Welcome to Vocalise! We are a student-led prison debating initiative administered by the Inn’s Education Department. Vocalise was founded in 2010 by two student members of the Inn, Alex Just and Florence Iveson, inspired by a longstanding scheme at Cornell University. Our award-winning programme, the first of its kind in the UK, is now in its seventh year.
Vocalise harnesses the enthusiasm of current law students to bring the benefits of debate training to inmates across London. Aspiring barristers are trained as debate ‘mentors’ over the Michaelmas (Autumn) term. Mentors who successfully pass the end-of-training ‘bootcamp’ are then able to begin teaching inmates from January. This year, we will be partnering with HMPs Pentonville, Downview, Thameside, YOI ISIS, Feltham and Wandsworth.
For the first time, somebody is really listening to what I’m saying.
Vocalise represents a unique volunteering opportunity. At a time when prison education departments are overstretched and under-resourced, Vocalise mentors can make a real difference to inmates through honing and sharing their public speaking skills.
Trained Vocalise mentors typically teach in teams of of three. Mentors have freedom to build their lesson plans around the interests and abilities of each class, with lessons ultimately preparing inmates for a series of formal debates at each prison. Last year, we ran 12 public debates between prisoners and leading debate teams from Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Durham and Bristol. In the past, these debates have been judged by senior members and Benchers of Gray’s Inn, including Dinah Rose QC and Joshua Rozenberg.