No Pics in Prison Please

Posted: 31 August 2015 in Prisons, Understanding Others
Tags: ,

Oklahoma prison pics on Facebook

“Prisoners on Instagram reveal security crisis behind bars” so said Channel 4 earlier this year.  Yes, it is an issue.  But for most prisoners, they don’t want it.

Pictures in prison? A serious non no.  I’ve seen it done. Had my picture taken in prison, and not just be a security camera either.  But it’s usually forbidden. No camera, no mobiles, nada.  Prison authorities don’t like it.  They don’t want the publicity for well known offenders being put on Facebook accounts or in the papers.  They don’t want to make public that “Slasher” Jones has been moved from HMP Newgate to HMP Sarum.  Photos have been taken of prison keys, even by accident that have led to thousands being spent of hurriedly replacing all the locks in a prison.  Photos of Prisons Officers outside of prison – no thanks to that too.  Photos are then used to ID prison officers, who can then be “sweated” by criminal associates to do favours for associates inside.  Like smuggling in drugs, money, mobile phones, etc.

When I first went to my first prison, I took my camera, just to take pictures of the outside of this well known old establishment.  For this blog.  Just the walls and the car park.  Nothing up-close-and-personal.  I was halted by a prison officer going off duty who challenged me as to who I was and why I was taking pictures.  I told him and he explained that criminal associates have been known to pictures of prison officers and even of their cars, to ID them, track them down to their homes and then threaten their families to smuggle items in (or out).  Whoops, sorry mate. Camera back in bag.

Some prisoners like to put pictures on Instagram and the like, if only to wind-up the authorities.  But most largely don’t like pictures being taken.  Guys inside don’t want it to be known that they are inside and so are keen to avoid wider recognition when ever possible.  I was in Chapel in a prison elsewhere with a drama team for a Sunday service.  Around 60-70 prisoners attended.  The Chaplain wanted pictures taken and the prison authorities had authorised a camera.  The Chaplain knew this could be an issue, so he asked the prisoners were they comfortable with pictures being taken from behind.  I.E. no faces.  There were quite a few shouts of “No way”, accompanied by wider grumbles.  What was agreed was that pictures would be taken, from the back.  We’d all stand as if for worship – except for those anxious to avoid pics, who would remain in their seats head down while a few photos were taken.  Then there’s be an “all clear”, photography would stop, and the normal service would resume.  Everyone was happy with that.

Publicity rather than privacy is the prevailing passion these days.  But in prison, where there is inevitably little individual privacy, personal dignity and private space, many chose to opt for “no pics please”.


p.s. I found something similar in Haiti.  See my next posting.


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