“ 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 experience indeed.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.



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 positive good.


There is often, but not always, a profound sense of guilt. This may take years before it is dealt with, if at all.