THE UNHAPPY ROCK(14/06/2007)
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On prisoners ashamed about how normal people will see them once they're released.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE SIXTY
The last time I had the luck to be invited to a prison – Quatre Camins, on this occasion, a.k.a La Roca, the internees' preferred name for the place – the same thing happened as has happened on all such visits: once the offical talk (my talk) had been given, the real talk began and as ever, it was more varied and fascinating than anything I'd managed to come up with: the audience chatted, for example, about atheism and the late-night bars on Barcelona's Carrer Escudellers and painting pictures in jail and, last but not least, the harshness of prison life and the media's systematic covering up of the same.
This particular visit, a fortnight ago, was atypical, in that I was with the 'privileged' end of La Roca's population: internees who are in a half-way wing from which they are allowed out on controlled occasions to get them used to their final release, within a year or so.
Mainly young people, all were arrested for drugs-related misdemeanours. None of them had caused anyone any grievous psychological or bodily harm, and yet the authorities could think of nothing better than to lock them up tight for several years with men who had. They feel frustrated at having been given such an unjustifiably tough deal, but far worse is the indelible stain they fear a prison record represents for the majority of normal people lurking disapprovingly in the outside world. I still regret not having been able to tell them something that only occurred to me later in the day: that having survived what they've survived makes them different, special even, and that they have a right to be proud of precisely that. Just who the hell do 'normal people' think they are, anyway?