The grim prison life depicted in TV One's Tuesday night American documentary series, Lockdown shows how the most dangerous and dirty offenders in society are kept in isolation for 23 hours a day, and allowed to exercise outside for the other hour in a segregated cage.
The lack of human contact sends most orbital as witnessed with prisoners reduced to - if you'll excuse the pun - a take-no- prisoners violent outburst that only adds more time to their sentence in isolation. Many interviewed have the deep freeze eyes and nonchalance of the sociopath rattling off their grisly crimes of dismemberment and murder, expressing nil emotion and zero remorse, bringing up age old questions about the point of rehabilitation for the extremely far gone.
But the need for human contact, as witnessed by the phone call made by Stewart Murray Wilson aka Beast of Blenheim to a woman not on his allowed list (and who was not a person he had offended against) which resulted in a recall to prison, demonstrates how the impulse to reach out overrides the dire consequence.
In Lockdown, prison guards were so fearful to talk about their personal lives within prison walls they chose to be filmed outside, relating how they stringently policed themselves from revealing any personal details, no matter how small, which could be used as leverage against them by prey- stalking prisoners. Sting's "every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you" sprang to mind as we heard how many inmates became gifted lip readers of the guards, their utterances transformed into veritable speech bubbles.
In the land of fiction, in the very poignant and pulse-racing Prisoners' Wives (Prime, 9.30pm, Thursday) focusing on three partners and one mother of male prison inmates, two of the wives have come to realise the terrible cost of association with their loved one.
Most dramatically, the very gravid Gemma, taken into witness protection after grassing on her husband and his business partner, gave birth in a public toilet while being pursued by a gunman intent on snuffing her out before she could give evidence.
At the eleventh hour her hubby, after being prompted by a detective who seems more than a little fond of Gemma, helps stop the assassination of his wife by giving up his business partner's (the gunman's) cellphone number so he can be traced.
Mother and child safe and sound, it's too much too little too late for Gemma as she turns up at the prison with baby in tow giving her husband a heart-wrenching, once in a lifetime glance at his offspring. The audience had been led to believe that pretty Gemma, who had been so gullible, would not have the steel to break with her criminal husband, but on hearing his apology and undying love tells him that love is not enough and she doesn't want her son to end up like his father.
As she walks out of the prison a collection of prisoners' wives stream toward the visiting gates, as moving against the tide she walks her son and herself to freedom, to a life not spent, "as a solo parent counting down the days, waiting for life to start again".
Meanwhile, Franny, the senior prisoner's wife has compromised herself in her husband's dodgy deals and after performing one pick up of drug money from the airport is told she has to do it again. The ill-gotten gains of the proceeds have corrupted her kids as they sink into drugs, and her elderly father is beaten up by crims looking for the loot.
Franny, eyes wide open to the consequences of her criminal activity has done the crime, this time escaped the time, but it is her family that has paid the cost for her chance at easy street. Last seen she is standing outside her father's humble abode as the depth of her moral failure dawns on her.
Will she, after such a long marriage still throbbing with erotic intensity, be able to bid farewell to her bad old boy? Perhaps the spectacle of her dear old dad's bruised and bloodied features will assist in swinging her moral compass back home.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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