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The Hay in The Parc Festival

Wales This Week has been given exclusive access behind the bars at Parc Prison in Bridgend to watch a unique event - as the biggest book festival in the world teams up with the biggest jail in Wales in a bid to give prisoners a new outlook on life

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  1. Wales This Week

Wales This Week: Bang to Writes

Can poetry and prose steer prisoners away from a life of crime? That's the aim of a unique experiment between the biggest literary festival in the world and the biggest prison in Wales.

Wales This Week has been given exclusive access to the fifth Hay in the Parc event in Bridgend's Parc Prison, where authors appearing at the world-famous Hay Festival venture inside the jail to talk to prisoners about how the arts could change the way they think.

Phil Forder, Arts Intervention Manager at Parc, seen in the video above, is the man who set up links between the Hay Festival and the prison and he believes that projects such as the Hay in the Parc festival are vital to the success of the prison system.

1470 men are locked up at Parc, part of the 88,000 prison population in the UK. National re-offending rates are 75% and literacy rates among inmates are shockingly low.

Twenty percent of the prisoners coming to Parc have primary school level reading and writing skills.

Prisons are under pressure to find projects to reduce crime and research shows that projects like Hay in the Parc do help.

"The ultimate goal is to reduce risk, reduce future offending... in order to reduce risk you have to have the prisoner working with you..." says Sarah Francis, Senior interventions Manager at Parc Prison.

"...We can't do that if they refuse point blank to work with us, so things like Hay encourage that in a less confrontational manner."

Former inmate Nathan Meyler has been to the literary festivals both at Parc and Hay on Wye.

He said: "It's funny actually how I had the inspiration from that one in 2010 even though I was in jail and I've found the same passion and inspiration and interest from a wide range of people here, and I'm so glad I started writing... now I want to keep doing it"

For those who think taking part in a literature festival in prison is evidence of a soft option, the Director of Parc Prison, Janet Wallsgrove, has this to say:

"We're here to challenge people. They're sent by the courts for punishment but when they're here, we're here to challenge and really not to allow people to stay in the same state as when they came in because we wouldn't be doing our job, so it's certainly not a soft option."

Wales This Week: 'Bang to Writes' is on ITV Wales, Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 730pm.

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