I have recently been watching “Inside Death Row with Trevor McDonald” on ITV and have found the episodes very interesting. The two episodes consist of Trevor McDonald touring a state prison and seeing what it’s like to be a prisoner in a high security prison in Indiana. Some of the prisoners he comes into contact with are inmates on death row awaiting execution, whereas others are inmates who will simply be in prison for a very long time, where some sentences are around 100 years.
Currently, there are around 3000 prisoners in the USA who are awaiting execution, with only a tiny fraction of these who are female. Although Britain no longer has a system like death row, I find it strange to think there ever was anything similar. I have always been against the idea of executing offenders, regardless of how horrific their crimes were, which I know many would not agree with. Yet, watching this programme, I can see how some people favour the idea of it. Many of the inmates on death row who Trevor talked to, agreed that they should be sentenced to death for the crime they committed, and seemed to show remorse for the people they had killed (whether this was because they were being filmed or not I don’t know). In fact, it seemed that all the inmates who were filmed showed some kind of remorse and regret for their crime, whether they were death row inmates or not.
In other parts of the prison, there were things that could occupy the inmates, such as a barber’s shop, where the more privileged offenders could become barbers and this would be where they worked during the week. I found this particularly interesting because the episode suggested that even though inmates are trusted with scissors and electric razors, there had never been any violent incidences in the shop or cases of inmates taking anything they could later use as a weapon. Obviously, I don’t know whether this is entirely true, but if it is correct, I think that shows how a controlled environment can enable offenders to also control their emotions and deviancy.
We learn in criminology all about the different approaches to offending behaviour, such as crime control, due process etc. but this highlighted how prisons can use several methods when dealing with inmates. For example, some inmates were allowed a pet, such as a cat, in order to teach them to be responsible and how to care for another living being. On the other hand the prison also used a system of “lock down” which is when inmates in a certain area of the prison are kept in their cells for twenty four hours per day. This is used as a punishment for all prisoners, even if only one or two inmates are responsible for causing trouble in that area. Both of these instances show a system of rewards and punishments for offenders, as those who behave are rewarded with special allowances, whilst all inmates suffer punishment if only one is deviant.
Although the American prison service is very different to the British prison service, I found it very interesting to see how another country managed its prison population. There are many differences between how each service is run and what prisoners are able to get in terms of privileges, but it does make me wonder whether the prisoners go through the same emotions, whether many do feel remorse for their crime and whether or not their system would work in Britain and vice versa. If anyone has any thoughts please let me know!