Prisons cost us all a small fortune, but the system has remained largely hidden. A new programme aims to show how our money is spent. Words: Stephen Naysmith
. 1 Julie Walters Is An Alien Scottish, Fri 14 Nov, 9pm.
Wrestling with a sixteen-foot python and working out with a wrinkly old nude bloke might not sound like everybody’s dream job. But having proved herself in the worlds of academia and great train robbers, mouthy ma's fave Julie Walters has packed her bags to present a brand new ’factual entertainment programme’ in a kind of Anneka Rice/Carol Smillie-type career move.
Flung into the mad, bad, filthy-rich climate of Miami, Walters finds herself donning the caps of copper, pest-controller and mega-bucks handling real estate agent. Billed as ‘neither a documentary nor a travelogue’, the thinking behind the show is that you learn more about a culture by rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty with the locals.
First up is a gruelling fitness session to prepare the Brummie lass for a stint with the Miami police department. Not quite as glam as Miami Vice, but Walters does get to whip up a storm in the cracks and crevices of a nudist beach, where those happily letting it all hang out engage in all manner of summertime activities.
Unscathed, the gallus gal then pitches up at Pesky Critters, where her duties involve fishing for alligators in a swimming pool and chasing a pot-bellied pig on the run.
But most eye-opening of all is when Walters lands a job as an estate agent in the exclusive Indian Creek neighbourhood, with snooping opportunities aplenty. ’l
By their nature. prisons are a closed world. Most people know little of what goes on inside their walls.
Our opinions are governed by shock horror stories in tabloids and on television: ‘Prisoners mistreated!‘ ‘Security flawed!‘ ‘Prisoners live the life of Riley!‘ But iii terms of a genuine insight into how the system really works day-to-day. most people remain blissfully ignorant.
Now a new 88(‘2 series Prison ll’t'vk/y is aiming for just that kind of perspective. The magazine programme covers several items in six episodes. ranging from Arizona chain gangs to Britain’s new prison ship. from bullying in UK jails to experiences in ultra-liberal Sweden.
Britain‘s attitude is far from liberal. according to executive producer Bob Long. but it is not prison governors. or politicians Prison Weekly: Bill Middleton, governer. Low Moss prison, Glasgow who make it that way. ‘The illiberal people on this issue are the public.‘ he supports ten at a time.‘ It is inadequate. he says. btit
claims. ‘That is because they don't know anything.‘ argues that Barlinnie has limited resources to tackle a know there are big posh houses in He blames the media for pandering to public huge problem. Britain, butlcouldn't believe these,’
prejudice. Already his series has been attacked in the Low Moss. by contrast. operates a unique detox she exclaims in typical Rita-esque
Scottish press for allowing serving prisoners to link scheme. Specially trained prison officers work with fashion.
items and employing former armed robber Jack convicts for twelve weeks prior to release. to address '0 fact: so impressed by her 9”"
Murton as a reporter. their addiction. next‘door "etU'a'ism were the Long believes the public will tune in because they Governor at Low Moss. Bill Middleton. says there egems that 0‘" “"95 W35 Offered?
are fascinated by prisons. The is no overnight solution to a ’ JOb' bl“ She p'Ofesse‘j: "don't um"
I could lie for that amount of time! It is not my cup of tea.’
Even if Walters’ incessant wide- eyed chatter gets a tad irritating, it’s
because they don't know the prison duo” m me. mmcms‘ a darn sight more entertaining than he says. bttt adds that ll was not
programme may change their , . . . fifteen—year habit. bttt the views. although it won‘t set out The '“lbera' peolﬂe on th'5 scheme lias a good success rate. to do so. issue are the public, That is He was happy to open tip
The series has gained unprecedented access to UK
prisons. Long points otit. ‘We anything.’ Bob Long. executive at public relations effort. Eggxzusrlezltcitcgemoncard drwel' wanted to unlock the doors for producer, prison Week/y Middleton says no attempt has the entire system.’ he says. ‘We been made to interfere iii what are not attempting to “teach” viewers. btit they will is shown. ‘I don‘t believe in PR.‘ he says. ‘If we do know a little more.‘ something wrong. I’ll tell you about it. The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) cooperated ‘We are not sending people on fancy holidays. or
readily with the programme makers. and rejects the giving them wall-to-wall carpets. We are training staff newspaper criticisms. “How can a programme look at and delivering programmes which are challenging life in prison without talking to prisoners'." a people’s behaviotir.’
spokesman said. adding: ‘In Scotland. it costs tax That. according to Long. is the key to the series: payers 5.150 million to run the service. They have a ‘We spend billions of pounds on this system and it
right to be informed.‘ is growing so fast it is like a cancer. People catt Asa result. the fifth programme in the series visits watch the programme and ask: “ls this what I Glasgow‘s Barlinnie and Low Moss prisons. want‘.’"‘ examining their drug problem. . , 4’ ‘Of l().()()() people passing throttgh Barlinnie Prison Weekly is on BBC2.Weds, 11.15-11.45pm.1’he r
every year. 2500 have serious drug or aleoltol episode featuring Barlinnie and Low Moss prisons is Great Snakes: all in a day's work in
problems.~ Long explains. ‘lts drug programme on Wed3 Dec. Julie WaltersIs An Alien
110 THE “ST '/ Nov 20 Nov 199/