Some of you will have seen this story recently reported of a prison officer who herself is now a prisoner, having a received a seven year sentence for smuggling class A drugs into Wormwood Scrubs. As a former 'screw' her life will now be one long hell.
Inside that intimidating victorian building there are several thousand men, some of whom have been and will be there for a very long time. In fact without having entered the grounds I got a priviledged view of what life is like inside on both occasions when my partner was in labour in the next door Queen Charlotte's Hospital - the delivery wards are high up so you can see over the wall!
But how much do we know about them or what their lives are like? I know for example that the local newsagent on Ducane Road supplies their newspapers and there are a surprisingly high number of broadsheet readers. He proudly displays a sign at his door telling the world he supplies the prison with their daily intake!
At the excellent Braybrook Street Festival last week the prison dominated the procedings simply by being that huge building that blocked out the sun and yet noone takes any notice of it. They must have been looking out at us in the park and being reminded of what they had lost.
I'm not saying we as a community should have personal links with prisoners but should we interact a bit more with the institution? It must be a major local employer. And of course it is the same prison which was recently condemned for having abused the human rights of many prisoners. Could or would that have happenned with greater community involvement? Yes, probably. But maybe not as much.
I'm not even sure what I'm arguing here to be honest, I know that all prisons need more community visitors and if you're interested find out more here. My own travel committments would rule me out but if they didnt I'd probably be interested.
I guess I'm just observing that there is a hidden community among us, and there's just something that makes me feel we should be doing more!