Text: Alasdair Craig
My expectations of HMP The Mount had been dominated by images of a huge, overcrowded, long outdated Victorian prison, of which I am told many still remain. However these preconceptions where proved wrong when I saw the prison itself had the appearance of a red brick university, surrounded by high wire fences. Furthermore, there appeared to be a wide range of academic, sporting and artistic facilities providing what one hopes to be an array of opportunities and schemes to equip the residents for a life outside.
We were conducted through a complex of buildings, past classrooms and sports facilities, until being shown into a room, numbered 12A, which one would expect would seat about fifteen people. There were ten of us from LSW and shortly after the allotted time at which the session was to commence, the HMP The Mount inmates who were to take part in the workout started to arrive. The session had been advertised around the prison and attendance was purely voluntary.
I have to confess I was probably the most nervous person in the room largely due to the laid back and friendly attitude of almost all of the people taking part. Everyone was quite prepared to take the leap of faith with this workshop which they knew little or nothing about.
Almost immediately all twenty or so of the group were throwing themselves into the exercises without any apparent concern about the judgement of others. In a closed environment such as a prison one can only imagine the suffocating effects of peer pressure. Still, I saw little sign of self-consciousness. There were some great moments in the Shakespeare Name Game including a physicalisation of the name ‘Warwick ‘which was unbelievable.
I sincerely hope that the fun and fulfilment I took from the experience was also enjoyed by everyone who took part, particularly in view of the fact that it was for their benefit. I hope that the residents surprised themselves and that they went away with more confidence and belief in their potential.
Finally I hope most of all that as and when LSW returns they come back and consolidate the success of the afternoon. I certainly will.