“ Most prisoners are deeply wounded
people. They have suffered rejection and much personal
loss. Often they have been the victims of terrible family
abuse. They may have lost their parents or their own
family by death, divorce or abandonment. And there is
the shame of lost respect and freedom, that comes with
being a convict.” “…the deepest wounds in life are caused
by loss of self-esteem and the experience of self-disgrace
and shame.” (Dr. Charles Taylor)(M2/W2)
To experience prison, especially
for the first time, is an extremely painful and distressing
- Loss of Liberty
This not only means that the prisoner is no longer
allowed to leave the prison but they are also no
longer (in Hong Kong at least) allowed to choose
what clothes to wear, when to do anything, what
to do, to telephone, to write a letter. They are
no longer free to be an individual; everything they
do, read or write is monitored.
- Loss of Relationships
The family of a prisoner always suffers a great deal.
The tension, shame, separation and lack of contact
are often contributary factors to the break-up of
families when a member goes to prison. Many friends
will no longer contact or support someone who has
been convicted. Business relationships are often destroyed
causing anxiety and stress. The prisoner therefore
usually feels rejected, unwanted, looked down upon
by family, friends and society in general.
- Loss of Material Goods
In Hong Kong what a prisoner is allowed to keep in
his possession is very limited indeed. They are allowed
some stationary items and books and a few toiletry
articles but every single item has to be authorised.
Everything, apart from books is standardised.
These are the outwardly painful
aspects of his life that he has to come to terms with,
but probably more difficult for him to cope with, is
what goes on within himself.
HOW DOES THE PRISONER FEEL?
When someone is put in prison they
are, particularly if it is the first time, in shock.
It is helpful to understand this when visiting someone
for the first time who has only just entered the prison.
The whole process of arrest, trial, sentencing, everything
that has been lost, all the different emotions that
have to be dealt with, together with having to get used
to a completely different environment, way of life,
set of rules, change of position in society, food, clothes,
way to spend the time and sometimes even an unknown
language too – is a shock to the system. Some say that
it is an experience from which one never, ever, recovers.
Form such an experience one is burned, scarred for life.
Part of the job of the visitor is to help the one who
has been so severely hurt to use the experience for
There is often, but not always,
a profound sense of guilt. This may take years before
it is dealt with, if at all.