This week guest writer Anna James talks about her new favourite podcast, Justice.
I stumbled across Justice when searching for a new podcast to listen to. As a keen podcast listener, I've worked my way through all the big ones: Serial, The Teacher's Pet, The Guilty Feminist, the list goes on. Justice is presented by Edwina Grosvenor, a prison philanthropist who focuses reforms to the Criminal Justice System (which she would prefer to be simply called the Justice System) as well as on prisons themselves.
Justice is an interview-based podcast, so each week focuses on a different person with a unique viewpoint and connection to prisons, or to the justice system. I've chosen to write about one particular episode that especially jumped out at me as it combines a discussion about this incredibly interesting topic with real life stories from prisoners and former prisoners with one of my personal passions. Food.
I'd heard of The Clink Charity before and also of its restaurants which it runs in prisons, staffed by prisoners, but I must admit I hadn't thought much about the initiative and I don't think I was aware that they are open to the public. I used to drive past Brixton Prison on the way to school every day for many years, so the idea of going inside for dinner is quite intriguing to me. But beyond that, the podcast really highlights the positive impact that initiatives such as The Clink can have on inmates. Members of the public dining at The Clink restaurants give the prisoners the valuable experience they need to gain qualifications in the hospitality industry that can prove to be vital when they are released. Many potential employers attend the restaurants, and the inmates can be interviewed in the same way a civilian would be interviewed for the job on the outside, so that they can potentially go straight into the job when they are released. This is a crucial way to reduce reoffending rates, which is one of the main aims of the charity.
Listening to Edward, a Clink Graduate who has been working for The Clink charity on the outside since his release, is inspiring and, in some parts, emotional. He says that interaction with the civilian public is a huge benefit for prisoners working at The Clink, because it allows them to have real conversations, rather than the repetitive ones they become accustomed to having with the other inmates. He says he was surprised that so many people wanted to come in and eat in a prison, and this has made him feel that perceptions of prisoners are changing and that there is more understanding of why crimes are committed. This interaction with what he calls 'normal people' showed him the possibility that there was a life for him outside of criminality. Many inmates see prison as a way to enhance their criminal network, which Edward says was also his mindset at the beginning. But The Clink made him see another option after his release and gave him the feeling that he had something to lose if he were to reoffend and return to prison, a feeling he had not previously had.
It shouldn't be surprising that treating prisoners like human beings and actively preparing them for their release whilst they are still incarcerated is the best way to rehabilitate offenders. It is very easy not to think about society's hidden people, but Justice podcast is really a fascinating way to learn about many different aspects of the Criminal Justice System, and maybe to challenge some prejudices about the prison system that you might be carrying.