After delivering a speech on the consequences of crime and punishment and highlighting the fact that anybody, in any place and at any time, could become a prisoner, I asked the children at Brynmawr foundation school to write a letter, to whoever they choose, imagining that this was their first night in a prison.
It was amazing to see the kids reaction when reality hit them, no iphones, no wifi, no internet access at all. Some thought that you could be bailed out of a prison sentence and were shocked to hear that the geographical locations of prisons meant you could be hours away from home to serve your sentence.
I will blog more specifically about how the day panned out, the interaction with the kids and feedback from staff and the children following the event, but for now…..Enjoy a read of the children’s letters from their first night in a prison!
I’m in prison, I won’t see you for two years. I am in a cell with a doctor. Mam, I didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident.
Please come and get me, I want to come home. Tell everyone I miss them and to come and visit me soon because I miss you loads.
I love you” Year 8 Pupil.
“Dear mam and dad,
Im so sorry that I done this, I’m so disappointed in myself and ashamed that I let myself slip with my anger. I wish I wasn’t there then and at that time cause if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be in this situation, all I want you to know is that I am so sorry and I love you. I hate myself and if I could go back I wouldn’t of done it but I was so angry mam.
I love you both dearly mam and dad xxx” Year 8 Pupil.
“Mam and dad,
Its really scary, I’m missing you so much can you please come and get me cause I feel scared and upset. I really want to see you and dad. How are you feeling I hope you are ok. I can’t wait till I get out of here. I’m going to start from the beginning and start my new life, get a house and job. There are people screaming and shouting and sometimes they are fighting. I stay back in my cell away from them. I stay in this little cell with a toilet and a sink and bunkbeds. My room mate is very kind and helpful but I miss you so much, love you millions mam and dad, see you soon I am so sorry I let you down.
Love you.” Year 10 Pupil.
“Dear mam and my family,
It’s my first night in prison it’s really scary here, they are screaming and shouting and there are fights. I don’t like it here come and bail me out and please bring me a mcdonalds.
Hope to see you soon.
Love you loads.” Year 7 Pupil.
“Dear mam and dad,
It’s really scary here and I really want you to come and get me bail me out, I hate it. Bring me a Mcdonalds I am craving a cheese burger and I hate my life so much I hate all of the fights and arguments in here.
I have to go now, this is my only letter for a week.
Lots of Love.” Year 9 Pupil.
I am very depressed and feeling so angry because I never knew doing something so stupid could lead to this. I just want to come home. Being in here for as long as I am isn’t going to be normal. I am missing you and the rest of the family so much and knowing that most people wont want to speak to me now is horrible.
Love you but I have to go now.” Year 10 Pupil.
I hate my life so much, I feel so sad and I miss you so much. I love you so much nan. Please tell mam and dad and gramps and everyone that I miss them all so much, I cant wait for this to be over, Its so dark and boring and depressing I cant believe I am in here for 4 years because of an accident. Please come get me I love you so much.” Year 8 Pupil.
As well as asking the pupils to write a letter, we also asked them to answer some questions for us. Below are the questions and answers, completed by pupils between year 7 and year 10.
What does a prisoner look like, describe how you imagine the appearance of a prisoner?
• Covered in tattoos
• Orange jumpsuits
• Shaved head
• Grey tracksuit
• Looking very ill
• Look like they don’t wash
• Mad and angry
How would you feel if you went to prison today?
• Really scared
• Absolutely horrible
• I wouldn’t know what to do
• Feel sorry for myself and my family
• I would feel like there is no point in life anymore
• So many opportunities have been ruined
• I would feel like I have let my family down
• Totally gutted, I don’t think I could survive
• Heart broken
What would you miss the most if you were in prison?
• My freedom
• My job
• Nice food
• My phone
• My bed
• My house
• My social life
• My pets
• My t.v
• My education
• My rights
• My xbox
• My ipad
What would you say to a serving prisoner to encourage them to change and stay out of prison upon their release?
• Please don’t go back, I know you don’t like it
• Learn from your mistakes and move on
• Life will be better if you don’t go back to prison
• Keep your mind occupied on changing the world
• Your mistakes will follow you for your whole life
• “do you really want to come back to this place?”
• Stay out of trouble, don’t get involved, move away if you have to
• Freedom and life is amazing, find an opportunity to move on
• Think about the consequences and be the bigger person to not get involved
• Was it worth it? Because you could have done anything…
• Think about your family and the sentence they had
• Remember what it was like when you were living in a cell
• Think of the life you could have if you didn’t go back, stay positive because life outside of prison can be good
• You still have a life after, fight to change what you can
• I would remind them to think how awful prison was
Describe how you imagine the day to day life of a serving prisoner?
• Just in a cell all day, horrible
• I thought they would be out of their cell for at least 5 hours
• No fun at all
• Someone is always going to try and bully you and get the best of you
• Staring at a wall
• Sleeping all day
• Wake up, eat,shower,sleep every day
• Working a boring job
Would you spend a night in prison if you were given the chance?
• Yes, to see how some criminal feel and how they live.
• I don’t know
• No, I couldn’t last a day alone
• Only if someone I loved went to prison
• I wouldn’t go alone
• Yes, to lean how others live and feel
• No way, I wouldn’t like it at all
• I wouldn’t want to ever experience that
• No, after hearing about it, it sounds terrible
• Yes, for the experience
What do you want to be when you are older?
• Social worker
• Foster carer
• A vet
• Police officer
• Doctor “I have no intention to go to prison” (age 14)
• I would like to work in New Look
A huge thank you to Brynmawr foundation school for allowing us to come and share our experiences and to Barry Mason who arranged the whole day, a big thanks to all of the pupils who were a pleasure to talk to and who engaged fully and interactively. I think all involved in the day, took something positive away from it.
Our aim is to bring informative conversation and educate on the realities of life in prison and the affects it can have on life for a very long time. Moving away from how media portray prison as ‘butlins’. Luxuries such as playstations, still get boring after sitting in a cell for years.