Life behind bars - James Marston is sent to prison

James Marston

James Marston - Credit: Lucy taylor

I haven’t done anything wrong – well nothing that I’ve been caught for anyway – but I reckon I might be able to handle prison.

I say this after having found myself next to the bracing waters of the North Sea at Her Majesty’s Prison Hollesley Bay on Tuesday.

I was having a look round with the governor, who was keen to show it off after a very impressive report highlighted the work that goes on there.

In the accommodation block I remarked that it was much like boarding school – an institution which I survived for several forgettable years.

This was a comment which the governor said had, once or twice disgraced politician-wise, been made before.


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I think it was the utilitarian furniture that did it. Though of course at school it was harder to escape and there were hours of torture, bizarrely described as “games”, to get through, and, or course, the sentences were generally longer...

Anyway, aside from my flippancy, I must admit I had a most interesting time looking at how the prisoners are encouraged to develop their skills and re-establish themselves into society once they leave here.

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There are all sorts of skills to learn – catering, bricklaying, painting and decorating.

I even spotted some roofing going on – and the prisoners are given every opportunity to avoid reoffending.

The experience made me realise again how lucky I was that education, training, even the chance to choose my trade was, if I am honest, very easy for me to access.

Not everyone gets the same chances in life, do they?

On Monday I went been over to Erwarton to look at the tower of St Mary’s church.

It has been saved thanks to fundraising by a group

of dedicated worshippers who love their church so much.

I persuaded my plain-speaking-photographer-friend Lucy to take a picture of me coming down the little spiral staircase.

She looked at me rather knowingly.

“I suppose you want everyone to think you’ve climbed to the top, don’t you?” she said.

She was right, of course, as she usually is but when it came to it the spiral staircase was a little too narrow for a gentleman of my build – of course these medieval people were small.

And I was also rather a little worried about getting ancient dust over my loafers as I am sure you can imagine.

In the end I sent Lucy up instead though I don’t think she was that keen either.

So in the end we all ended up with a coffee in the vestry with the churchwarden and one or two others and imagined the views from the top in our mind’s eye.

I think I might have seen my Felixstowe flat with sea views (distant) though I can’t be sure.

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