Documentary reveals secret life inside UK prisons

HMP Wandsworth


Channel 4’s documentary last night, The Secret Life of Prisons, has prompted public shock at the disturbing footage that was secretly filmed by inmates inside UK prisons. 

The documentary uses clips filmed by inmates on illegal mobile phones and uploaded to the internet and shows the realities of life in prison. It revealed how illegal contraband is smuggled inside, with mobile phones being hidden inside Mars bars and drugs being sprayed onto children’s drawings. One woman on the outside admitted that she has made a career out of smuggling illegal items into the prisons and has never been caught. She takes her orders over the phone and smuggles the items in when she visits inmates during the week.


Documentary footage shows prisoners taking spice, a cannabis substitute, that has been delivered into the prison by drones, hidden inside shoes or sprayed onto children’s drawings. One man is revealed to have had a heart attack whilst using the substance and confessed that a fellow inmate removed his penis with a razor blade whilst high on spice. Other inmates are prepared to endure violence or humiliating tasks to get the drug. It is estimated that these psychoactive drug issues are some of the biggest health problems facing the prison system today.


Other shocking scenes show violence and brutality being committed by prisoners and the victimisation of inmates with mental health issues. One man stated that it is easier to get drugs and shanks on the inside than it is outside.


Viewers of the documentary took to social media calling it ‘sickening’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘appalling’. Some even admitted to turning off the TV so that they did not have to watch anymore.


This documentary comes a week after the Ministry of Justice announced a £1.3 billion investment in prisons over the coming years and plans for 2,500 more prison officers, drug tests for prisoners, ‘no fly zones’ to prevent drones dropping drugs and more independence for governors. A government white paper revealed other planned reforms include new technology for detecting illegal mobile phones and sniffer dogs being trained to detect psychoactive drugs, such as spice.


The documentary depicts the importance for reform and change within the prison system. It shows the importance of things like OLASS and other programmes done to reduce both the violence and danger within prisons and the chances of reoffending on release. 

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