BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live April 7th 2018

Growing up on a prison farm

Prison farmer's daughter, Hannah Wright, talked with Rev. Richard Coles, Aasmah Mir and special guest, Alesha Dixon, live on Radio 4, about what it was like growing up on a prison farm.

Hannah's father, a tenant farmer, found security by escaping to prison. Resigned to working inside the walls he quickly transferred from the wings to the fields after learning that the prison service ran the third largest farm in the country.  

Until twenty years ago, prisoners grew enough food to feed the entire prison population. 

Hannah recalls her 'normal' upbringing on prison farms in Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset and South Yorkshire. She regularly encountered male prisoners surprised to see a teenage girl with waist-length blond hair skipping across the farmyard. She felt safe in the company of strangers who'd commited a crime. 

A sign on the door of the calf-shed warned: 'Do Not Enter or Get 90 Days' and her burly father, with massive hands and a shotgun license made it very clear that his daughters were also out-of-bounds! 

HMP Farms & Gardens (now known as Land-Based Activities) both set and blurred boundaries between life inside and out. Many thousands of prisoners gained horticultural and agricultural qualifications as well as valuable life skills. Through working the land and looking after animals, prisoners learnt to care for themselves and others. 

Unlike her dyslexic father, Hannah completed her schooling. She became the first person in her family to go to university and graduated with a PhD in Environmental Psychology. As a writer and environmental psychologist, Hannah understands how places can shape people. In her book, OUTSIDE TIME, Hannah combines personal accounts with detailed research to show how tending land and livestock transformed broken lives.

Listen Again

Live radio broadcast with prison farmer's daughter, Hannah Wright talking about 'Outside Time'. With BBC Radio 4 presenters, Rev. Richard Coles and Aasmah Mir. Special guest, Alesha Dixon and other guests: Christian Donlan and Andrew Rawding.