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Prison Offers Inmates Pole-Vaulting Lessons

11.3.07

They may not be quite the bars prisoners dream of leaping over – but offenders at one jail are jumping for joy at being taught how to pole vault.

Inmates at the young offenders’ institution are learning how to vault 13ft high bars.

But the governor insists that their new skills will not be put to use for escape bids – because the jail walls are 20ft high and topped with razor wire.

About 30 prisoners aged from18 to 21 have attended pole vault classes at Portland Young Offenders’ Institute, in Dorset, which has a total of 560 prisoners.

Governor Steve Holland is hoping a future Olympic champion will emerge. He was approached by Trudy Carter, Dorset’s athletics development officer, who said she had a mobile pole vaulting unit for use in a gym and wanted to get the inmates interested.

But yesterday taxi driver Mike Lee, whose firm is used by the prison, said: “It struck me as funny that prisoners are being taught to pole vault. Next they will be teaching them rock climbing and ladder making.” Mr Lee, 60, of Weymouth, added: “Let’s hope they don’t get too good at it.”

Mr Holland said: “The lads absolutely love it. And residents need not worry – the youngsters won’t be using their new skills to jump over the fence.

“There is an important side to this, however. Exercise is extremely important for the lads and our facilities are woefully inadequate.

“The pole vaulting doesn’t take up much room – and it takes skill and some courage to throw yourself into the air.”

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