Does a prison mind lead to a resilient mind?

So today we had another one of our workshops on individual and community resilience, and how public services can change to better create the conditions for resilience here in Camden. There’ll be a fuller post on this session soon from one of my colleagues, but in the meantime I just wanted to share a couple of links to an example that came up this afternoon.

About a month ago, a colleague sent me a link to a radio programme covering an initiative called Group of Hope in South Africa. I cannot do this project justice so my advice is Google it, or check out this link here. The reason it makes me think of resilience are as follows:

  • The amazing example of bridging relationships between violent inmates and orphaned children with HIV (this is so powerful and really pushes one to think about the sorts of relationships that can be brokered);
  • How even the limited resources within the prison were mobilised in a way to create value for someone else, showing that even in the most desperate situations there are always assets to unlock
  • That the most hardcore of prisoners did not have to be defined by their crimes or status and the ability to diversify identity to be actively involved rather than passive prisoners subject to an institution.

Underpinning all of this, is what Robyn Scott talks about as a “prison mind” – I guess this could be summed as knowing that you when all of the traditional assets of “normal” society are taken away from you, you have to mobilise and unlock different types of social resources in order to survive. This explains it much much better:


In Camden (as with a lot of London) we use the term “Trapped Middle” for people who are caught between trying their best to live and survive in a place that keeps on piling on societal and economic pressures such as cost of living. They are trapped in an economic prison. Would we be better off nurturing their “prison mind” I wonder, rather than trying to make their prison more comfortable? What do you think?

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