La Plante has now finished a script for Universal Pictures who are planning a movie version of Prime Suspect. Helen Mirren has been ruled out for the lead (though her recent Oscar nomination could put her back in contention). with Meryl Streep’s name being bandied around. So how did she find Hollywood? ‘It was like cooking a meal with eighteen chefs that’s all I’ll say.’ responds La Plante tersely.

AS with Prime Suspect. La Plante and a team of researchers spent months gathering background material for The Governor. Though the basis for Hewitt is the prison governor La Plante met first. the character is a composite of four or five female governors she spoke to

before writing the script. ‘I can’t just do one woman’s story that would be a documentary so you have to create an amalgam.’ says La Plante. ‘But it was the same with Jane 'l’ennison the key to the character was the first policewoman I met.’

It would be unfair to suggest that La Plante is a one-trick writer. but The Governor clearly draws much of its dramatic tension from the woman in a man’s world set-up. However after spending a lot of time with prison officers. La Plante came to believe that discrimination is probably less prevalent in the prison service than the police.

‘Obviously there is discrimination but it's not as male dominated as you think.‘ she says. ’A

woman has to prove herself worthy of the job but that applies to men too. Women have a tough time but it’s not the discrimination the job itself is such a nightmare. l don’t know why anyone would want it.

‘What you see on screen is what’s happening in our prisons today. It shows the impossibility of running an institution that holds 800 men and each year the numbers grow. If they’re out of control now with this modern technology. then what they hell is it going to be like when they are bursting at the seams'?’ La Plante supplies her own answer: ‘explosive'. C)

The Governor starts on Sunday 14 May at 9pm on Scottish. Prime Suspect is on Sunday 7 and Monday 15 May at 9pm.

t might be a long way from Glasgow

University’s dusty lecture theatres. but

the claustrophobic confines of Scotland’s second largest prison have proved just as comfortable for one English literature graduate.

Audrey Park is relaxed as she wanders through the corridors of HM. Prison and Detention Centre. Glenochil the scene of heated prison disturbances in 1988. The sounds of fury died down four years before Park arrived at the prison as part of its management team. but she is careful not to ignore any echoes that might linger within these walls.

Operations manager in charge of security. the 32-year-old is third in

command at the Stirlingshire prison which holds up to 494 adult males and 170 young offenders. Built as a young offenders’ detention centre. Glenochil has been receiving long-term adult prisoners since 1987. All of them are serving sentences of at least four years and up to 70 are lifers.

Park regards her prison rounds as one of the most important parts of her job. It is on these routine treks through Glenochil’s corridors. workshops. kitchens and dining balls that she will detect any staff or prisoner problems and not in her cosy office in the staff wing of the building.

For now, all is quiet. but four prisoners recently secluded for unruly behaviour sit in Glenochil’s separate cells small. bare rooms with only a foam mattress and a potty in each. Earlier this week, a prisoner stabbed another with a blade before assaulting a prison officer. He shares his solitary punishment with two others involved in staff assaults and a drug offender.

Glenochil has diluted the problems that plagued it when it first received adult prisoners. but Park has no illusions: ‘The jail runs with the consensus of the prisoners,‘ she says. ‘If you haven’t got good staff-prisoner relationships, you will not run ajail effectively.’ A l988 report by HM lnspectorate months after the bout of vandalism that left cells. furniture and property damaged to the tune of£30.000. highlighted low staff and prisoner morale. The prison is undergoing refurbishment and its population has been reduced in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the disturbances.

The governor: Audrey Park is on the Scottish Prison Service tast track

With only nine years’ experience in the

Scottish Prison Service. Park is a new breed of

manager drafted into the nation‘s prisons over the last few years. Tired of a job in insurance a few months after leaving university in 1986. she applied for training under the Scottish Office’s Open Competition scheme. Anyone from librarians to prison officers could apply for a

‘It some wee lassie is watching my back, I’ve got to turn round and watch her as well as watch the prisoner. That’s the only problem. It’s always a problem.’

position which could take them on a fast stream to prison management. Park began as a prison officer in Corntonvale women’s prison and within ten months. was out of a uniform and into the post of assistant governor at Greenock prison. She arrived at Glenochil in 1992 and was promoted soon after.

Her meteoric rise through the ranks is not her only distinctive feature. Women prison officers have only recently begun working in Scottish male prisons. besides governing them. Park is

The inside story

realistic about the attitudes of her male

colleagues and the position of women in the

; service. ‘There’s no hidden agenda to keep iii women out.’ she says. ‘Women weren't able to transfer to male prisons until the last three

m {our years. Before that, they were treated

with a lot of suspicion and concern by male


, I ‘Male officers are not used to working for females. They look out for female staff and

that’s not something I would challenge.

They bring a culture to their job. It gets

easier once they know you’re competent.’

As she moves from the kitchens to the cell areas. she chats easily with inmates and staff. Her relationship with some prison officers is more relaxed than with others. As a manager. she is associated with an efficiency drive that has led some officers into forced retirement at 55. providing they have served 25 years. There is inevitable bitterness.

Asked his opinion on women working in male prisons. one officer whose 25 years are nearly tip says: ‘lf some wee lassie is watching my back. I’ve got to turn round and watch her as well as watch the prisoner. That’s the only problem. It’s always a problem.’ A younger officer remarks that the prison service can only benefit from women governors. Smiling approvingly, Park leads a routine round ofjokes about quality being more important than size.

‘You have to accept that most of the systems are geared around males and the culture is quite macho it’s not soft and fuzzy,’ says Park. ‘You have to cope with sexual innuendo. At first you react, but I personally try and ignore it.‘

She claims she has never felt afraid in Glenochil. apart perhaps from the first weekend she was left as duty manager. with the responsibility of the prison resting solely on her shoulders. ‘I have never been scared. but I have been anxious in certain situations not for myself. but if you made a wrong decision, other people will bear the brunt of that. I’m not the one that will end up with a sore face.’

There are only two women in higher positions than her in Scottish prisons one of them is deputy governor of Barlinnie Prison. Park’s ambition is to become governor of a male prison. It could simply be a matter of doing time before that happens.

The List 5-18 May 199511