7 Anglers Lane
London NW5 3DG
Tel: 020 7916 7707
Fax: 020 7916 7488
The Prisons Video Trust aims to help improve communication and assist the rehabilitative function of prison throughout and within the prison systems of the United Kingdom. We do this primarily through the production and widespread use of magazine style educational videos.
Our videos are exclusively about and for the UK prison world and seek to inform, to promote dialogue and positive ideas, and to entertain by:
• focusing attention on solutions to the difficulties of prison life;
• highlighting positive developments;
• offering topical information from within prisons and from outside that is not readily available through other channels.
We hope this provides a unique platform for frank discussion for those living and working in prison, as well as granting prisoners a voice not normally available to them
In September 1991, a video tape bearing a picture of Arthur Koestler on its box cover arrived on the desk of every Governor in the country. No one knew then that this would be the forerunner of a continuing series of video programmes providing a unique communication and education service exclusively for the prison world. Ten years on, The Prisons Video Magazine is well into its second decade of existence. Richard Astor and his wife, Sarah, originally came up with the idea of creating a facility that would offer charities an opportunity to use video cheaply to carry out their work. Video offered some obvious advantages for communicating to a prison population with generally poor education and literacy. At about the same time, a BBC Video Diary made by Jack Murton from inside HMP Blantyre House where he was completing a 12-year sentence for armed robbery, caught Richard and Sarah’s attention as they were preparing to make the first Koestler ‘video newsletter’. Jack seemed an ideal candidate for the production team. Soon after his release from prison he agreed to come on board. Former Prison Governor, Rev. Peter Timms, OBE, also became involved, supplying expertise and advise in getting the video off the ground. Four more Koestler videos followed in 1992, during which time another ex-prisoner from Blantyre, Mish Biberovic, joined the production team.
The enthusiastic response to early issues from both prisoners and staff encouraged the founders to make it a continuing series. The videos adopted a magazine-style format featuring short items on other prison topics and issues as well as information about the Koestler scheme. The reactions from viewers, mostly in prison education classes, were positive and encouraging. The Prison Service at that time was hardly accustomed to letting in cameras, let alone when they were carried by a couple of ex-prisoners, one of whom was a former cat ‘A’. To succeed, we had to build up the trust and respect of the authorities whilst maintaining our independence, vital for our credibility amongst a cynical prison audience. From the start, the Prison Service supported the work by providing free distribution to prisons, and in 1997 it increased its support when it gave a first direct grant to The Trust. The Prisons Video Trust is now chaired by Terry Waite, CBE and is seen as sufficiently important and unique to be funded by the Prison Service and by voluntary contributions, from charitable trusts and corporations.
Those early editions of the video magazine, though technically ‘raw’, embodied many of the principles and aims that were to give the video a unique and endearing role in the prison system. Today the Trust is more than ever an established presence within the UK prison systems. The Prisons Video Trust aims to assist the rehabilitative function of prison by providing a nationwide forum through the medium of a video magazine for those who live and work in the prison system to share information, raise awareness and discuss issues that confront them. 'The Prisons Video Magazine' is a unique product; we believe that no other such product exists exclusively for prison use, anywhere else in the world. The video provides a platform for frank discussion between prisoners and those in authority as well as providing a voice for prisoners not normally available to them. We hope it will help to break down traditional barriers and achieve a better mutual understanding of those issues. This unique perspective is helped by its contact with its audience and the involvement of ex-prisoners as part of the production team - by offering video training and employment.
Trustee Board Members
A 10 member Board that meets six times a year manages the Trust, chaired by Terry Waite, CBE. Terry’s concern and deep understanding of prison and prisoners, from personal experience, has been of great benefit to the vision of the Trust. The board also includes two former prison governors (one of whom was past Chairman of the Prison Governors' Association), a serving principal officer, and a former principal officer from HMP Pentonville. Benedict Birnberg is a recently retired solicitor with experience of charity law and a longstanding professional and personal interest in penal affairs. He is now Deputy Chairman of the Trust.
Other board members include a Sally Sampson, a JP and a former Board of Visitors member, Stuart Kemp,a retired partner in Sayers Butterworth, a firm of chartered accountants who chairs our fund raising committee, Geoffrey Baruch, Director of The Brandon Trust, a charity that helps young people with mental health needs and that often have clients referred to them from the criminal justice system. We hope that his managerial expertise in running a charity considerably larger than PVM will help our development in the future.
We at The Prisons Video Magazine are proud of our output over the last decade or so, and we hope to continue to develop and change as we respond to our audience’s needs. We also hope to explore the possibilities of closer working ties with related prison organisations and other prison charities in the future. We are already working with The London Shakespeare Workout Prison Project on a joint venture called “Dreaming Will”, which is benefiting prisoners by giving them an opportunity to develop numerous literacies as part of an educational arts based package involving drama, video production, music and creative writing. We have worked with The Trust for the Study of Adolescence on a training package for prison officers helping them better understand juvenile and young offenders and we are exploring other projects with Partners of Prisoners (POPS), KIDS VIP, and the Prison Service.
Although London based, our main activity is to produce a regular series of magazine style video programmes for the UK prison world, serving the English and Wales, the Scottish and the Northern Ireland prison systems. Each video typically runs for about 30-40 minutes containing 5 or 6 individual items. In the last two years we have filmed in more than thirty-eight English, Scottish and Irish prisons covering all manner of subjects.
In PVM 44, we looked at the National Induction Centre at Shotts in Scotland, an induction process for all Scottish prisoners serving over ten years. We also visited Lancaster Farms to talk to young offenders about fatherhood and the parenting course that they were undertaking. We were also able to interview Princess Anne at Cornton Vale prison in Scotland about her work with The Butler Trust and her interest in prison.
In PVM 45 we looked at the difficulty of obtaining parole for those that maintain their innocence during the course of their sentence and highlighted the issue by talking to a prisoner whose case has been referred back to the Court of Appeal. Joan Aitken, the Scottish Complaints Commissioner, was also featured, the equivalent to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in England and Wales. Hepatitis C is a difficult subject that was well received by our audience when we featured a ‘Hep.C’ support group at Buckley Hall. Finally we attended the launch of the new edition of The Prisons Handbook, a bible for those working and living in prison.
PVM 46 saw us marveling at the new remand wing at Cornton Vale women’s prison in Scotland. We also touched a lot of our audience with a report on foreign nationals and deportees held at High Down prison in Surrey. Also popular with our audience was a look at the 4,500 art entries at the Koestler Centre on judging day. Razor Smith, an ‘A’ category prisoner at Whitemoor, proved an unlikely role model. Razor talked about his considerable history in prison and his gradual conversion from the fist to the pen, in his own inimitable style.
In PVM 47, we began a series on drug issues by having ex-prisoner, Jack Murton, talk about the drug scene on the streets. We also featured an inspirational drama workshop from the London Shakespeare Workout, in which they take Shakespeare to about twenty prisoners in jail. Castlerea Grove in Ireland provides open conditions within a walled environment for a lucky few with long sentences; it provides them an opportunity to readjust to a more normal way of living.
In PVM 48 we take the first of a two-part look at the RAPt drug rehabilitation programme at Send women’s prison in Surrey and talk to Juliet Lyon about the Prison Reform Trust’s overseeing role in trying to bring about positive change at Wandsworth. We also visit Feltham to see how Angela Findlay’s colour therapy is being applied in the redecoration of one of the wings.
In the final video of 2001, number 49, we took a second look at the RAPt programme at Send prison. We also featured young offenders talking about the difficulty of maintaining family contact whilst in prison produced in collaboration with The Trust for the Study of Adolescence.
Last year we still produced four regular editions of PVM. During the year, we also produced a special edition in collaboration with The Prisoners’ Learning and Skills Unit on education in prison called “Learning Matters, conveying the very real emotional impact that this was having on the lives of those in custody.
We also produced a video with Partners of Prisoners based in Manchester, called Who Cares? We Do. Do You?”
We will feature a re-edited version for inclusion in a regular PVM. In this video we looked at the debilitating emotional effects on the family of those inside by highlighting three separate case studies. POPS is an organisation set up to help such individuals and families.
In PVM 50 we examined the role of the BOV at Lewes prison in Sussex. We continued our series on 'drug' issues by looking at a 'drug support group' at Highpoint prison in Suffolk. We profiled the new Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales, Anne Owers; a young female writer told us how her poetry helped her to cope with her sentence and ex-prisoner Jack Murton, one of the original team here, recalls the early days of PVM to celebrate our half-century milestone.
In PVM 51, we took a look at a special unit at Holloway prison that helped some vulnerable women to better cope with prison life. Benjamin Zephaniah, one of the country's leading poets and ex-prisoner, talked to us at Pentonville; Paul Cavadino, Chief Executive of NACRO, returned with news updates on sentencing reform and an expansion of Home Detention Curfew; prisoners and staff at The Wolds prison in Humberside performed a play written by an inmate in 1918 and set in prison during the 1st World War; ex-prisoner Jack Murton, paid tribute to the late, great David Astor, one of PVM's founders and the instigator of much good that is now taken for granted by the prison world.
In PVM 52, we highlighted three former inmates who are hoping to make crime pay with their invention - a board game called 'Incarceration'. Residents in the Therapeutic Community at HMP Dovegate in Staffordshire, told us how therapy was helping them; Paul Cavadino returned with news updates on proposed changes to prison adjudications, and the Social Exclusion Report on reducing re-offending; Stephen Shaw told us about his increased responsibility as prison and probation ombudsman; we visited the Koestler Centre to see some of this year's Koestler entries; and we introduced a new regular slot called 'Slice of Life' in which one person gives us their take on an aspect of 'prison life'.
In PVM 53 we took a look at 'resettlement'. We heard of the effects that working has on Tanya, an inmate at HMP Downview in Surrey, and talked to Jermaine, who returns home to Birmingham on tagging. Paul Cavadino's ‘Grapevine’ had news of some radical proposed changes to sentencing. Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales gave us her thoughts on resettlement. Hull prison is offering prisoners education and training not only whilst inside the jail but also once they have been released. We looked at the difficulties of the Daniels family in Manchester. Mark and Michael are released from prison within a short space of time. They have to overcome the problems of reputation, unemployment and a lack of confidence in doing anything other than crime. In this issue's 'Slice of Life', Smudger, recently released from Channings Wood prison in Devon, tells us of the importance of back-up and support on release.
Copies of the video are distributed to every prison in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, most receiving 5 copies. Copies are also distributed to other interested parties such as the Minister responsible for prisons, The Prisons Inspectorate, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, training departments and headquarters' staff of the three different prison systems. We have also within the last two years begun to send a copy to some Irish prisons.
We have also been able to attract the support of sizeable donations from the The Allen Lane Foundation, The City and Metropolitan Welfare Charity, the Abel Charitable Trust, The Avenue Trust, The Primrose Hill Trust, the Sir James Reckitt Charity, and The Wates Foundation. This has helped us to increase the video’s quality and has enabled us to continue to employ ex- and serving prisoners as part of the production team, since a stable work environment is one of the most important factors in encouraging someone from a life of crime. To this end we have established close liaison with the Prison Service through its Director of Resettlement. Also in consultation with the Prison Service, we will consider the use of more themed videos if the videos prove more valuable and more widely used a resource. We will try and monitor in the future. Our features on ‘Hepatitis C’, on ‘drug issues’ and on ‘resettlement’ in the past undoubtedly prompted greater interest in our videos from some prison establishments.
Contact With Our Audience
In addition we conduct regular telephone surveys of our staff contacts in all prisons to gauge opinion and encourage the use of the videos in their regimes. Consequently we are confident that all education departments know of PVM and most use the video. Also there are currently over 40 prisons with in-cell television using a video central server, which enables prisoners to watch the videos in their cells on the video channel, often used for educational purposes. Posters are also supplied to every establishment with each video, advertising the latest issue. Recently we have taken on a serving prisoner whose duties include contacting prisons, updating our mailing list, and conducting a survey of what our prison contacts think of the product and its usefulness. As a result of this work, which is ongoing, we are redirecting copies of the video, where appropriate, to maximize the potential audience in each prison.
We are able to monitor the success and usefulness of the videos primarily through feedback sheets, sent out with every video, of which we receive between 500 and 700 per issue from on average between 50 and 70 prisons. Over the last year we have received feedback from over 120 prisons of the 157 prisons in the United Kingdom. There is also a regular ‘feedback section’ in the video in which viewers' comments about the last video are printed and read out. This section is filmed with prisoners at Pentonville prison in north London. ‘A’ category prisoner Razor Smith at Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire has his own slot, as a sort of video columnist, reciting ‘prison’ stories. Razor’s humour and prison knowledge has gone down very well with our audience – both prisoners and staff. We also rely on our production team and presenters to inform and involve our audience. Kenroy Brown is an ex-offender employed, until January of this year, on a full time basis. Jack Murton, also an ex-offender, is employed on a free-lance basis and was one of the original team that helped establish the charity over 11 years ago on release from Blantyre House. He is a consultant for us now as well as a regular contributor to the video. Our new co-presenter is Charles Young. Charles runs LACES, the London Anti Crime and Education Scheme, lecturing in youth clubs, schools and in prison, trying to reach the type of young person that the rest of the educational establishment has failed to. In addition, prisoners produce all the music that we use in the video, which is sent to us by education departments from around the country.
Our involvement of prisoners at all levels serves to keep us in touch with our audience and respond to their needs, but we also hope that we are portraying role models that people on the ‘inside’ will respond to. One of PVM’s primary tasks is to help the confidence and self esteem of those in prison. We think that with prisoner and ex-prisoner involvement, as well as by the features that we choose to include, in consultation with the Prison Service and our analysis of ‘Feedback’, we can help promote this. Our work with Bruce Wall in the ‘Dreaming Will’ project is a natural extension of our interest in the well being of prisoners by promoting positive role models and helping to increase, not only the confidence and self-esteem of prisoners and ex-prisoners, but creating real and challenging projects in which they are involved with professionals.
We have begun actively planning a project that will enable a comparative video study of prison regimes in European countries, from whom we believe our prison administrators have something to learn as we have something to impart. We hope to look at several issues in differing countries, including drugs, family ties, restorative justice and resettlement in particular. After some research we have decided at this stage to look at innovative drug policies in Portugal, family contact in the Netherlands, restorative justice in the Netherlands and in Belgium and Resettlement in Finland. Finland inherited a Russian model of Criminal Justice with very high imprisonment rates. Over the years they have been lead by their academics with the result that now they have the lowest prison population rate in Europe with resettlement a high priority, and crime figures remaining impressively low.
Terry Waite CBE
Kate Akester, Dr Geoffrey Baruch, Nicholas Dyer, Stuart Kemp, Brendan O’Friel, John Parker, Sally Sampson JP
Lord Hollick, Lord Merlyn-Rees PC, Jon Snow, Alan Walker
Colin Allen, Paul Cavadino, Roger Graef, James Runcie
Head of Production