Sunday, October 16, 2011

School's Out

As I watched a group of psychology undergraduates being given a tour of the block I was struck by two thoughts.  Firstly, they made me feel so old; they represented the life I never had.

More importantly, I wondered just how prison staff can ever explain the "prison experience" to such visitors? They can explain the brutalist architecture, they can briefly explain the bureaucratic processes, true enough.  But those things are not the essence of imprisonment; they are merely the external form that conceals the powerlessness and mortification that is the reality of the prisoner's life. Keeping prisoners out of this process of guided tours is to lose a valuable opportunity to educate.

That said, I did take the opportunity to plug the blog.  So, hi students everywhere!


  1. We can all use our imagination when faced with the architectural reality of prisons, and the Kafkaesque beaurcratic nightmare that some people have come across; enough to know it exists. It is extrememly hard to bear for those directly on the receiving end, and for the population at large which is why many turn a blind eye or stick their head in the sand.

    The reality of imprisonment is pretty unbearable to peoples imagination, and they might imagine all sorts. So to simply see, meet and talk to prisoners inside the prison is probably a very valuable education in itself.

    I visited a high secure unit for the criminally insane whilst attending a conference in India, I was petrified to be honest. The most startling thing that I took away with me, (the memory of it stays strong) was the gentleness of the men who we met inside, and the calmness, not at all what I expected.

    Then we listened to their stories; many misunderstandings and one or two very believable cases of miscarriages of justice.

    The authorities were not in the habit of allowing public access to such places but for the fact that one of our group made the request and our being from the UK is what probably swayed it

  2. Sophie, you are so naive. Those prisoner were gentle and calm because they were drugged.

  3. Anonymous, the drugs don't work, they just make you worse.

  4. I just finished reading Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". There was a great quote that came to mind when reading this post of yours:
    "A man who's warm can't understand a man who's freezing"


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