For those of you with loved ones in prison I imagine everything you saw on this channel 4 documentary wasn’t all that surprising. Some of it was hard to watch but through first had experience and through the stories I hear at visits, none of what I saw took me by surprise.
I was interested to see other people’s opinions though, from those who have a limited knowledge of what goes on in prisons in the UK. As soon as the programme finished my dad made a comment about not understanding why people re-offend. I tried to explain that whilst I am not making excuses for people, I think if you have spent a lot of your life in prison, coming out is a massive culture shock. Often people come out to nothing. No home, no job, no money, perhaps no friends and family. In my opinion, I can quite clearly see why people fall straight back into the habit of re-offending. My dad: “why don’t they just ask for help?” One thing I felt that the documentary had attempted to demonstrate was the lack of help available, even when asked. I reiterated this to my dad whose final argument was “well they should just help themselves.” Right, sure, you tell that to all the addicts and those with a whole lot of different shit going on -just help yourself.
Unfortunately, whilst Channel 4 may have successfully shown shocking footage that gripped people’s attention, their motto is “changing perceptions with documentaries on 4” but I don’t think they achieved that. I feel that there should have been more emphasis on the prisoners WANTING to change but not being given the chance or resources to. There should have been a wider emphasis on WHY people take drugs, WHY people re-offend and what changes can be made in terms of staffing, education, support etc and less emphasis on the drug taking itself.
I don’t think perceptions towards inmates were changed at all unfortunately. My boyfriend is an innate in one of those prisons many will have watched from the comfort of their homes last night. He is living it. I don’t think anyone should judge a situation unless they have been in it themselves, and being in prison is no different. My dad can go around saying if he went to prison he would never take drugs, but sat on his sofa surrounded by his family that is very easy to say. Locked up for 23 hours a day in that environment with just your own thoughts and no freedom and I think we would all act very differently to how we act at home.