripe Auditorium

“Erwin is a passionate advocate of rehabilitation policies. He praises the army of teachers, trainers, facilitators and counsellors trying to help break the cycle of offending and imprisonment.” David Lammy MP

Erwin James Monahan was born to itinerant Scottish parents in Somerset in 1957. A family lifestyle described as, “brutal and rootless” by a prison psychologist following the death of his mother when he was seven, led to a limited formal education.
Aged ten he was sleeping rough when he gained his first criminal conviction, for the burglary of a sweet shop, which resulted in him being taken into care.He left the care home at 15 and spent the rest of his teenage and early adult years drifting, living with extended family members, and again often sleeping rough. During that time he worked in various labouring jobs, but also committed relatively petty, mostly acquisitive, but occasionally violent crimes (criminal damage, common assault.)His directionless way of life, which included a period as a fugitive in the French Foreign Legion, continued until August 1984 when he began his life sentence for murder.

With few apparent skills or abilities Erwin’s prison beginnings were unpromising. After some encouragement from a prison psychologist however he embarked on a programme of part-time education.
Six years later he graduated with the Open University, gaining an arts degree majoring in History. It was during this time that he also developed his interest in writing and journalism in particular.
In 1995 he won first prize in the annual Koestler Awards for prose. His first article in The Guardian newspaper appeared in 1998 and he began writing a regular column for the paper from his prison cell entitled A Life Inside in 2000 which ran until his release in 2004.
The columns were the first, and remain, the only example of their kind in the history of British journalism.
A year after his release from prison Erwin became a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust. He is a patron of the Arts charity CREATE, a patron of BLUE SKY, the not for profit company which trains and employs ex-offenders.He is also a patron of THE READER ORGANISATION, the charity that encourages shared reading. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (FRSA) and an Honorary Master of the Open University (MUniv.)
Erwin was a member of Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice 2009 prison reform working group and is a regular prisons and probation consultant. He remains a Guardian columnist and works full-time as a freelance writer.

If you would like to attend this free event please email Marie Twomey:


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