Dr Alison Spurgeon-Dickson, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Cumbria, has just returned from London where she met with Melvyn, Lord Bragg of Wigton, who gave his backing to a Learning Together programme Alison is delivering at Haverigg Prison.
The programme sees University of Cumbria psychology students and serving prisoners studying together on a module that looks at criminology through the arts.
The group is studying Lord Bragg’s locally set novel, The Maid of Buttermere. Alison explains: “One way of exploring criminology through literature is to analyse a criminal character, for example John Hatfield in The Maid of Buttermere.
“This analysis allows us insight into the character's thinking and behaviours, and we can extrapolate into possible causes.”
The group is also looking at punishment and proportionality - Hatfield was hanged in Carlisle in 1803. Comparisons can be made between modern-day crime and punishment, and justice in the nineteenth century.
Alison continues: “Two of the students have been looking into Hatfields's psychological profile and criminal behaviours as part of their final assignment. They were able to put three questions directly to Lord Bragg.”
Each of the students on the programme is being presented with a copy of The Maid of Buttermere, signed by Lord Bragg. The volumes were kindly supplied by an external donor.
Lord Bragg is an honorary fellow of the University of Cumbria.