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statements re gallery images

The Bigger Picture

26/07/16
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The Bigger Picture - Exhibition and Sound-piece

Having worked with Stretch at Peterborough, Bronzefield and Askham Grange and Kirklevington prisons over the last ten years with both male and female prisoners on various photography projects, and finally at Peterborough HMP running digital storytelling workshops with Carlotta Allum, I found myself wanting to know more. ?I felt moved especially hearing the women talking about the effect being a prisoner has on their lives, and on their relationships with their families as well as about their early life experiences. Since researching issues around women in prison, I found out that most of the women in prison are from either working class or ethnic backgrounds, or that they may have been victims of physical or sexual abuse at a young age and this made me want to work in more depth with these women and to build a picture of their lives through interviews and photographs. I also wanted to find out the reasons women are put into prison and whether they are, as research such as the Corston report suggests, put into prison for crimes that are less “serious” than men, and for relatively longer sentences. Quite a few of the women I have spoken to were first time offenders and this surprised me. There are other women who reoffended and ended up returning to prison time and again, going out to hostels having managed to get help with de-toxing from street drugs in prison then returning to the same town and almost straight away being able to buy drugs. Some women have lost their homes and their children wile they were inside as well as their self-respect and with the stigma of a prison sentence – which does not make getting a job and rebuilding their lives any easier.
I interviewed 21 women in the prison: I did not ask specific questions but wanted to be able to listen to what they wanted to tell me, sometimes interjecting or checking out whether rsome of my pre-conceived ideas about prisons and their inhabitants were true! I spoke to women who had been convicted of murder, manslaughter, child-abuse, shop-lifting, fraud and breaking bail conditions and women who were going to be deported back to a country they had not lived in for many years. What they all had in common was their generosity in talking to me, sharing personal information and giving opinions from their very varied life experiences.
I do not want to idealise or make these women out to be saints. They are ordinary people who know the difference between right and wrong and who have expressed their regret at making mistakes that have changed the trajectory of their lives forever. Some of the women I interviewed found that being in prison became a positive change in their lives – especially 3 of the women I spoke to who had been convicted of murder or manslaughter and who had started off as angry and uncooperative but through time and support from family and the prison system had been able to thrive on some level and regain their self-respect. For others, the boredom and isolation added to their sense of abandonment and loss.
I have edited the interviews into a 45 minute sound-pied that reflects some of the issues that were and probably still are uppermost in the women’s minds.
I would like to thank Stretch for their ongoing support of the work, the staff in HMP Peterborough, to Angie Young fro the Dawn Project and to Awards for All for funding the project.
Please contact me through the website if you would like a copy of the sound-piece.
Kay Goodridge March 2016