In 1973 the Barlinnie special unit was opened and held prisoners for 21 years.Its aim was to house and rehabilitate Scotland’s most uncontrollable and violent prisoners, prisoners who caused riots , assaulted prison staff as well as other inmates.
Most of these men had spent there sentences in inhumane conditions in Peterhead punishment block as well as the cages in Inverness, protesting against a system that advocated the breaking of the spirit of an individual causing untold physcological damage.
This was a system that was geared more to punish the individual than to help them rehabilitate.
The special unit gave us the chance to explore through the arts who we were as people in an enviroment that actively encouraged us to talk through any problems instead of lashing out.
DID IT WORK
Prisoners in the Barlinnie Special Unit were actively encouraged to channel their negative emotions into some sort of art and to be creative.
Censorship was a no no in the BSU so feelings could be conveyed by the written word as well as other art forms.
The Barlinnie Special Unit was run on trust, this was unheard off in prisons in 70’s and 80’s. Being treated with respect and decency impacted greatly on the inmates.
Overall the experiment worked and some of the most violent, disruptive inmates in the system started to change and violence ultimately became a thing of the past.
Today’s prisons have a lot more respect and humanity between prisoners and staff, education is a lot more accessible and long term prisoners have the chance to further their learning.
This almost certainly was influenced by the Barlinnie Special Unit, what do YOU think though?