Man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 12 years explains what part of prison affected his wellbeing the most
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Featured Image Credit: Netflix/Police Handout
Netflix's Raphael Rowe has revealed what affected his mental health worst when he was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years.
Catch him talking about his experience in prison here:
Season seven of Rowe's Netflix series Inside the World's Toughest Prisons sees the journalist visit even more facilities across the globe.
However, it's hard not to focus back on the fact that Rowe himself spent 12 whole years inside for crimes he didn't commit - wrongfully convicted in 1990 of murder and burglary and sentenced in 1988, at the age of 19, to life imprisonment.
Spending over a decade in prison, the 55-year-old can 'see both sides of the coin' and actually relate to the prisoners he talks with around the world.
Rowe tells UNILAD about the experiences of being in a confined cell, the relationships between guard and prisoner, and what part of being behind bars has the worst impact on one's mental wellbeing.
The relationship prisoners have with prison staff is 'hugely important' when it comes to discussing the mental health impact of being inside, Rowe tells UNILAD.
And he explains his 'personal experience' of prison guards was 'quite brutal'.
"There was a lot of conflict, it was very degrading," the presenter adds.
In season seven of his Netflix show, Rowe saw the flip side - how the relationship between prisoners and prison staff can actually be 'the catalyst for the behaviour change of that individual prisoner'.
There's a certain aspect of prison, however, which plays a much more pivotal and dangerous role in damaging a prisoner's mental wellbeing - leaving more permanent scars.
The most damaging aspect of Rowe's prison experience for his mental health was 'the confinement of a prison cell'.
"It damages you psychologically and you'll never escape from that," he explains. "If your brain has been developing in a six-by-nine space, as has your physical well being, then I would say your brain gets squared off slightly, because it starts to take on the shape of the prison cell."
Rowe explains that once a prisoner's brain starts take a cell-like shape, it's 'not functioning or growing or developing or learning things how it should be naturally in an open environment when you can interact with the world in a completely different way'.
"So it's inevitable that you're going to be damaged mentally by the confinement of a prison cell, and that's global.
"It doesn't matter where you are in the world, what size the cell is, how many people are in those cells, how violent that place is, or non-violent that place is, how good it is at rehabilitation, or non-rehabilitation, what resources it has or doesn't have - that is a completely different challenge to the individual's challenge."
However, while prison was 'damaging' for Rowe and certainly 'damages other people' too, it can also 'provide you with new skill sets'.
Rowe explains: "I've taken those skill sets and put them to good use as a journalist. And what I do going into these prisons around the globe, I find an empathy and non-judgement approach.
"In season seven - as I have in all the other seasons that I've done - [...] I go into these places and I recognise it for what it is - I'm not looking for a story to sensationalise and ramp up the programme, I'm just trying to lay it out as I find it, as best as I possibly can."
Rowe resolves: "Even though my own 12 years in prison for a crime I didn't commit had a huge physical, physiological, you name it -logical impact on me as an individual and scarred me deep.
"That will never heal [but] it also provided me with tools to do the work that I do today."
Raphael Rowe presents Netflix's 'Inside The World's Toughest Prisons'. Series seven available from Friday 15th September.
If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available through Mental Health America. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.
You can also call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 at the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline.