I read a story on Kent Online’s website titled ‘What life is really like behind bars – Day in the life of a prison officer at Swaleside, Elmley and Standford Hill’ (https://www.kentonline.co.uk/sheerness/news/a-former-dancer-is-now-locking-up-prisoners-263602/) and it got me thinking. Initially about ‘What life is really like behind bars’.
As well as my own experiences, I have seen numerous portrayals of ‘life behind bars’ on TV programmes. I have read many books on the subject, both fact and fiction. I have also watched several hours of real-life documentaries about prison, the people who work in prison, and of course, people who serve time in prison. My life became my passion as did the history of prison and the history of prison education.
Is it possible to provide ‘what life is really like behind bars’?
All those who have experienced prison, whether it be as a person serving, someone working or someone visiting, can provide you with their perspective of prison life. Most could also tell you the policies and procedures of the prison they’re in, or visiting, or a snapshot of a local prison, or a cat C training prison, a prison in the high security estate, or an open prison. However, although the policies and procedures may be the same, one man’s castle is another man’s dungeon.
The Kent Online piece covers a ‘Day in the life of a prison officer at Swaleside, Elmley and Standford Hill’. Where, “We talk to three very different officers from each of the prisons to find out why they joined, what they have to do and what they did before.” which for me is perfect and provides us with three perspectives. However, what it doesn’t do is tell us ‘What life is really like behind bars’.
I’m not being negative towards the article as it is important to hear from people who work at the coalface, as it is to hear from the voices of the people these members of staff have a duty of care over.
I could provide reams of stories from my time in prison, but would they provide you with ‘What life is really like behind bars’ or would they provide you with a perspective of my time in prison?
Therefore, it is important to take on board, by listening and acting on, as many authentic voices as possible when the policies and procedures are being drawn up, which will also give us a better understanding of ‘What life is really like behind bars’.