HMP Hull gives inmates their big TV break by letting them learn broadcasting and media skills and appear in television shows to entertain their fellow prisoners
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Here is some break-in news… a jail is running its own TV channel.
Lags work alongside professionals to produce bulletins hosted by bosses from a studio within the prison. Programmes – including a chat show and music – are beamed into cons’ cells.
Governors of other jails are watching the pilot scheme at HMP Hull and hope to launch sister stations in the new year.
A source said: “This is giving the men useful work and genuine skills which could get them a job in the media on the out. We’ve got to try anything as the present system just isn’t working.
“We are seeing the same faces coming in and out so trying something like this could help break the cycle.”
Former Hull governor Tony Oliver has presented shows just like a TV news anchor with a backdrop of the Humber Bridge and a ticker-tape of news updates along the bottom of the screen.
Inmates film and edit footage under supervision before it is broadcast. The channel, called HTV, sends out Muslim and Christian services, information about visits and Q&A sessions including questions from relatives on the outside.
There is even a Parkinson-style chat slot where bosses from the Prison Service are invited along to talk about their work. And one inmate and a member of staff entertain cons with guitar sessions.
Mr Oliver said: “I invited a member of staff who’s been doing some one-to-one work with some guitar lessons with a prisoner and they came on to screen recently and did a bit of a guitar session which I think was really well received and demonstrated that prisoner-staff relationship in a very visual and impactful way.
“That’s what we’ve been able to do using HTV this way.”
There are also plans to allow lags to record them reading stories which will be sent to their loved ones on the outside. Mr Oliver said he had taken on the role of “roving reporter” to bring in latest jail news, such as updates on facilities like the gym.
Jail watchdog the Independent Monitoring Board said: “Hull TV has been instrumental in keeping prisoners and staff up to date with all the latest changes, and the governor’s weekly vlog has proved to be very popular.
“Contributions to the Hull TV content have been significantly helpful in reducing boredom during lockdown, as well as facilitating management communication with prisoners to help them to understand the reasons for the restricted regimes.”
In 2018 staff walked out in protest at rising violence at the 150-year-old category B jail, which has 1,000 inmates. Former residents include serial killer Robert Maudsley, English Defence League boss Tommy Robinson and Britain’s most notorious lag Charles Bronson.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.