I arrived today with a case full of the photos, which I planned to hand back to those that took the photos for the project. The case got lighter each time I delivered the photos and I became increasingly aware that the project was coming to an end.
As I walked around the prison, inmates wished me luck for the future and I thanked them for being a part of the project. I was overwhelmed by the support I received and as I arrived at each house, different people had prepared different things for me. I went for chicken and rice with a Somalian inmate, who shared with me his experiences as a child in Somalia during the war. As we did the washing up together, he talked about the future and making something of himself. It was good to have an opportunity to get to know him as we had seen each other around the prison, but he had not taken part in the project. I had to rush to deliver some more photos and felt that with more time, I would have liked to have spent more time with him. I felt he wanted to talk more but time was moving quickly today.
I found two of the researchers (Harald and Jon) and thanked them for everything they had given me over the 6 weeks, though Daniel was out visiting his mother but returning later. Harald said “it was fun” and Jon wished me luck. Elin talked about how powerful the exhibition was and the positive feedback she had heard from the inmates and staff about the project. I had written personal thank you cards for the 48 people who had taken part in the project and this meant that I did not have to express verbally and I was finding it hard to articulate my thoughts. I wanted to give something back and my experience of relationships told me that endings and closure were important.
I was then invited for some Turkish food (see the photo) and as I walked into the lounge area, the table was laid and a fire had been lit. It felt warm and homely. We talked about prisons and the future of punishment alongside Top Gear and Monty Python. The inmates had spent some time making me feel comfortable and I felt like a well-cared for guest. Whilst I was there I became increasingly aware of the time and recognised this was the first day of the research where I felt rushed. I realised I was not going to see everyone and this upset me a little.
I did not get to find my once reluctant researcher (Daniel), who I had become close to and who had taught me so much. With a heavy heart, I walked down to the ferry with my empty photo case. As the ferry moved away from the island, I felt that I had achieved something meaningful. I promised myself I would take every opportunity to share the findings- I owed BastØy that much at least.
Within academic prison research, the question that is sometimes asked of the researcher is; “Whose side are you on? Staff or Inmate?” This final picture is from a guy who described himself as a system buster. He gave me one of his books called To End a War and signed it “system busters unite”. Upon reflection, this comment determined whose side I was on. Irrespective of whether they are a member of staff or inmate, I am with the system busters.
It is hard to fully express what I got from this project- I think one more blog post is in order once things have settled down....to be continued.