So this week I decided to do a review of BBC three’s ‘The Insider’. Like many, I was disappointed by the cancellation of BBC three’s television channel and was very excited when I saw an advert for an online BBC documentary on Tuesday. So far, I have LOVED the other instalments in Reggie yates’ series, and so was expecting good things. For those who don’t know, in these programmes Reggie basically throws himself into these crazy environments for a short amount of time with a small camera crew as company. On this occasion, he went to Bexar County Jail.
The good thing about documentaries is that what you see is what you get. If you’re watching a David Attenborough’s ‘Ocean World’ expect to see some fish at the very least. For me, what makes a good programme is one that gives me something to talk about afterwards. Much to the chagrin of my sister, I had a lot of comments and questions to ask both during and after ‘The Insider’.
Now, obviously prison isn’t supposed to be some sort of luxury retreat. But it seemed to me as if the Bexar County Jail was the perfect catalyst for a deterioration to insanity. One of the problems highlighted in the show, was the prison’s multifunctional capacity as both a prison and a psychiatric care centre. At the beginning of the show ‘Alex’ a 19 year old, who suffers from bipolar disorder, ADHD and anxiety explains that he was incarcerated for possessing marijuana; which he claims he was using for medicinal purposes.
The documentary was a truly enlightening display of the unsophisticated methods of psychological care allowed by the judicial system in this Texan Prison.I was surprised to learn that a lot of inmates will lie about their psychological state during registration, to avoid isolation. Those that did admit to having suicidal thoughts or who showed signs of psychological instability were sent to a suicide prevention ward. Here, they were stripped completely naked and wrapped in a grey Velcro-sealed smock. Although I’m no expert on psychiatric care, it seemed like forcing naked, suicidal people into a room with more naked suicidal people; screaming, tapping and cursing for 23 hours a day wouldn’t exactly lessen their suicidal thoughts. It became clear that Alex’s refusal to confess his suicidal tendencies had probably been in his best interest, as he would not receive the care that he needed.
Something that Reggie said towards the end of the show also got me thinking. It was something along the lines of ‘should a 19 year old be sent to prison for stealing at shirt …NO’. But I think the real question is whether the environment created (in this particular prison) is safe for young impressionable teens/ young adults. I also wonder what percentage of prisoners is actually classified as criminally insane. A person of sound mind, for example, that steals a loaf of bread in full consciousness is more likely to anticipate and accept the crime’s repercussions. I don’t know any specific statistics or numbers, but I presume that a lot of the time the people being sent in are habitual criminals whose ‘conscience’ has been destroyed by desensitisation to the immorality of crime.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who seem to live by the regimental constraints of prison life; a concept, which many of us may have been introduced to in “The Shawshank Redemption”. Anyway, in the documentary, one of the men on the high-risk ward explained that that for some, this way of life is what gives them the will to live. It seems that in many ways the prison is a sanctuary; providing, food, warmth, access to hot water, purpose and in some cases companionship. The show made me think about what my own reaction to prison life would be, having become so accustomed to the comforts of home. I suppose, Reggie (in some parts) was assured by the company of his team, and ultimately could look forward to returning to a nice environment with promise in his future. Even then, his overwhelming eagerness to leave was clear after just few days, it made me feel sorry for Alex, who would be there for months.
Reggie Yates does a great job as the presenter of this show. He seems to have an awful lot of composure and patience, particularly in high-tension situations. He was very personable and calm when addressing the inmates, and it seemed that Reggie’s hands on approach to the experience, allowed him to gain the trust of the people he was speaking with. For me, its been a little bit strange seeing him in these extreme situations as I’m using to seeing him in ‘The Crust‘ or hearing him voice ‘Rastamouse’ but he did an amazing job in prison.
It seems that the crew was respectful of the boundaries of prison, and didn’t appear to harass or interrogate the members for answers in a challenging way.I thought that Reggie was very brave ad showed a lot of confidence, walking into the prison’s communal area to introduce himself as if at a first day in school. Even with the high-risk criminals, he was laughing and appeared calm and collected. If you’ve seen the show, I would love to hear what you thought of it!
If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s available on BBC iplayer I would definitely recommend it when you have an hour free.
This Sunday, the song for the week is MGMT’s ‘Electric Feel’ which happens to be one of my favourite songs. It’s definitely worth a listen, follow this link Electric FEEL