The Evening Chronicle’s Facebook page posed a question to its readers with the above image:
Prisoners may get paid to work in call centres under a new scheme to increase work opportunities in prisons.
It is hoped that by working while they serve time they can learn new skills and learn to work in a structured environment. Read more here.
Do you think inmates should work whilst in prison? Should they be allowed to earn a wage? Critics claim that giving work to prisoners will cause increased unemployment in society. What do you think?
But it was the comments which inspired me to write – not the question, per se. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but mostly ridiculous!
Good old ‘divide and conquer’ sets to work again as comments appear like these;
“As long as they’re not taking the jobs whilst inside from those of us who remain non-criminal, then I’m in favour of it.”
“so we pay to keep them in prison,and we pay to keep the unemployed,i would call that a double whammy,if a prisoner takes an unemployed persons potential job,then we keep paying for both of them,but if the unemployed person gets a job,we only pay to keep one,so i say throw away the keys and let them rot,they are in there for a reason.”
“They holiday camps to start off with !! Why not give the flight tickets and a hotel when they get out , cos they been a little stressed and potentially could re-offend … Get a grip Britain , am wondering if whoever came up with this has ever been a victim of these low life scum a doubt they would be offering training then !!”
It gets worse – the tone is for the entire removal of rights for prisoners – most of whom have been labelled as ‘murderers, rapists, robbers and paedophiles’. Only one person in the thread asks ‘No freedom and family not enough?’
It’s apparent to me from reading through it that many people are living in their own fear; fear of someone ‘stealing’ their job or perhaps somehow having more privilege than themselves. Apart from a few constructive comments the core of the argument had a ‘holier than thou’ feel which was promptly outed by a friend who commented after me;
“And Lesley, it’s just people (here calling for more inhumane treatment of prisoners) who are just using the excuse that people are prisoners to display exactly the level of evil they claim to be opposing. Pots calling kettles black.”
And I have to agree.
Another noticed the level of ignorance in previous responses – regarding both the crimes committed and the ensuing problems for those incarcerated, although it had been mentioned that training and work projects could be invaluable skills for prisoners to learn in preparation for release. I also agree with this.
So what’s my point?
Having worked in prisons with inmates – usually with repeat offenders who are due for release – I’ve found most would welcome education and training IF it were appropriate to them. Most I’ve had dealings with are not ‘bad’ people and most have certainly NOT committed heinous crimes.
Many have traumatic pasts but then, many on the street also have trauma to deal with. Many have learning difficulties and /or mental health problems – much like the general population.
BUT, I hear you say, we haven’t ALL turned to crime. . .
Thankfully that’s true but part of it may be due to simple differences; the presence or lack of coping skills – and in some cases, pure luck!
Those with whom I’ve had the privilege of sharing personal information have experienced lack of guidance, lack of love, lack of self-belief, lack of worth… They’ve endured tortures, neglect and abuse in abundance – are you getting the picture yet?
Now, I’m neither excusing nor condoning criminal behaviour; what I’m saying is that if we tackle underlying problems in society, like poverty and inequality, we perhaps have a greater chance of reducing offending rates.
Those who find themselves behind bars would rather not be there.
I haven’t met one person in prison who truly likes being locked up – they almost all regret their actions, even if they still cannot see a different path. No-one wants their freedom and liberties removed; unable to see family or friends at will, unable to participate in ‘normal’ life.
And before you utter it, I’ll address what I assume comes next – ‘they shouldn’t have committed the crime’. No, they shouldn’t have. But they did and now they’re doing the time. That’s what prison’s for; it’s not for inhumanely punishing people, abusing or degrading them further.
If there is anything prison systems can do, it is to help educate at every level; employing care and compassion in the process. It’s crucial for everyone, not just prisoners, to fully appreciate the choices presented in life – and to be afforded the tools for positive decision-making in full awareness.
This photograph was taken at HMP Barlinnie, Glasgow as part of an exhibition of arts from offenders who had taken part in a programme celebrating Theatre Nemo’s five years of working in the prison.
Theatre Nemo promotes mental well-being and empowerment through drama, art and challenging perceptions.
This is where I come in; sometimes at the beginning of the course, sometimes at the end. Either way, I set the guys to task by gently (and sometimes directly) guiding them into introspection; processes of self-gazing to strip away the lies we tell ourselves – to get to the core of who we really are; the authentic self, all the while promoting healthier attitudes, respect and responsibility and providing coping skills for every step of the way.
No man leaves the room unchanged, of that you can be assured.
In testimonials I’ve been reluctantly thanked for ‘challenging ego’ as well as for providing choice, presented with the care and compassion I mentioned earlier.
This work has provided me with much insight into the human way; masses of information is stored in compact spaces we call cells – not only in the prison world but in each and every one of us.
These are the issues in our tissues which affect our choices; the hard-wiring we’ve learned to use when dealing with stress or in situations threatening our survival – even if that is only about ‘saving face’ – a common problem in and outside of prison walls.
Ever heard the expression ‘There but for the grace of god go I’?
Remember; there are a whole host of reasons why your life might change – and none of us can see round corners, we don’t know what lies ahead.
If we spent less time judging others and attend to our own perceptions of what is and what’s not (especially that which is presented by media) the world would be a finer place.
Within These Walls Part II to follow …