Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Reviews of Some Women, BBC1 - August 1969. Daily Mail

Daily Mail 28/8/69
Peter Black
‘A sad view of the women who can’t keep out of jail’
Tony Parker’s controversial film about women and prison, Some Women, turned up late on BBC 1 last night after being taken out of the Wednesday Play slot it was destined for.
The BBC decided that its use of real people and their words, albeit spoken by actresses, took it across the line that ought to separate plays from documentaries.
This decision was right, but not the decision to show it at an hour when it would be preaching mostly to sympathizers.
Parker hates imprisonment as a cruel, wasteful and medieval form of punishment, and his patient, gentle interviews with these women asked the question we should all ask: How much effect does putting people in prison really have?
All four had been in jail and would probably go back. One of them, an illegitimate half-coloured girl, had committed no offence other than to run away from the institutions they’d put her in: but she ended up in prison for it.
The link between them was an unlucky start in life coupled with the characteristics of all recidivists, an inability to make the connection between breaking the rules and getting punished that keeps most of us in order.
Miss McDonald, a respectable and well-spoken woman of 40, brought up fatherless, when she was 20 obtained a suit on approval, left her name and address and promptly took it round the corner and sold it. She got a month in prison and ended that year in a mental hospital.
Periodically, she repeated the offence, but does not consider herself a thief. When Parker asked if she had ever considered giving the shop a false name she was shocked. ‘Mr Parker, I am not a liar.’
Janie Preston’s last sentence (her 16th conviction) was eight years for stealing a tankard with £55 in it from a pub. Typically, she was caught because she went back to the pub a fortnight later.
She was regularly raped as a child by a man she afterwards learned was her father. She agreed with the judge that society had to be protected from women like her, thought she wouldn’t mind being deported to Java instead of going to prison.
She once saw a picture of a leper colony there and it stuck in her mind as a place where she might be of use.
The fourth, Dianne Richards, remembered her father shouting at her after her mother’s death (she was six): “Why don’t you die too?” Her speciality is in stealing savings books and cashing money from them. She is always caught.
It was wretched to think of the lives laid waste. If there is wickedness it is not so much in these women as in the system that knows how futile and unfeeling prison is as a punishment for such, and goes on sending them there because it can’t be bothered to think of a better way to render them harmless.
I realise that prison survives because punishment has to be what most people will recognise as punishment, but this sad film must have added to the  numbers of those who wonder if it isn’t the Government’s duty to lead opinion rather than follow it.

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