Saturday, 12 September 2009

Soft Prison - How the news is made

On the 9th September just after 11 in the morning a journalist called
Sadie Nichols from the Daily Express posted a request on the askcharity webside. Askcharity has been established to help communications between the media and charities. Sadie's request was

I'm looking for someone who has been in prison and thought that it was all quite a cushy life inside - just as we are led to believe - and would be willing to share their experience anonymously for a feature. Please get in touch if you know anyone, male or female, who would testify that life behind bars isn't the tough experience law abiding citizens would hope that it is.
Now clearly our Sadie (or her newspaper) have a clear agenda. They are not interested in the stories of those for whom imprisonment is unbearable pain. She would have no interest for example in this excellent and very moving blog by Raymond Lunn describing his experience of imprisonment. No she wanted to portray prison in a very different light and was looking for a charity to help her.

Sadie's fishing paid off. The next day the 10th September the Express website ran a story under the headline


Bob Cummines, the Chief Executive of charity UNLOCK and a former ex-prisoner who spills the beans on the 'reality' of imprisonment. He informs his readership that

Prisoners are given PlayStations, their own flat-screen televisions in their cells, their beds have pretty covers and even curtains at the window.

He tries to slip a reformative message in arguing for prisoners to be made to useful work but his article's main impact is to reinforce the Express's predetermined message - prison needs to be made harder. Prison's are full of the most damaged and vulnerable people in our society. For those prisoner's already unable to cope making prison tougher will just mean more pain, more self harm and more suicides. But Bob has a charity to run and funds to raise.

A interesting final point.
Sadie Nichols doesn't write for the Express she appears to write only for the Mail online. Her output there includes some "soft prison" stories. However the Express does have a Sadie Dodds who is a regular contributor. It appears that our Sadie uses different names for different papers. The quality of the journalism is however equally bad under both names.

1 comment:

  1. The Bob Cummines article was taken down from the Express website soon after publication. The content was a fabrication based only loosely on a telephone interview and did not represent his views whatsoever. After being threatened with court action, the Express removed the article from the website.