With the support of a National Health Service grant, photographer Adrian Clarke followed and met those unnoticed women who served time in her majesty’s prison at Low Newton, outside Durham in northeast England, isa women’s facility—maximum security for young offenders.
“All the women have wanted to be identified by their own names,” emphasised Clarke. He took their portraits as simple and stark they shared their stories.
“My mother never wanted me to live with her so she sent me away as soon as I was born. I’m thankful to her because I know I had a better childhood because of it. I lived with my nana until she died, which was when I was four, and then I lived with my great-aunt. I was well looked after by both of them. My sister stayed with my mum and I pity her.
I’m thirty-six now and I’ve used heroin for the last thirteen years. I can’t say I understand much about how my life has gone. For instance, when I was small I used to shoplift even when I had money in my pocket to pay. I’m not sure what it was that led me into it except that I remember it used to make me feel better. As for heroin, I was with someone who gave it to me for free so I took it.
I served a short sentence in Low Newton last year. The idea of prison was more frightening than the reality. When I got in there I found there were loads of people I knew and in some ways it was a good laugh. I felt that it was my three children who were being punished, especially my twelve-year-old daughter. I’m not saying prison should be any more harsh. It’s just that it seemed to be completely pointless, a bit like going back to school. It didn’t make me pause to think—I used heroin within an hour of coming out.”