A short sentence or two on porridge – by Marcus Czarnecki
On Thursday the 15th November a group of twelve people from the Safer Future Communities Network, Neighbourhood Watch and other community leaders spent the day in Hull Prison organised by the Community and Voluntary Safer and Stronger Working Group.
No dear readers – these stalwarts of community safety and reason were not locked up for doing naughty things – rather they went to see for themselves what prison was like on the inside.
After going through stringent security checks (including a personal search) we were met by Gary Swales the Community & Business Development manager and went into general visiting area where inmates meet their families.
We then had a tour of the entire prison complex starting with the new wing and culminating in the old Victorian area.
The best way to describe the inside of the old prison was it is exactly like prison seen in Porridge (the 70’s sit com’) – but the two person cells are much much smaller than on TV. In Porridge they had to get a camera in.
We visited several cells – the general cells which were sparse and very small. And the short term holding cells – none of which were a home from home.
Two members of the party said that it reinforced their understanding that prison is a dire place – not the ‘prisoners get everything’ kind of understanding that some people talk about.
Another two members said thanks to the Safer and Stronger Working Group for giving the opportunity to visit HMP Hull. They said “It was a most enjoyable, (if that’s the word to use), and informative trip.”
A Neighbourhood Watch coordinator said that the visit had been “a real eye opener, it certainly changed some of our views of prison life. I must confess I was of the opinion that they had an ‘easy’ life – what with TV’s and pool etc., but now I see how these that these are privileges that must be paid for – which can also be taken away – and that there are real restrictions imposed by the prison – it’s not at all like I thought at all.”
Another group member said that after seeing and smelling the inside of a prison and prison cell first hand – you realise that all the romantic ideas that the TV and Movies teach you about prison life is wrong. They are not places that anyone would like to be.
In the early part of next year one of the Neighbourhood Watch groups that has a Junior Watch will organise a prison visit for their young members.
Part of the life of the Prison is to be part of the community it serves (which seems to be an odd thing to say) and the more people who can become enlightened as to its role and work in the community the better.