This project, with all the conversations, photos and experiences, opened my eyes to a new way in which we can move forward with prisons in England. It seems that we work so hard in shaming and punishing people and if the punishment doesn’t work, the consistent response has been to punish harder. And yet, I hope that once the values that underpin BastØy are illuminated, the idea does not seem so wrong or alien.
As one inmate said to me, you treat someone like an animal, they learn to behave like one. I strongly believe that the more we treat inmates as people, the more likely they will be to act like people.
A lot of people say to me, this prison wouldn’t work in England because our system is all about retribution. My answer to this is; a reconsideration of the way in which we view punishment could begin to address this mismatch. But it is not just that. If we consider new ways in which justice can be served, we may be more effective in meeting the needs of the society and “do justice”. Some of the values identified in this project practices do exist in England and Wales, in spite of the system that has been created. I have had the benefit of working with some incredible prison officers who value mutual respect, promote responsibility where possible and work with prisoners. I have seen positive change in people who have offended and I am convinced that these values contribute to that change.
We have so much potential to change the way we work in England, to create a safer and healthier environment in prison. We cannot necessarily replicate BastØy prison, but we can learn lessons from it which can assist us in preventing future harm and create better prisons. I am willing to do anything in my power to contribute to this objective.
I argue that finding new ways to address re-offending and more effective ways to measure success is necessary. This is not limited to prison, but can be applied to community punishment as a viable and legitimate alternative, which may divert people away from the negative consequences of incarceration, which perpetuate criminality.
I struggled returning to England with an election on my doorstep and my prison research over. I don’t miss the prison; I miss what it represents and what it means to me personally. I miss Daniel and the people I spent time getting to know during this short adventure.
Thank you for reading my blog; I finish with a picture of me and Daniel.