I have some ideas about prison. I’m not going to run through them here and now because they aren’t fully worked through and I need to bounce them off a few people more in the know than me. Don’t worry I’ll let you know what they are in due course.
Part of that “bouncing ideas” process involved me visiting Feltham YOI and talking to a number of the team there. It was an eye opener.
I have never set foot inside a prison of any sort before but I grew up watching Porridge on the TV, it is impossible to completely detach the picture that that program creates about what prison and prison life is like. Feltham YOI had very little in common with Slade Prison and the people had little in common with Norman Stanley Fletcher or Mr MacKay.
Seeing so many young men incarcerated was saddening. In places the inside of Feltham looked like a series of school corridors with various classrooms, student art on the wall etc. but the heavy barred doors with their chunky, industrial looking locks were a constant reminder that this wasn’t some tough inner London school but a place the detain (and hopefully rehabilitate) young men and boys.
Feltham has had its issues and the death of Zahid Mubarek was a low point for the prison. There have been a lot of changes at management level and it is clear that there are well thought through policies in place. Talking to members of the management and the Prison Officers has left me with an increased confidence in the place.
I expect that I will go back to Feltham because the visit has triggered almost as many questions as it answered.