A journalism student scored a front page scoop while on work experience at the Yorkshire Evening Post, after submitting a Freedom of Information request to Wakefield Prison.
Hannah Postles, who has just finished a degree in Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield, submitted an FOI request to the Prison Service as part of her course, and also decided to contact Wakefield Prison directly.
From this she was able to find out which forbidden items had been confiscated from prisoners there – leading to the front page splash ‘Jailed sex beasts’ PlayStation porn’ in the Wakefield edition of the paper.
Pornographic DVDs were being viewed on PlayStation consoles.
Hannah, (21), said she had asked the Prison Service how many moblie phones had been recovered from prisoners in the UK in the last full year after a conversation with a man on a train who had said it was “very easy” to get a mobile phone to a prisoner.
She said: “As part of my course, I studied a module in Investigative Journalism, where we learnt how to use the FOIA and had to put in two requests as part of our final assessment.
“As I was doing this, I thought that it would also be interesting to know what kind of other forbidden things make their way into prisoner’s cells so I put in another request asking for a list identifying the nature and quantity of all property confiscated from prisoners at Wakefield Prison in the last year.
“I didn’t submit this request for my course – I just did it to satisfy my own curiosity!
“I received a response, after correspondence asking me to clarify what I meant, which showed that pornographic DVDs, newspaper cuttings of children and a black diary containing security information amongst other forbidden items had been confiscated from prisoners at the prison.”
While on work experience Hannah shared her findings with the newsdesk at the Yorkshire Evening Post.
With the help of another reporter, the findings formed the basis of the front page story which told how serious sex offenders at Wakefield Prison have been watching hard-core pornographic films, leading to PlayStation II consoles being banned there.
Hannah said: “This goes to show that FOI can be used by anyone.
“Some of my other requests weren’t quite as fruitful, but it goes to show that there is information out there that is of great interest and, thanks to the act, all you need to do is ask for it.”
Yorkshire Evening Post editor Paul Napier said: “This was a very strong story, illustrating both Hannah’s effort to produce good copy, and the gems that can be dug out using an FOI request.
“I’m delighted that someone on work experience has done so well.”