Screws: Inside Belmarsh (Prison)

‘Screws’ follows a group of newly recruited prison officers through training at the country’s most controversial jail: HMP Belmarsh in South East London. Known as Britain’s ‘Guantanamo Bay’ or ‘Hellmarsh’, the Prison Service’s flagship institution is notoriously secretive. This is the first time Belmarsh’s governors have allowed cameras to follow their officers in training and at work.

With the highest prison population in Western Europe, Britain’s prisons are reaching bursting point. Nearly a third of all prisoners are from ethnic minorities, but less than 5% of officers are. The Prison Service is desperate to adjust the balance. Having lowered the entry requirements, now they are taking all comers and getting all sorts.
Prior to joining, new recruits are not even interviewed. The only requirement for a job behind bars is a clean criminal record. Today’s recruits are fast tracked into uniform, and hurled headlong through an intense training regime.

The class of 2004 is meant to represent a new generation of screws. A Moroccan bus driver (Mustapha Bouker), a 47 year old Hindu civil servant (Jaya Karir), a young Jamaican single mother (Sharifa Wade) and a 21 year old bachelor embarking on his first job (Jamie Barker) are among the group of 8 starting out. For most of them, prison is a completely alien territory. They soon learn it’s an intimidating world of menace and discipline, rules and political correctness.

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