Thursday, 25 March 2010
I had another visit to prison this week, to talk to a group from A wing (security prisoners) at Perth.
It was a real eye-opener and much more forbidding than last week when we met in a small classroom. The one thing I noticed more than anything else is how, on a certain level, the staff, civilian and warders, are as much prisoners as the men they're guarding. 'A' wing is all barred windows and doors, six locks to get you from one area to another and intimidating looking young men standing around in bored suspicious groups. There was also a sense of the prisoners being much more institutionalised.
It was a different kind of discussion from the previous week because literacy levels were probably lower and I kept it very informal, but again the most interesting questions and interventions came from the people you least expected them to.
When we were going up to the little chapel where I was giving the talk, Marianne, the jail's reader in residence, who had invited me, asked a young guy who was cleaning the floor why he wasn't coming. 'Because I think it'll be pants,' he said. She persuaded him to come along and give it a try and at the end he asked me for my autograph and invited me back, which is probably the best validation I've had yet!