Tough advice for teens facing jail

21/10/13

Prison officer checks cell

'Louise' says she was 13 when she started hanging around with the wrong crowd.

"I'd do anything to make some money. I robbed people, beat people up, sold drugs. Then it got bigger. I started getting arrested for burglary."

Louise, not her real name, is one of three girls taking part in Radio 1 Stories' Crossroads: The Girls. They each admit they face going to prison if they continue behaving the way have been.

In the documentary a group of prisoners share some home truths about the reality of life behind bars.

'Tara', speaking under a different name, is 17. She's pregnant and knows if she is arrested again she could be sent to prison.

She said: "I grew up on an estate - it's not known as a very nice estate. A lot of the kids on the estate were very troublesome. A lot of them I know are in jail now."

Tara says she copied her friends because she wanted to be cool. Most recently she was arrested for a public order offence.

Adele Roberts at HMP Downview
Image caption BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter Adele Roberts spoke to female prisoners at HMP Downview in Surrey.

"I was scared, I didn't know what to do, I was crying. They told me that they were charging me and I had to go to court.

"I thought my life was over, I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm gonna go to prison'.

"Now I'm pregnant so that's what motivates me. I want to be able to give my baby everything that it wants.

The girls' stories have been recorded by BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter Adele Roberts.

Peer Pressure

Adele then visited HMP Downview in Surrey. It's been home to around 350 women, most serving long sentences for drug offences.

Katie, 24, is serving 13 years. She said: "I personally do believe in peer pressure. If you're a vulnerable person, someone with a bigger personality can intimidate you to do something.

"When I was young, people that were louder than me or more aggressive than me, used to pressure me into doing things I didn't want to do."

Hailey, who has been jailed for 11 years, says young people understand that prison is hard "but they don't understand exactly how hard."

A UK prison cell
Image caption Katie: "Before I came to prison I thought I had so many friends. I thought I was the most popular thing going. Now, five years into my sentence, I have two friends who come and visit me."

Louise has already spent time in a young offenders programme but Hailey says it's like a holiday park compared to prison.

"When you come to jail, in the first 24 hours, you get that little prison bar of soap and that prison tooth paste, which we use to stick pictures up.

Prison 'worse than horror film'

"You can't just do what you want any time you want. People think we have it easy but we don't."

Latoya, 23, serving six and a half years, says she cries every time she has a visitor and says prison is "scary".

Women in prison

    • 65% of women in UK prisons suffer from depression. That's almost twice as many as women on the outside
    • 46% of female prisoners reported having attempted suicide - more than twice the rate of male prisoners (21%).
    • 70% of women entering prison need to go through a detox programme for drugs.

"Just imagine getting locked in, and all you can hear is people screaming and crying. It's worse than a horror film."

In the documentary, being aired on Radio 1 at 9pm, Monday 21st October, the prisoners advise the young girls how to stay strong and stay out of trouble.

Hailey tells Tara: "When you said you were scared when you got arrested - I'm glad you were scared. Because if you had been complacent, well, you might even be sitting in a cell next to me right now."

'Crossroads: The Girls' is a follow-up to a doc called 'Crossroads' made for 1Xtra in 2012.

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