#prison blog Log 6: Do we DARE to TRUST?

January 27, 2017

 With the training complete and some photos already taken, this week my goals were to engage staff and inmates in the research and carry out some photo-essay interviews.  After a week at the prison, I was allowed to wander around on my own without supervision from the guards, so Harald asked if I wanted to walk around the island.  He had a photo in his mind which he wanted to take for the research that was located near the southern part of the island.   It was also a good opportunity to do a practice run, so Harald was happy with the process of collecting the photos and carrying out the photo-essay interviews. 


When Harald said that we were going into the forest, I was immediately reminded of an incident that occurred, two weeks prior to the research.   I had had a reoccurring nightmare in which I walked in a forest with a man I knew to have been convicted of murder.  As I entered into a deeper part of the forest in my dream, he turned to me and hit me over the head. I woke up each time, in a state of panic.  I shared this nightmare with an academic colleague in England prior to the research, who used to work for Probation and as a consequence, we constructed an informal risk management plan.  I had the plan in the forefront of my mind as we set off on the walk.  The guards knew I was walking around the island and that I would be gone for an hour. 


As I started walking with Harald, he shares with me the fact that he is in prison for murder.  My apprehension increases suddenly, not because of him but because of the nightmare and the fear connected with it.  As we turned around a corner, the image here came into a view- it was my exact dream scenario.  I had never been to this part of the prison and not ever ventured outside of the main part of the prison.    We kept walking, away from the guard’s office, away from the main part of the prison.  We were alone. 


I was in conflict with what I was taught at Probation and what I felt.  I wanted to walk forward but my head was telling me to turn around.  I then challenged my thinking.  I knew that I trusted Harald.  I knew that there had never been an assault on a member of staff at BastØy.  I felt safe.  Herald supported people; he supported inmates, his family and had supported me more than anyone on this project so far.  I trusted him.    


Harald shared with me the details about his offence and the impact it had had on him and others.  On this level, he trusted me too.  He talked about how he used to support his community and his background, working for the emergency services.  He talked about being a father.  As I stumbled over a slippery path, he offered me his hand.  It was a powerful moment for me. 


I learnt today that what we are told needs to be challenged sometimes, when the context changes.  I believe we live in a risk society, where the focus is not on what has occurred but on what may occur in the future.  Punishing people for what they may do is therefore problematic.  I believe it also impacts on how trust plays out for us.   I think being trusted and showing trust are two important things, particular for people who may rarely experience trust in their lives.  I appreciate that trust is difficult to give when we have been let down.  Second chances are difficult to come by when there is no trust.  Norway is known to be a more trusting society.  In this sense, my dream tells us as much about ‘the system’ than about those that offend. 

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