Bushey teenagers spent a day in detention last week as part of a hard-hitting project aimed to deter them from crime.
Around 90 pupils from five schools in Hertsmere, including Queens’ and Falconer school, were given an insight into the reality of living behind bars as part of the crime and safety awareness day on Thursday, June 5 entitled Prison Me! No Way!
Pupils came face-to-face with a former prisoner who had been given a life sentence for murder, and heard his own unedited account of serving time.
Kai Usher, who is 14 and attends Queens’ school, said: "I enjoyed the part where Tony talked about his old life and why he went to prison - it made me see things differently.
"It made a big impact hearing someone telling us how they got out of trouble and turned their life around."
Each pupil was given a prison number and separated from their friends to be escorted from workshop to workshop, similar to inmates moving around a prison.
They also got to step inside a replica prison cell, were given a workshop on the effects of drugs and shown how to deal with a potentially violent situation through a re-enactment.
All the year eight and nine pupils who took part were identified by their schools as those most likely to benefit from the day at the Wyllyotts Theatre in Potters Bar.
Chief Inspector for Hertsmere, Dean Patient said: "All the evidence points to the fact that Prison Me! No Way! is incredibly effective at helping to steer young people away from crime. While it doesn't cost a huge amount, this is just the sort of impactful and imaginative activity that we should be doing.
"It is about helping young people see that the choices they make have consequences and will affect the course of their lives. This is a really interesting and informative day."
Kerry Clarke, deputy head at Queens’ School said: "It was the first year that we have attended the Crime and Safety Awareness Day.
"Our staff and students enjoyed the day which was really well organised. We got to meet two ex-convicts who have turned their lives around and we were blown away by the performance poetry from Steve Duncan."
The No Way Trust is a national educational charity set up in 1993 by prison officers who wanted to make an impact on the lives of young people and turn them away from crime and its consequences.
So far over 4.5 million young people have been reached through the hard work and sheer determination of its volunteers.