Wormwood Scrubs Review: Lock Down

May 17, 2010 by  
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WORMWOOD SCRUBS: Monday 17th May, ITV1, 9pm ALERT ME

ITV’s new documentary series that ‘investigates’ the lives of prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs makes for inevitably demoralising viewing. Scenes of mentally ill inmates, drug addicts being searched and various physical confrontations with prison staff makes for genuinely disturbing viewing.

Wormwood Scrubs is arguably Britain’s most infamous prison and exists mostly to handle convicts who are on remand which owes to its transient population many of whom will walk through its gates more than once.

In an age where many people are beginning to try and understand criminality – rather than assume the individual to be inherently corrupt – the show does occasionally explore, through the interviewees’ own oral autobiographies, the cyclical nature of crime and the importance of creating an outside world worth rejoining. For this, the show is to be commended.

Had this programme been a one-off documentary it may have garnered more merit but by expanding it into a series the programme makers verge on creating a pseudo-soap opera except with non-reoccurring characters. Short stabs of an ominous soundtrack create an air of tension that anticipates violence and could be seen to be trying to manipulate events to elevate them from the miserable to the plain macabre voyeurism of watching lives in stasis.

The resounding message of the programme is embodied by one prisoner’s statement: “This is my home?. Out of a 20 year sentence he has only managed to stay free for 11 months at a time. Expressing a feeling of having nothing to strive for on the outside, it reinforces the train of thought that education and self-improvement in the prison culture has to take effect in order to prevent the tragedy of so many young lives languishing in cells. It’s a shame this programme lacks the depth that the subject warrants as it’s an issue that deserves more attention.