I grew up in the South with a family who often had heated debates (some might say arguments…) over the dinner table and a grandfather who did a lot of work within the political sphere for prisoners’ rights. I loved hearing about the work he did and respected him enormously for standing up for a group of people that not many other people would want to.
Why I chose to study BA Criminal Justice and Criminology at Leeds?
Initially I couldn’t decide what course to take at university - I was interested in law, psychology, and politics, but couldn’t choose between them. I hadn’t heard of criminology before but after looking into the subject I felt the BA Criminology and Criminal Justice would be the perfect course to suit my combination of my interests.
I choose Leeds initially because I wanted a change from the South, but also because it was well respected for the subject I had chosen. When I attended the open day, I could see myself studying here.
At first, I found University quite difficult as I was accustomed to more structured learning and fitting it around lots of jobs; setting my own schedule for work was a big change. However, after I had settled in, I began to enjoy University and the freedom that it offered. I decided to join a few societies, including Labour Students, and I started volunteering for West Yorkshire Police, where I was offered the role of Volunteers Coordinator - a position which I absolutely loved.
My course was a good mix of all the different disciplines involved in the study of crime - law, sociology, psychology, etc. For me, the best thing about the BA Criminology and Criminal Justice was being taught by experts in the field. The experience was truly invaluable and it was fun opening a text book in the Library to find that one of your tutors had been referenced.
The lecturers and tutors were all absolutely fantastic; I felt I could go to my personal tutor with things that I was worried about, and my dissertation tutor went above and beyond for me in my final year. I was lucky enough to be assigned a tutor for my dissertation who had done a thesis on a similar subject.
Also, having a keen interest in politics and legal developments in the criminal justice sector meant that I really enjoyed talking to my lecturers and tutors and hearing their opinions on current developments.
After I finished my exams in final year, I gave myself 3 months to apply for only jobs I really wanted, after which I was going to apply for anything in order to pay my rent. I decided I wanted to work in the charity sector as volunteering has been such a big part of my life, and I wanted to support people who are ready to start thinking about desisting from crime.
I was lucky enough to be offered a job the day after I graduated, and started straight away. Initially it was a part-time job, but within a few weeks I was offered a full time position.
My current role
I am a Project Officer for CSV Upwards - a mentoring project supporting adults leaving Prison, on Probation, or serving a Community Sentence. I work half the week at Probation offices around Leeds and Bradford, and the other half in the charity office. It’s amazingly varied work, working with both volunteers and offenders, and it’s one of those jobs where the hard work is offset by knowing that you’ve have genuinely been able to play a small part in helping someone’s life change for the better.
In the future I plan to move to London to be with my family, but I would like to stay working within the charity sector. Eventually I would like to work in a Prison, because in my current role I have seen that the more rehabilitative work done whilst someone is in custody, the more chance they have of getting off to a better start upon release.
My advice to students
Volunteer!!! Everyone graduating in your class will be in the same position so anything you can do to set yourself apart from the rest is so worthwhile. Plus, any volunteering experience where you are working with or supporting potentially vulnerable people will give you so many transferable skills - well worth a couple of hours a week!