Saturday, 27 June 2009

In Prison

I once spent a week in a prison. All in the interests of scholarship, of course. At university, I studied penology, and as part of my course, I attended an open prison for a week. It was a memorable time. Since then, I’ve managed to keep out of jail, but this last week I went back inside.

The journalist (and fashion blogger) Jane Gallagher is someone I’ve mentioned before. She is a busy and talented person, and among her many activities, she is writer in residence at a prison in the north of England. When she invited me to talk to a group of prisoners with an interest in creative writing, I was happy to go along.

The prison is ‘category B’ and this means that those inside have generally committed much more serious crimes than those I met at the open prison all those years ago. But this group, although it included a couple of convicted murderers, and others who have done terrible things, was lively and engaging (and, if the samples of work I saw are anything to go by, not short of talent, however raw it might be at present.)

I enjoyed the visit a good deal, and was impressed both by the work that Jane does with the men, and by the seriousness of their interest in a wide range of forms of writing. The experience of the locking and unlocking of countless doors, and the sound of footsteps echoing along endless corridors, will stay with me for a long time. And if, one day, the germ of an idea of a story set in closed prison comes to me, I’ll know where it came from.


Uriah Robinson said...

You might be interested in this item about the Honeytones group playing for inmates at Channing Woods and Dartmoor Prisons. Our youngest Jacob is the lead singer.

Dorte H said...

I am glad they let you out again! We are waiting for that fourth Daniel Kind-novel, you know :)

It must be good research for a crime writer to visit prisons. Apart from Kilmainham I have never tried it.

Jane said...

Thank you for writing about your visit Martin - your visit was a talking point for days. The guys were very interested in your ideas for short stories and the process of editing.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks again for the invitation, Jane.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Dorte. One thing about prison, I suppose, is that you have quite a lot of time to think out your story-lines...but on the whole I much prefer it outside!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the link, Uriah. I do think these initiatives with prisons are a Very Good Thing.