Last Night’s Telly

WARNING: This post contains strong language which some may find offensive.


One of the things I enjoy every now and then is to watch absolutely rubbish telly. Car crash telly. Programs that make me angry because they are (to me) so very wrong. I know, if it makes me angry, or I don’t like it, I don’t have to watch it. But I do like it. I like being angry and feeling morally superior to people on the telly. And I moan about it on facebook or twitter or to whoever I’m with. I quite like that too if I’m honest, I like to moan every now and then. I’ll own that up front. I think a lot of other people do too. It’s why these programs are so popular. And twitter makes it that much easier to see your angry views echoed by others, making you feel like it’s ok to be yelling at box in the corner, that’s only showing you terrible things because you asked it to.

Yesterday my dad mentioned to me that there was a program about prisons on that night and I might find it interesting. Oh boy, did I find it interesting. HMP Alyesbury is a look inside a prison that houses “some of Britain’s worst offenders” and the “terrifying” thing is that all those in custody there are under 21. I’m using quotes there because that’s how the program was described by ITV. The program selected a few offenders as its focus, interviewed them and those who worked with them about their experiences. Little commentary or analysis is given by the documentary makers as they want the audience to make up their own minds. However I think the way the program was edited was incredibly biased. With one of the more problematic offenders involved, all context is glossed over and largely ignored to try and portray something “terrifying”. He mentioned that his father was murdered when he was 6, he has had violent fantasies since childhood, has been in care homes or custody since he was 10, was/is regularly physically restrained in care homes and custody and hears voices. Except for hearing voices being a possible indicator of psychosis, there is little or no follow up on any of these issues, which could have a serious impact upon his offending behaviour, or give some insight into why young people commit crime or end up in custody.

A poor documentary is not that big a deal though, right? It wasn’t “terrifying” as suggested, it just painted young offenders in a poor light. I wasn’t even that annoyed until I looked on twitter. Some of the responses to this documentary were a little terrifying. Mass calls for the death penalty to be restored. Suggestions that they should be sent to Afghanistan. Annoyance that they are given education. Anger at their human rights being upheld. I’m not exaggerating.

@ShabS_110: The Prisoners in #HmpAylesbury should be made to stay in a Pakistani jail, 10 people in one cell, no toilet, no clean water.


abbey’:Go to prison and do any course you want for free? I want to further myself and I’ve got to pay for it? RIGHT. #HMPAylesbury


Natacha: If you’re that much of a c*nt to go to prison, you deserve to have the key thrown away #fuckhumanrights #HMPAylesbury


Angela “: Get these man in Afghan… We’ll soon see who’s the big man then… #HMPAylesbury” AMEN!


Pauline: These people wonder why we think they are animals and should be caged or put down permanently #hmpaylesbury


Pauline: Time to bring back the death penalty. Get rid of some of the prison population. #scum of the earth #hmpaylesbury


Bloddy:#HMPaylesbury made me wonder ‘how much does it cost to keep these scrotes alive?’ Surely a gas pellet or injection can’t be that expensive?


tim:  nothing a thermo nuclear device couldn’t solve for the tax paying public #HMPAylesbury


Jamie: These prison programs just reinstate the fact we need to bring back the death penalty. Absolute scumbags.


Lorna: I’d push his face into that water and hold him there for a bit, oops he drowned haha #hermajestysprison


Yeah. I was pretty taken aback when I saw “fuck human rights”. Or the person suggesting that nuclear devices would solve the problem. There were also lots of people saying we should model our prison and justice systems on the USA’s set-up. Things like this make me want criminology to be more accessible, reporting of crime rates to be more responsible, because clearly the message of people who work in these systems or study them, isn’t getting across. Prison IS the punishment. What good will further punishment do? Prisons on the whole aren’t very effective in terms of reducing crime anyway. That’s meant to be the point of criminal justice, reducing crime. If we worked on that more than punishment, there would be fewer people to punish and fewer victims to compensate.

So, I watched a program about prisons and got annoyed at all the passive observers baying for blood. Then I watched Black Mirror. Which was pretty much the same thing, but wasn’t annoying at all, it was brilliant.


About Jess Urwin

Lecturer in social work at De Montfort University, youth justice researcher, musician, crafter, constant reader.
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2 Responses to Last Night’s Telly

  1. Izzy Sticklee says:

    Wow, I’d never thought I’d read f**k human rights! I can understand people aren’t informed or that there’s difficult issues to tackle, but I’m amazed people can be so blunt about something so wrong. And they think the people locked inside are the animals?!

    • jessurwin says:

      Yup. Reading twitter comments was warse than watching the program! I think some people don’t realise how far what they say on twitter can go.

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