This paper discusses an innovative approach to teaching and learning, under which students on the undergraduate Criminology, (and related) programmes at Northumbria University are offered work experience positions in prisons in the North East of England. Increasing media distortion and populist political rhetoric about imprisonment has influenced the way that students think and reflect about prison and prisoners. This paper explores how introducing prison based work experience has had a dramatic effect on students’ thinking and understanding of imprisonment. The paper outlines the setting up of the scheme in one of the prisons, considers the initial impact on the first cohort of participating students, and discusses the staff and student work experiences to date. It also demonstrates how experiencing the prison in this way ensures that these students leave university with well-defined ideas about incarceration and better equipped for working in prison environments. Keywords: prison, carceral tour, penal populism, media representation; student learning.