The show Inside Bitch, made by women with experience of the penal system, dismantles Bad Girls stereotypes, while new play The Jumper Factory explores fear behind men’s bravado

‘Deeply disturbing.” That was how the prisons minister Rory Stewart summed up the state of some British prisons last year. After an Observer investigation revealed that standards in two thirds of institutions were deemed sub-par and two in five unsafe, Stewart acknowledged “increasing levels of violence committed by prisoners, and horrifying rates of self-harm”. Prison riots, drug use, overcrowding and staff cuts are all widely reported.

Our understanding of prison life is mostly shaped by such reportage or drama. “Prisons aren’t seen by many people,” says Anna Herrmann, co-artistic director of the Clean Break theatre company. “It’s really important that we break down misconceptions.”

Inside Bitch is at the Royal Court, London, 27 February-23 March. The Jumper Factory is at the Young Vic, London, 27 February-9 March.

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