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Students at Nescot welcomed a prisons campaigner to college on Thursday (October 20), for a series of talks about his experiences of the criminal justice system.

John Bowers spoke about the 15 years he spent in jail for a series of burglaries, as well as his time in solitary confinement following an attempt to escape.

He also talked to the students about mental health and the effect of childhood trauma, and welcomed questions from a packed Adrian Mann Theatre.

“We were glad to welcome Mr Bowers back to the college,” said Rob Greening, Nescot’s Director of Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare. “His talks are excellent, and always thought-provoking.

“He covered some sensitive topics, so we also took the opportunity to remind students of all the staff at Nescot who are here to help them if they need support.”

Mr Bowers told the students about his challenging childhood, including not knowing his father and being moved between foster placements before being returned to his unstable mother.

He left home at 14 and slept rough, and committed his first burglary in order to find food. From there he said he entered a cycle of prison and reoffending, before being released for the final time in 1991.

While in prison he helped to set up Inside Times, a monthly newspaper for prisoner, and after his release he spent 14 years as its commissioning editor.

Mr Bowers told the students about his attempt to escape from jail by building a ladder from a scaffolding pole and cable ties, and spoke candidly about violence and self harm.

“Prison is a waste of your life,” he told the students. “I have seen first-hand how easy it is for one bad choice to start a snowball effect that can change everything.

“Learn from my experience, and don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made. When you are struggling, reach out for help. There are so many people here at college who can support you.”

If you are struggling, you can speak to your progress coach or tutor. You can also drop in to the Safeguarding and Wellbeing team in N20, or speak to a mental health first aider. Click here for more.