Politicians, journalists, business people and members of the local community will be locked up next month as part of a special event being organised by the Department of Home Affairs.
For the first time, cells at the Isle of Man Prison will be used to incarcerate a group of volunteer inmates. The lock-in at Jurby over the weekend of 5 and 6 March is aimed at providing a unique insight into life behind bars, while raising funds for the PrisonWorks charity.
Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK and Michael Coleman MLC, the Department Member with responsibility for the Prison and Probation Service, will be among those to spend the night in a cell. Along with 14 other participants, they will discover how it feels to lose their liberty and be locked away from family, friends and home comforts.
The Head of the Island’s Prison and Probation Service is promising an authentic prison experience for his new arrivals.
Bob McColm said: ‘Make no mistake about it; we will be treating our detainees like any other prisoners. They will be subject to the normal prison regime and expected to comply with all our rules. This will be an opportunity to learn first-hand what spending time in prison is really like and hopefully dispel this myth of the so-called Jurby Hilton.’
He added: ‘As well as giving people a 24-hour experience of prison life, the event will generate funds for PrisonWorks. Our volunteer prisoners will be asked to raise sponsorship and I hope people will support this initiative and give generously. PrisonWorks is a voluntary organisation that relies on fundraising and donations. It works closely with the Prison and Probation Service to assist offenders, ex-offenders, people at risk of offending, victims of crime, and the families of all four.’
The 16 participants will be arrested and handcuffed in Douglas during the early afternoon of Saturday 5 March and transported to the prison in secure vehicles. At Jurby they will be processed in the same way as convicted offenders, including being checked by the prison sniffer dogs and BOSS chair (Body Orifice Security Scanner).
The detainees will be given an induction and a medical interview before being escorted to an 11.5ft x 6.5ft cell on a wing segregated from the rest of the prison population. A meal will be provided at 5pm and the prisoners will be allowed to associate on the wing prior to lock up at about 8.30pm. Cells will be unlocked again at 8am for breakfast and time in the exercise yard.
Participants will be discharged at midday on Sunday and given a copy of their prison record as a memento of their time inside.
Minister Watterson said: ‘I can’t say I’m relishing the prospect of being locked in a cell, but it will be interesting to see how the event helps to shape people’s perceptions. The intention is to make the experience as realistic as possible, so that people will appreciate that prison is not a soft option.’
He added: ‘It’s fitting that the sponsorship raised by this event will be donated to PrisonWorks. The charity provides crucial support through some innovative and highly effective programmes around restorative justice, rehabilitation and resettlement, victim support and family welfare. ’
People can support the event by donating via https://www.gofundme.com/jurbylockin2016