Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Gordon Behind Bars - part one.

Gordon Behind Bars - Channel Four. Episodes one and two: Tuesday 26th June 2012 and Tuesday 3rd July 2012.

I took a little break from blogging so that I could concentrate on my current professional work load, however I'm back and what better way to restart the blogging than with some reflections on the new Gordon Ramsey show; 'Gordon Behind Bars'.

The documentary series follows Gordon Ramsey as he starts up and runs a catering business in Brixton Prison (a category B prison in South London) for six months. In an interview with Channel 4 Gordon said the following:

What is Gordon Behind Bars all about?This isn't just a 'let's go and cook along with Gordon in prison' thing. The idea came from the fact that there are approximately 80,000 inmates across the country now, which is a hell of a lot. It was about getting them doing something with their time, giving something back, and also getting job-ready. The biggest problem is the re-offending percentages, people just go round and round in the system.
Brixton prison homes 800 prisoners whom spend up to 21hours locked up in their cells. Prisoners have access to a variety of exercise programs and can also pursue a range of educational opportunities. By setting up a catering business inside the prison Gordon would be adding to the rehabilitative opportunities available to the inmates whilst working towards Government initiatives to get more inmates across the prison system working full time job roles. 

The first two episodes of this series saw Gordon choosing 12 prisoners to become a kitchen team able to sell produce outside of the Prison walls. Week one showed the 12 inmates decorating cupcakes to be sold within the Prison and then cooking dinner for the Prison. The challenges were raised during week two which saw the team baking produce to be sold in a pop up shop in London. 
As a Forensic Occupational Therapist working on a medium secure ward (for mentally disordered offenders) I have been finding the programme incredible interesting. The benefits of vocational rehabilitation and projects such as this can be excellent in providing prisoners with structure, meaningful occupations and a chance at building positive identities and roles for the future. Below are a few of my reflections on the past two episodes:

The main point which I have been thinking about during these episodes is the dynamics between security and therapy. Both in the prison and in my work setting the balance between maintaining security procedures (which are vital to uphold as you can imagine) and allowing the men to work in a therapeutic and efficient way is at times a hard balance to maintain. I try and incorporate an environmental model with regards to the relationship between therapy and security. Aiming to place security within the context of therapy, in doing so emphasising the importance of safe practice whilst providing a holistic approach to providing meaningful occupations. Security procedures and the tight structure of secure environments can play a fundamental role in creating occupational deprivation and so it is important for OTs and other key workers to maximise the occupational opportunities in a safe and effective way. Relational security is also another important factor. Relational security describes the importance and effect of developing therapeutic relationships with this client group. It is interesting looking at how important gaining a therapeutic, or working, relationship with the prisoners has been in the two episodes. I find that this is a pivotal part of the work which I do as an OT as well. Without gaining a rapport with the men I work with it is difficult to get them to open up and engage in goal setting and then interventions. I think that Gordon has demonstrated well in this programme that treating the men with respect and genuinely taking an interest in them and what they would like to achieve has helped him begin the process of forming a kitchen team in a safe and therapeutic way. 

The challenges which Gordon has faced from both the prison system and from society has made interesting viewing. Within the prison system there are staff who hold more of a security and punishment view as apposed to secure recovery, this coupled with stigmatised views of offenders and a view by some members of society that they should not be given such opportunities can be damaging to offenders and only add to the cycle of re-offending rates and lack of rehabilitation of offenders. These views can create challenging environments with projects such as this and other occupational and educational based works to successfully run and make a difference to these individuals lives. It should be noted however, that there are a great number of prison staff and members of society who hold a very rehabilitative view to secure recovery and it was encouraging to see the attitudes of members of the public who brought products from the pop up shop. 

Finally the past two episodes have also highlighted to me how even little successes can build self confidence. As the men in the program were shown increasing their skills and producing baked goods you could see their self esteem and confidence growing. This is also something which I have witnessed at work. The pride and hope which can be gained from little accomplishments should not be overlooked by professional working with this client group. This in particular, I feel is where OTs are able to utilise goal setting and grading and adaption techniques to help these individuals to accomplish great things through the completion of little successes. 

The programs have both been really interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing how the series develops, if you haven't already been watching I encourage you to do so. They are available in the UK at the following link: . I will continue to blog about the series as the weeks go by so keep your eyes peeled! 

Kate :)

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