The Conversation, it gave us a chance to understand what staff go through, young inmates go through, old inmates go through, so it gave us the chance to experience how they feel about the prison at the moment.
Introducing The Conversation into the system really does make a difference to the system. To the point of, you know, getting a greater understanding of a community that lives within itself, and trying to make things better within the community we live in. It’s an emotional rollercoaster because you’re dealing with emotional situations in prison.
Me, I can appreciate what they [prison officers] go through, but obviously it’s hard; everyone’s got personal issues they’ve got to deal with. It did give a chance for the young offenders to see the staff’s point of view and the older inmates’ point of view.
For the young offenders that did attend The Conversation, there has been a change in their behaviour — I can see it even with the ‘pleases’ and ‘thank you’s’. And, they’re, you know, learning to break the ice with officers and different inmates without having this persona of being a hard rock within prison, being this tough guy. It’s made an impact on them. It’s kind of relieved some of the tension as well.
With the young offenders that did attend, you can see a slight development in the way they talk and act with the officers. It gave officers a chance to express as well, because the whole prison system is, kind of, you know, emphasised on ‘inmates, inmates, inmates’, but at the same time, it’s good for the staff to be able to express these things. You actually hear how they feel. Outside of The Conversation, no matter what happens, they have to keep what they’re feeling on a professional level, and it’s hard. Before they [the prisoners] had a really negative attitude – you know, if they needed something doing or something didn’t happen straight away it would be like “oh the officer is not doing it because they don’t want to do it” — but now they they’re kind of understanding. You know it’s not because they don’t want to do it, they ain’t got the time to do it. They just haven’t got the time to do what I am requesting. They’re taking a more, kind of, relaxed approach. With the young guys that attended, I’m seeing these characters come out, this whole new attitude — which is a good thing. It’s more calm, it’s more relaxed, it eases the tension.
It would be good if The Conversation could reach out to every person in the prison.
I see a different approach in how they dealing with day-to-day issues. When you hear the officers’ sides and see what they’re going through, it’s a struggle, and you begin to think “you know what? It’s not their fault.” It did even give me a greater understanding of the situation we are in right now.
We got the experience of having a roleplay and seeing what he has to say. It helps people have a better understanding of each other and their position in prison, whether you are an inmate or staff. It’s given me a greater insight of what the officers are going through, and it is a really stressful job.
You really think they have it easy, they go home at the end of the night and we’re here. You know, we suffer this punishment, we’re going through all of this. But, at the same time, it’s frustrating for them as well. It gave them a chance to see how emotionally frustrated the inmates are — like, to hear the reasons, rather than someone losing their temper on the wing in an instance, and then having to take precautions for everyone for health and safety reasons.
It’s made the staff look at the inmates’ emotions and frustrations differently. Even though they know the reasons, they’re seeing them expressed in a different manner, which is nice as well. It’s given them the chance to see a different emotional side to the prisoners.
It’d be a shame if The Conversation didn’t happen on a regular basis throughout the system. That would be the crying shame of it.