Netflix’s Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons: Mauritius’ Melrose Prison
In episode 403 of Netflix series Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, host Raphael Rowe takes us inside the notorious Melrose Prison on the tropical island of Mauritius. Once notorious as a prison where criminal gangs called the shots, it is now arguably notorious for the exact opposite reason: Inmates have little to no control over any aspect of their lives whatsoever. They are denied any privilege, including cigarettes, which even some who don’t look favorably upon prisoners might find too extreme and domineering.
When a new prisoner commissioner came in some time ago, things changed, and we are shown archival footage of steamrollers destroying prisoner’s smuggled mobile phones. That, of course, wouldn’t seem as powerful as banning cigarettes, but it was still part of a powerful overall message: Obey or face consequences. Mauritius is an island with only 1 million people but 12 prisons. When Rowe shows up, he enters the “new wing” and receives the standard strip search.
Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons: Why so quiet?
Prisoners in Melrose must make do with a minimalist lifestyle, with limited supplies like clothes and a toothbrush. It is no summer camp, with miles of electric fences and watchtowers. The prison is also eerily quiet. This is largely thanks to the CCTV system constantly monitoring prisoners’ every move. This seems to genuinely unnerve Mr. Rowe more than some other prisons he has toured, and he’s been in some pretty harrowing places.
Rowe meets Phils, who is in for 12 years now for importing heroin. In his conversations with other inmates, Rowe is constantly reminded that prisoners are frightened by the new regime. One inmate was put in solitary 1 day for every minute he was late (which, in this case, was 5 days). On top of that, Rowe shows us that he is literally just given bread and water for breakfast.
Some activists around the world wish to do away with solitary confinement. However, it seems to be given out like Halloween candy at Melrose Prison. If prisoners don’t work for the prison, they get solitary confinement. Rowe speaks to Jean Micheal, who’s in Melrose for 13 years for dealing heroin. He informs Rowe that families cannot support prisoners with money. so it’s an added incentive to work. He happens to make shoes for the Prison Guards.
There are some interesting allegations regarding confinement policy at Melrose. Raphael is told that, once you’re in solitary, the officials will remove your mattress, forcing you to sleep on the metallic floor. It’s also alleged that they put water on the cell floor so prisoners can’t sit down.
One of the inmates, Peter, laments the smoking ban to Rowe, but he seems hesitant to speak. Rowe does speak briefly to someone in the special protection unit (SPU), who tells him inmates can receive 16 days there if they break a rule.
Chica and the man
While much of this Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons episode seems bleak, there are some lighter moments. Jean Michael reveals that he copes by having an imaginary friend named Chica. The prison also cares enough to implement group therapy sessions, though Rowe questions if it’s really just a way for Melrose to extract information to better break prisoners.
On that note, Pete tells Raphael Rowe that the cigarette ban was not actually for their health, but as a general means of controlling/conditioning them.
Still, to keep with the lighter side, we also see a Tai Chi class. Then we meet a man named Winley Barbe, an aspiring pastry chef, regularly busy making biscuits for officers. Winley says he is changing his life around to appease his mom, and he even has a diploma in pastry making. To make it easier, he expects to leave in only 2 months (at the time of this episode’s premiere), and we eventually get to see him meet his family during a visit.
The Phoenix Unit
Next, Raphael visits The Phoenix Unit, where extremely violent inmates like Nazarene Tenge are housed. He is there for setting a fire and repeatedly attacking inmates, and was initially imprisoned after he raped and murdered two women. A dazed-looking Tenge tells Rowe that he and his unnamed accomplices were drunk when he killed the women and killed them both to avoid a “sodomy” charge.
Not momma’s house
Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons is always interested in what the prison officials have to say, and episode 403 is no exception. Rowe speaks with Mr. Appadoo, the architect of prison policy. Appadoo says he bans cigarettes to prevent inmates from fighting over them, and because it creates an independent micro-economy. He also says, “This is a prison, this is not momma’s house.”
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