The trip to the Acklington Prison last week was not what I expected. I have been to 2 prison systems in the United States, one in Iowa and one in Missouri; however, both were completely different than this UK prison. I was first and foremost overwhelmed with the friendly nature of the prison. I’m not sure if this was due to their nice living quarters in relation to other prisoners, their enjoyment of seeing some “outsiders” or something else. I believe I would be angry if a group of students were allowed to come into my living space and examine the way I lived or if I was paraded around for young American students to see. They, however, did not seem to mind in the slightest. In fact, they were very friendly and open to answer questions. Beyond the prisoners, the rehabilitation effort seems to be miles ahead of the United States. I am, admittedly, not an expert in the United States prison system, but have never even heard of programs being so successful. My father is a police officer in the states and he certainly does not talk about the rehabilitation programs as being very successful at all. It makes me wonder what the differences are and I would be so bold as to guess it’s the treatment of the prisoners. When I toured the prison in southern Missouri, the guards refused to even interact with the prisons whereas here, the guards were joking with them and being openly friendly. If you are constantly treated like an animal or a criminal, it’s no surprise when you are released you are tagged as a repeat offender and end up behind bars once again.
To be fair, the tour through the prison seemed completely staged (we were given coffee/tea and cookies). And I felt quite uncomfortable being forced to tour a facility where I believed us to be judging a group of people we knew nothing about.