Pentonville prisoners talk about ‘traumatic’ knife crime experiences and how to stop the bloodshed in Bird Podcast

Kate Littler and Nina McNamara, creators of Bird Podcast, pose outside HMP Pentonville where there l

Kate Littler and Nina McNamara, creators of Bird Podcast, pose outside HMP Pentonville where there latest episode is set. Picture: Kate Littler - Credit: Archant

Prisoners at Pentonville have spoken of their traumatic knife crime experiences and offered advice to gang imperilled young people in a new podcast.

Inmates at Caledonian Road's crumbling Victorian jail, who are both survivors and perpetrators of knife crime, have spoken to Nina McNamara and Kate Littler about London's stabbing epidemic and how to stop it.

The latest episode of Kate and Nina's popular Bird Podcast tells prisoners' life stories, while promoting rehabilitation by allowing them to offer value to the outside world. One inmate told them: "We used to be the problem, now let us be part of the solution."

Kate, who used to work at Pentonville in drugs and alcohol services, said: "It's a mix of perpetrators and victims but what came out of it was even perpetrators had actually been victims, and they spoke a lot about the trauma of being stabbed - and because that wasn't dealt with properly it manifested in them carrying a knife.

"It was interesting for people to speak about their experience of parents. One guy said his dad was in prison growing up - and he almost wanted to go prison to identify with his dad. He was 15 when he arrived in prison and came crashing back down to life."

The prisoners advised parents to communicate with each other about what their kids are going through to promote awareness, while also suggesting carers should be taught about gang culture so they can spot the tell tale signs a kid is joining one. They have also asked for a conflict resolutions programme at Pentonville.

Inmates discussed how social media glamorises gang crime, and the need to teach prisoners essential life skills such as how to pay bills so they can function independently and stay away from crime upon release.

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"The people who were telling us about it weren't excusing what they had done," Nina added, "They were very aware what they had done was bad and if they had the time again they wouldn't do it. It was interesting because there is a mix of how much they feel they can help contribute to change. The older people feel they have more to share to get through to the younger generation."

Nina and Kate recently had a "listening party", where they sat down with participants and prison guards to hear what they'd created. They said it was "emotional" and there was a sense of camaraderie.

You can listen to their latest podcast here.