wed 24/07/2024

Her Majesty's Prison: Aylesbury, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Her Majesty's Prison: Aylesbury, ITV

Her Majesty's Prison: Aylesbury, ITV

Documentary about a notorious young offenders' institution tells it like it is

Prison officers go to work in 'Her Majesty's Prison: Aylesbury'

Television is a regular prison visitor. You can’t keep Louis Theroux out of the grimmest Stateside penitentiaries, the drama departments drop in now and then for a stretch inside – most recently in Prisoner’s Wives. And then there’s ITV. A couple of years ago it reported from Wormwood Scrubs to find out how the prison system was coping in Brown’s Britain. It wasn’t the prettiest sight.

The channel turns its attention to Aylesbury, a young offender institution heaving with the sort of hoodies the Prime Minister may not after watching this first episode feel quite so inclined to hug.

Aylesbury has a fearsome reputation on the prison circuit. Drugs, violence, killing – you name it, the screws allegedly club inmates over the head for it. The prison governor allowed that they get “some quite difficult people” whom society, in the shape of parents and teachers, has not introduced to the concept of rules and regs. People like Liam Brennan, a drug dealer from Liverpool who with two accomplices took a prisoner hostage in his cell and threatened to rape him. A negotiator stood at the door, making sure he didn’t make good his threat to “cut his fucking neck”. That’s the captive’s neck, not Liam Brennan’s. The plan was to get back to the north. “I want to be in one of my own jails,” Brennan explained after it was all over and he faced a stretch in segregation. “If you keep doing stuff they’ll ship you out.”

It takes a remarkably measured person to work in such an environment

You could see why he’d want to be among his own kind. Picking a fight, suggested a southern prisoner, “makes your day go quicker”. Devon Johnson, in for armed robbery, tended to believe that retaliation is best meted out before as opposed to after. Like a gambler sizing up the odds he had taken the precaution of siring a child when young. “You never know when someone gonna take your life,” he said. “Best to have it early.”

Another prisoner went to see Liz the mental health worker. “I bit a woman’s chest open,” he said, recalling an incident from his innocent youth. She wondered if the prospect of life inside bothered him. “Depends, miss.” Always nice to observe the formalities. Afterwards Liz confided that “his behaviour may well lead to someone’s death”.

It takes a remarkably measured person to work in such an environment, and that includes the cameramen who stood at the shoulder of some extremely disturbing scenes. The noisy atmosphere of testosterone-fuelled menace would try the patience of saint. “We use force necessary to the circumstances,” explained a warden. “But it does hurt.” The female staff get stuck in and have the bruises to show for it. And it can’t be much fun frisking a visiting toddler in a Batman suit for drugs.

It’s possible that, with the help of editor Paul Dosaj, series director and producer Lee Phillips has selected only the most high-octane moments for broadcast. Among the interviewees, the psychotic hardnuts outnumbered the docile pussycats six to one. A bit like some of the fights caught on CCTV. But this feels like urgent, honest, apolitical filmmaking.

Jasper Rees on Twitter

The psychotic hardnuts outnumbered the docile pussycats six to one. A bit like some of the fights caught on CCTV


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article


"Screw"? I look forwad to your use of "wog". Just because it's slang doesn't mean it isn't offensive.

I stumbled on this 'review' because, as a 'screw', I was interested in the way it had been received by those outside of a prison institution. And I'm glad to say that the usual narrow-minded, ill-advised stereotypical nonsense prevailed. It was topped-off by the idiot reviewer's wholly inappropriate and offensive use of the word 'screw'!! I can cope with the word in a prison setting from some (although it's a minority) of the offender's that use it but it's like the word warden - out of time and out of touch. Would the word 'pig' have been used if this was a review about policing?!

I'm going to have to admit to ignorance here and apologise for any offence caused. I simply had no idea the term was so pejorative. The reality is I was probably thinking of the language used in the fairly harmless sitcom Porridge. I hope it will be noted that the review makes the point that "it takes a remarkably measured person to work in such an environment". The wardens come across as very impressive people. I am only sorry if that nuance was lost thanks to a wrongly chosen word, which I have now changed.

Are you taking the p*ss! The proper term is Prison Officers - not screws, wardens or even guards. Your reference to Porridge is indicative of the whole outdated basis on which you have chosen to consider life in a prison in the 21st century. Could you really see a Mr Barraclough lasting 2 minutes in Aylesbury, let alone a Grouty being allowed to 'run' the wing. Staff these days have to fulfil a vast range of duties from disciplinarian to carer and the vast majority do so with the utmost professionalism and regard for the dignity and welfare of there charges.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters