Have you ever been to prison?


Have you ever been to prison?

Try to avoid it, if you can it.

It’s proper shit.

I’d be surprised if anyone enjoyed it there. Even repeat offenders aren’t there again because they like it, at a guess.

So I have a question: Why do we have prisons?

No, I get it – so real-life Boogieman Barry doesn’t rape and murder me as I sleep in my bed.

Turns out prison does a bloody good job of separating those expected to harm (because they’ve been found guilty of doing it before) from everyone else.

The prospect of going back there – as a prisoner this time – is something I think about frequently.

The experience of seeing my family member in there scared me. It scarred me too, I think. And though my criminal has landed right back there, I will not be joining him for a Saturday chinwag.

I think about prison more than I care to admit. Prison sucks. I don’t want to go there. But you never really know, do you?

When I heard what some prisoners had done, I thought, could I have done that? Yes, I probably could – with the right motivation. And I think that’s the scariest thing for me. You could catch me on a bad day, and before I know it I’m staring red-eyed at the single cot of my sin bin.

My point is: it can happen to anyone.

I’m also an idealist. When faced with thinking of an alternative, first I’m scuppered, and then I’m all like: let’s make everyone equal. 

Was that an eye roll? I felt it in my periphery. Fucking communist. Is that what I just heard you mumble under your breath, too?

But, and I’m serious now, this is a serious question: if we did a better job of equality, family, community, would prisons be as full? Would the current idea of prison need to exist?

And maybe the answer will still be yes. Maybe it won’t. What is freedom anyway, if so many people give it away so freely? Does it tell us something about the quality of our freedom in a free market society? Here she goes again, commi bastard. You definitely said it that time. I heard you.

But I mean, is there another way?

Is prison a monstrous tree growing out of soil doused with inequality (and not just economic inequality)? And if so, could prison grow into something else that better addresses said inequality?

I’m probably not talking about all prisons and all prisoners here, like I said there’s a reason we have them. But what if that reason has a different solution? We’ve probably done prison how we’ve done it for fucking ages. Could it be different?

Sorry, I started by saying I had a question but apparently that means somewhere between five and fifteen. I’ve probably got another fifty in my head as I type.

OK, so I’ve had an idea. What if, instead of being banged up in this shrine to inequality where people are likely to end up there again, what if two criminals are paired up? Ideally they’d be matched (like job share) – people who have similar personalities, similar skills but very different lifestyles, for examples. One from the country, one from city, or one who has accumulated wealth and one who committed a crime to secure wealth.

The share house arrest project, we’ll call it. You have to stay with that other person, you have to teach each other the skills you know and you’re responsible for the other getting out. (What if you have no skills? Tough shit, make one up.) You don’t get out until he does. You live with him for a period of time then he lives with you for a period of time. You both get home schooled too.

I’m an idealist I know but. But if the system’s broken, it’s worth brainstorming, right?

Fuck, I don’t know. I have a thought and a typewriter (not really, it’s a laptop). What do I know?

I’m grossly simplifying as I think about this, I know. But isn’t that what modelling is? Scaling down to make an idea or solution or system manageable?

There’s some bloke (he’s probably got a PhD. in criminology or some such and he probably wants to put me in prison right now so I can see what kind of animals live there so I can better assess my stupid presumptions).

And yet, in the interest of throwing ideas around here, I’m thinking the idea of prison as we know it might be out-dated. Really it’s a cage for savage animals isn’t it? When only some are savage humans.

Prison or job share? Job sharing seems more productive to me.

Either way prison sucks. Avoid it if you can.