Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stone walls do not a prison make? Yeah, right!

I’ve been temping for a healthcare trust for the last few weeks, and today they sent me over to a secure facility for patients with serious mental health disorders. Fortunately I’m just providing admin cover and not undertaking a patient facing role.

I’ll not name the facility; let’s just say that a couple of people who made the headlines in murder cases a few years ago are being kept here, and that the place was the subject of a headline-making TV documentary in the late ’70s.

Arriving this morning, I was photographed, searched and asked for ID; a call was also placed to the office I’m usually based to confirm my identity. The facility’s security is on par with that of a prison, as well as, architecturally and in terms of the high fences that surround it, the look of one.

Images of every prison movie I’ve ever seen floated through the corridors with me as doors clanged shut behind me and large keys turned in them.

If the atmosphere is heavy, my duties have been light. I’ve mainly been arranging logons and passwords for staff training and being on-hand to help with any queries. The actuality has been a couple of hours’ worth of surfing the net, catching up on my favourite film blogs and thinking about posting a top-five-prison-movies kind of entry.

Only I find myself not liking prison movies very much. Like courtroom thrillers and hostage dramas, the very nature of them denies much in the way of movement. With a very few exceptions (’12 Angry Men’, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’), I can’t get on with stagey films. And also like courtroom thrillers and hostage dramas, there’s a sense of the lowest common denominator at work, humanity-wise.

In fact, I can only think of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (a perennial favourite since I first saw it) and ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’ as examples of prison movies I can watch more than once. And after a day at this downbeat venue, it might be a while before I approach either of them.

Irony enough that, in preparation for next week’s Second Annual Hitch-Fest, I’ve got the claustrophobically intense classic of the innocent-man-caught-in-the-machinery-of-the-legal-system genre ‘The Wrong Man’ to look forward to. I think I’ll be kicking off with ‘North by Northwest’, just to keep things upbeat.

No comments: