Two of the stars of my time at school. One was a national boxing champion and went onto run a successful household accessories business. The other an Oxford music scholar went onto be a barrister and a TV reporter. Both went inside for six months. But that’s OK, because as we all know the main purpose of public schools with their miserable conditions, lousy food and clockwork regimes is to make porridge easy to eat.
But of course times change and schools are no longer miserable, the regimes are liberal. And of course the sexes mixed. The other day I went to see the extremely violent and very good British prison movie Starred Up. And it made me think of how my school experience in the 60s would have helped me handle prison as shown in the film.
1 Of course both regimes were single sex which in both cases meant (some) inmates without their mummys would cuddle up for warmth , comfort and whatever.
2The fact that rules were quite arbitrarily policed and while some were punished excessively others get away, with, literally murder did ring a bell. The fact that the authorities have their favourites is true of all regimes.
3 As did the fact that bullying was rife and those that showed weakness either lived in the shadows or suffered awful treatment from the other inmates. All my generation should hang their heads in shame at “Fox Hunts”.
4 Those in command(ie housemasters/prison governors) could run regimes which suited their own particular personalities and whims.
5 Both regimes lack any privacy
6 Both regimes rely on trusties(prefects and or mob bosses) to police the campus. This quisling class also has its own corruptions.
7 Both regimes have rigid time disciplines- wearing uniforms,getting up, going to class, going to bed, lights out-very similar. And both allowed trusties to earn rights which exempted them from some of these disciplines.
8 Showers figure strongly in both cultures. In my time cold showers were a minor punishment but in most prison dramas they are killing fields. A major difference!
9 Bribery is used in both cultures. We knew that a few cigarettes would mean those in charge of manual work would leave us alone, we knew that if we asked the Latin teacher about the latest Test match that would mean no Ovid that day. The fact that prisoners get drugs, phones etc almost at will seems similar.
10 Modern prisons maybe more dangerous, I don’t remember any housemaster trying to kill a pupil-though there were some deaths at a nearby school. However the fact they have toilets en suite, radios are allowed as is smoking do suggest that prisons to are getting softer.