Choices: Working together to address spice.
Spice is a huge issue in our prisons and leads to harm, debt, violence and death.
During a focused discussion around Spice with the Growth Team (residents), two key questions arose;
1) how can we inform staff, residents, families and the community about the impact of spice? and
2) how can we mobilise our prison community to work together in addressing it?
Our Growth Champion, Kam, said he had an idea around writing a screenplay to provide an answer to these questions.
Over the past 5 months we ran with Kam’s idea. He wrote a script, auditioned a cast and crew, got residents to design tickets, programmes and a stage and as a Growth Team, he directed a play. The play was designed around the key principles of growth (see here: https://www.penalreformsolutions.com/the-growth-project ) and informed by experts in the field, who volunteered their services and support. The key principle we focused on was the principle of experiencing normality. We re-created a theatre experience, with ticket sales, snacks and drinks and seat allocations- we wanted residents to escape the prison and immerse themselves in the arts. The play was filmed and hopes to form part of our induction programme at Guys Marsh, with the key message that “we are the change that we seek” and as a community we need to stand together. We also invited acting scouts and theatre companies to the play, to build meaningful relationships and create possible opportunities for those on the cast, to pursue a career in acting.
With the help of the staff at HMP Guys Marsh, we performed 8 times, 3 times to the community and friends and family of the crew, and 5 times to staff and residents. Staff were also given the opportunity to bring their family into the prison, to watch the play and share this experience. Here is an extract from the programme:
I first met Kam Stevens when he applied to join the Growth Project in June 2018. I had never met him before and as he stood up to present his views around prison reform I was inspired, excited and hopeful. His passion for change and his natural qualities in leadership were clear to see from day one. I have come to learn that he is one of the most talented individuals I have met. Kam has grown as a person and now plays a part of our growth story and we are all incredibly proud of him. That is what the Growth Project is all about. It is about creating a space that supports personal growth. Whilst Kam is an individual with exceptional talent, he is not the only person at HMP Guys Marsh who has what it’s take to be successful. This prison is packed to the brim with talent, kindness, care and ambition. I see it every day in all pockets of the prison, even in the darkest of moments. If we focus on creating meaningful opportunities for both the staff and prisoners at HMP Guys Marsh as a team, we can be the change that we seek, we can stand out from the rest and we can make a difference. This play fills me with a range of emotions; that of hurt, sadness, fear and also excitement, pride, optimism and hope. We can all play a part on our story at HMP Guys Marsh to address spice and I welcome you to get involved in the Growth Project and be a part of the solution. Whether it is a suggestion, a solution or a challenge, we can all be a part of this challenge to change the focus of prison into meaningful, safe place for growth.
Evaluating the Project
With every event we develop, there is always an element of evaluation. This is how we grow as an organisation and how we can uncover the impact and thoughts of those that participate in the events we design. We collected over 100 questionnaires from the 8 performances and these will be evaluated, by residents, and a report will be prepared.