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The Age

Thursday - Pay TV

Author: Brad Newsome
Date: 26/06/2008
Words: 459
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Green Guide
Page: 50
Lockdown Oz: Maximum Security

National Geographic, 8.30pm

Not by any stretch a cheap knock-off of America's Hardest Prisons, this documentary about Perth's Casuarina jail is fascinating, powerful, thought-provoking and very, very sad. The inmates - and particularly the staff - are surprisingly frank, honest and compelling in their interviews. One female warder, in tears as she recalls being nearly killed in the 1998 Christmas Day riot, says, "I wish we'd had guns and shot them all. I'd have been quite happy to drag their dead bodies into a pile and burn them." It's doubtless not the sort of picture that WA's Department of Corrective Services would want to see being painted but it's all the more powerful for being so resolutely off-message. Ditto the observation that, with 20% of Casuarina's inmates suffering mental illness, "By default we're becoming the mental-health institutions". Aborigines are, of course, hugely over-represented in the prison population, and many of those from remote areas had never seen a city before being shipped to Perth in handcuffs. As one prison officer observes, with no visits from family or friends, "they might as well be in Russia". Perhaps it's a small consolation that they get to use an art studio and cook their own kangaroo tails. And on it goes - there's footage of a child being used to smuggle drugs into the prison, of a prisoner who had cut his own throat, refusing medical treatment and being placed on suicide watch, and of an American cocaine smuggler recalling his escapes from prisons in Germany, Spain and the US and of being tortured in a Mexican jail. It's hard going at times but highly recommended.

Sense and Sensibility (series premiere)

UKTV, 8.30pm

If Jane Austen was still around to pick up the royalty cheques she'd be nearly as rich as J.K. Rowling. This latest miniseries was written by period-drama specialist Andrew Davies, whose previous adaptations for screens large and small include Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Bleak House, Vanity Fair, Middlemarch, Moll Flanders and Brideshead Revisited (not to mention the Bridget Jones books). Director John Alexander's resume is significantly shorter, however, and at times it seems to show in his enthusiasm for shots taken from too high up or too low down. On the whole, though, tonight's first episode looks pretty good. The cast, which includes David Morrissey and Janet McTeer, succeeds at being terribly polite and in keeping the characters from saying what they really mean.


The infectiously enthusiastic British biologist Nick Baker is always great fun and Nick Baker's Weird Creatures (Animal Planet, 4.30pm) is great after-school viewing.

Aficionados of the round-ball game can catch the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Brazil's Fluminense and Ecuador's Quito, live on Setanta Sports at 10.50am (replay at 7pm).

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