This new documentary for ITV goes behind the walls of Norwich prison to provide a vivid insight into daily life for criminals behind bars, and the effect on them of being separated from their families on the outside.
This programme depicts how the jail’s 750 adult inmates and young offenders cope with the harsh realities of life inside the closed world of prison.
Most of the 2,500 new prisoners who pass through its gates every year are husbands and fathers. Statistics reveal that a fifth of marriages will break up with the strain of one partner serving a prison sentence, yet those who manage to keep family ties alive are six times less likely to reoffend.
With exclusive access to HMP Norwich, this programme provides a fresh perspective on how inmates’ contact with their families can be a lifeline while they are inside and helps them turn away from crime once released.
More than half of all offenders coming into prison are dads like Nick Grady. He has three young children at home and is serving a 13-year sentence for conspiracy to supply cocaine. As the reception orderly, Nick helps officers process new prisoners and settle them into life inside. He says: “You get a lot of nerves down here, obviously people first-timers. They’re a bit like a rabbit in headlights sometimes. You get obviously the family’s worry, you get parents’ worry, wives, you know? They’re obviously concerned for their partners who are in here.”
Nick is two years into a 13-year sentence for conspiracy to supply cocaine. In spite of the toll it has taken on his family, his partner is standing by him. He says: “They count it down by Christmases and birthdays to go. It’s four birthdays which doesn’t sound a lot but in real time it’s four years isn’t it?
“Austin [my son] has grown up in here, he took his first steps in here pretty much in the visitor’s hall. It’s not new to him, he’s been coming since he was one.
“Having seen what my family are going through, the hardness of it. The last year and a half, two years, [I’ve] watched my little boy grow up from a weekly visit - it’s not what I want.”
The prison’s head of residence and safety Jacqui Spencer explains that staff know virtually nothing about most inmates before they walk into the jail’s reception area. She says: “With new receptions, you have absolutely no idea, I have no idea if any of these lads are on detox or if they need a methadone script, first time in custody, vulnerable, we know none of that, literally unless we know them, until they walk through that door.”
Many prisoners are not new to the system - like 30-year-old father of two Rocky Gamble, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin with an estimated street value of £200,000 and is waiting to be sentenced. Despite issues with discipline inside the prison, he says he has changed: “The players change but the game don’t. So, no matter how big and important you think you are in your little world, your drug world. I just don’t want to be involved with it anymore, do you know what I mean? It’s a mug’s game.”
For first-timers coming into this new world like 21-year-old Liam Poore, prison can be a frightening and bewildering place. He’s still reeling from the shock of being separated from his mum and dad, brothers, and girlfriend. He says: “I’ve put pictures on the wall to try and make myself feel a little bit more like home. Just to remind me of the people I love and miss. ”
Meanwhile, Rocky reflects on his future - away from his family.
He says: “When you come to prison, you don’t have a choice who you live with. You get the violent people, the drug dealers, the robbers, the burglars, and we’re all in it together, we just have to get on.”
Images here: Caption: Category D prisoner Martin outside HMP Norwich.