Decades of activism, conferences, warnings, demonstrations and countless promises by politicians and businessmen seem to have little effect on the growing climate problems that now threaten the very…
“People in this place are extreme, unpredictable, fearful, violent. You have to be vigilant all the time. I see everything, hear everything, smell everything; you have to be in the head of those guys. What does he think, what does he see? Talking, making contact, gaining trust, also for my own safety. I observe them, but they also observe me, maybe even more”, says a prison guard in the documentary ‘Guards’ by Marc Schmidt (‘Matthew’s Laws’, 2012). Schmidt was given the unique opportunity to follow the daily work of guards in the brand new, ultramodern prison in Zaanstad, the largest and most modern prison in the Netherlands, he closely followed the guards from the very beginning it opened.
The new policy of Judicial Complex Zaanstad is aimed at using digital technology and a new ‘treatment policy’ to encourage prisoners to be more self-reliant. More personal responsibility should better prepare them for their return to civil society. With intense observations of confrontations between guards and prisoners, we see the prison officers of the North department give shape to the new policy. Are their ‘criminals’ really capable to have so much independence? Is it possible for the staff to keep everything under control? Especially since the number of detainees with deviant behaviour and mental disorders has increased in recent years. How do the custody officers deal with the manipulation, aggression and need for help of these people? To what extent have the guards themselves become prisoners of the new system?
For more than a year, Marc Schmidt filmed their life on the North ward of the Zaanstad Judicial Complex to discover that prison officers sometimes find it hard to stand up in the claustrophobia of the daily life with prisoners. This makes us think about how we as a society want to deal with prisoners and their guards.
A story about the hope, doubt and silence of a Syrian family in the Netherlands, who lost their youngest daughter in the Mediterranean Sea in 2014.