Psychology Trip to Reading Jail

Tuesday 4th October 2016

On Thursday 29 September, a group of Sixth Form students went on an exciting Psychology and Art trip to Reading Jail. Abigail and Heather sum up their experience below on the trip:

“With a slight breeze in the weather, we strolled down to to the exhibition, anxious to await our first experience inside a prison.

When we arrived we collect our programs and headed inside. We found it very different to the way in which we imagined it, however were pleased to hear that the prisoners were no longer in the building, as the prison had been closed off for 3 years.

As we dispersed into the separate ‘wings’ of the jail, we were able to discover a number of interesting pieces of art, such as abstract paintings and simple photographs. What made it so fascinating, was the fact that these compositions were actually displayed in the cells of former prisoners meaning that we could also see engravings that inmates had left behind, increasing the authenticity. It was shocking to see that the conditions that the prisoners endured, for example the ‘not so comfy’ looking beds and the toilets in the cells.

Having just studied the role of social influence through Zimabardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, we were able to further deepen our knowledge of how extreme prison environments are and the way in which this affects behaviour. It also meant that we could go around quoting the movie which we had watched previously and loved in Psychology Journal Club.

On the ground floor of the prison, there was a large display of mug shots from a time as far back as the 1800s. It was fascinating to see the difference in photographs at that time and how some even had the nerve to smile!

Potentially the most exciting object in the exhibition was Oscar Wilde’s actual prison door from his time spent in Reading Jail. The door was in a surprisingly good condition and seemed more intimidating that the doors fitted in the jail today.

Overall it was a brilliant trip which definitely helped to broaden our knowledge on prisoners living environments and how this can ultimately alter a person’s behaviour. It was also a spectacular art exhibition that we would definitely recommend to others.”

 Written by Abigail Leach (L6) & Heather Acornley (L6)