Life Behind Bars

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Durham England is a quaint, picturesque town in Northeast England, rich with history and character. Cars whiz down cobblestone roads and friends gather at cozy pubs over a hot cup of tea. Amongst this postage-card image, one would hardly know that just a mile down the street, some of England’s most notorious criminals are caged behind bars at Her Majesty Prison.

Working at Her Majesty Prison has been an eye-opening experience–a glimpse into the lives of thousands of inmates who are shuffled out of society’s eye. Thirty foot walls surround the prison, topped with barbed wire and CTV cameras not only to ensure that the prisoners stay in, but also that society stays out. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

At HMP, I have seen, heard, and experienced things that I never would have dreamt would happen in a prison. Did you know that inmates have TVs in their cells and can watch cable television programs? What about that prisoners can work full-time, tending to gardens or cooking meals? The prison offers many programs, from work, to education, to workshops, to drug rehabilitation, to art classes, etc. that, when I am participating, I nearly forget that my classmates have all been arrested, tried, and found guilty. However, it’s not all fun and games….did you know that sex offenders are kept in a separate wing of the prison as they are the most vulnerable, at-risk inmates to be attacked by their peers? Did you know that drugs are commonplace contrabands, as are cell phones and shanks?

This experience has been eye-opening in many ways. I have gotten the experience of a lifetime, a glimpse into corners of life that (I hope) I will never return to again, yet will leave me with a deeper understanding of the types of people who work in and inhabit the prison, as well as how we can work towards improving the institutions that have the potential to rehabilitate future offenders and reduce future crime.

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