Leeds Prison has become the first in the country to be recognised with a leading diversity award.
The category B Prison, which holds up 1,200 male inmates, has been praised for teaching prisoners about LGBT History Month, and helping to change minds.
Last month it received the National Centre for Diversity’s Leaders in Diversity Award.
It came after a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons [HMIP] praised HMP Leeds over its efforts to make the facility inclusive for staff and inmates – regardless of sexuality.
HMIP noted that “Work on equality and diversity issues as a whole was energetic and committed and the support for some minority groups was excellent.”
LGBT training for staff was also highly commended. With regard to supporting gay inmates HMIP said there was “a very comprehensive gay, bisexual and transgender policy, including well-attended monthly meetings, which included external representation and guest speakers.”
Throughout February inmates were encouraged to get involved with the prison’s Equality and Diversity work as part of LGBT History Month.
For one inmate it had a profound effect. He said he went from harbouring homophobic views to being tolerant of gay people.
Here is his story:
“I used to beat people up who were gay or bisexual, because that’s what I was bought up to do. We used to call it ‘gay bashing’, we would go around looking for the gays that were in night clubs and all other places.”
“I came to prison [last] July and through me being in here, I went to a meeting and it was about LGBT History Month, I wasn’t aware of any of this but when Nichola (the staff LGBT rep) asked for help on building a display and to encourage other prisoners to understand about gay[s] and lesbians, I nominated myself to do so. It got me interested in knowing the full facts about gay men and women.
“I started my display and one guy who was on my wing found out [what I was] doing and presumed I was gay and said I was a wrong one. He then ripped up all my work I had spent time on and then smacked me twice. Fortunately he has been shipped out, but in a way I’m glad he did what he did to me as he taught me a lesson.
“It made me stand in a gay man’s shoes, and feel how all them people I’ve beat up and caused grief with feel, which made me feel small, lower than low, disgusted with myself, a hypocrite if I must say. To know how hard it must be to be gay, how much shit they must go through, how hard it must be to come out and admit they are gay. This made me more determined to do what I could to pay back for being such a bad person.”
HMP Leeds is constantly seeking to work with LGBT individuals, organisations and groups who can help them to keep changing hearts and minds – if you would be interested in working with them please contact them at EqualitiesLeeds@hmps.gsi.gov.uk