Zack’s animation: helping families understand a prisoner’s journey

8 Aug 2017

Zack, a prisoner in Wales, is currently being released on temporary licence to complete a graphic design degree. As part of this, he created an animation which serves as a guide for families of serving prisoners, convincing them that there is hope, and progression, within the prison system.

There are many, often negative perceptions of UK prisons - they are viewed in the media as places of extreme violence and drug abuse. This only makes things ever more worrying for families learning to cope with the fact their loved one has been sent to prison.

My own family initially had a terrible experience with my incarceration, but due to hard work and generally behaving in jail I’m now in a wonderful position where I am able to attend university and complete my degree in graphic design.

Making the animation

This animation was completed as part of my course. I wanted to address the difficulties families have in understanding the complexities of what happens to an offender when he receives a custodial sentence. There are ways to move forward in prison, but there is very little in the way of guidance available to those on the outside, and even less to those locked inside. Having made my own mistakes, and having spent over two years on the inside of the wall, I think I have a unique perspective on how the system works, and how it can work to the benefit of the offender, through progression and rehabilitation.  

I created the animation using visuals of buildings, with differences between the design of the prison categories to illustrate security differences, including the house drawing for the Category D resettlement residences. I also had to voiceover a script, in my best ever professional, yet sensitive telephone voice! This was probably the hardest element to create - I would have rather a soft spoken woman voice the animation, or someone like Michael Palin or David Attenborough, but due to time constraints I had to do it myself.

I also had to find suitable music, that would not only demonstrate the feelings of hopelessness families feel at the beginning of the video, but with an uplifting, inspirational feel to the end of the animation, to reiterate the video’s purpose: that prison is not the end, it can be the beginning of something better, if you can stay positive. I had to set a tone that offers hope without celebrating the prison system in any shape or form. It had to be a video for everyone.

Understanding the UK Prison System, A Guide for Offenders Families. from Zack on Vimeo.

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Studying on Temporary Licence

My experience at University has been fantastic since arriving. I am able to study for 12 hours a day, five days a week. I am in open conditions, and the prison has allowed me to have my own vehicle here which allows me to spend maximum time on campus. Due to the nature of my degree, it would be impossible to complete work on camp due general prison restrictions and the design software I am required to use as part of my course.

Literally everyone here has been really welcoming: lecturers and peers alike have made it a really great place to be. I get the feeling that having people from different backgrounds with different life experiences makes the whole learning experience fuller. This goes for myself and others. It’s more beneficial to our development, so in a way I feel I have value here in a strange way?

My future plans are to use my degree within the family business. Prison conditions you to think long term, and I want my sister’s children to have the same opportunities I did whilst growing up.

It’s true in life that sometimes you have to live things to understand things, and if it wasn’t for my own personal experience I would never have been able to develop this from data alone, and who knows, this may actually help someone. A lot can be achieved in prison, if you put your mind to it. There is hope for everyone. If they engage and work towards goals they will gradually earn more freedom. This is the message that I want to get across.