#BastØy Blog Log 1: Entering the Belly of BastØy

January 9, 2017

 

Here is a picture of the prison, taken from the mainland on my way to the ferry.  It is a lovely day and I have been hit by the general quietness that surrounds this island-I can better understand why some call this prison the “jewel in the crown”.  It looks stunning and I find it hard to think that this is a prison because I cannot see a prison.  No bars, no walls, no cameras. 

I started my research today and it was Day 1 of the 6 week process.  Starting any research project is a pretty daunting experience, but a photo project in a prison, let alone in a foreign country certainly pushed my anxieties to the limit.  This week, my key goals are;

  • To recruit and train three inmates to make up my research team, to help me carry out the research.

  • To try and get staff and inmates to buy into the research and not think I have some covert agenda.

  • To start the research by asking inmates and staff to walk around the island, taking photos of the things they value at BastØy, when it comes to moving away from crime. 

As I arrived at the main office, I meet a member of staff, called Elin[1], who is a drugs counsellor on the island and having met her last year, felt reassured by her can-do attitude and motivation.  Elin seemed to have no apprehension and with my nerves and attempts to hide away out of view, she seemed the best person to show me round and introduce me to the inmates and staff.  We went to the canteen and met a couple of inmates as they talked openly about the positive aspects of the prison.  I also met one of the inmates called Jon and thought he would be a real asset to the project, due to his straight talking, honest approach.  Two other inmates, Harald and Daniel were identified as possible candidates for the role of researchers, as they both played supportive roles in the prison and were respected by the inmates and staff.  Jon and Harald happily agreed to take part, but Daniel was reluctant and wanted to think about it.  I could see that Daniel felt frustrated that he couldn’t talk about the project with me, due to what he called his “lousy English”.  I felt equally frustrated that I couldn’t help, as my Norwegian is pretty shocking.  I really hope he will agree to be a researcher, though I am doubtful he will join the project as he seemed worried about a lot of things.  I left the island feeling a little better than I did when I arrived and I am looking forward to moving the project forward tomorrow.  Many inmates asked me why I was doing the project-Was it because the governor wants to highlight how good the prison is?  Or was it because the government are investigating the prison?  I told them honestly that it was because I want to learn from them and change English prisons.  To them, they felt this was a fair and well justified reason.   As I stepped back onto the ferry, to return to freedom, I felt overwhelmed with the task ahead of me.  I wondered if I would be able to capture and represent the positive atmosphere that I experienced on my first day in this prison. I hope I do it justice.  I had no idea what I was going to find out because I couldn’t even begin to articulate what it was about BastØy that made it so different. I am filled with uncertainty and excitement in equal measure...

 

 

 

[1] This blog will use pseudonyms throughout in order to protect the identities of those that took part in the research. 

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