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TV to Watch: Breaking Down the Bars Finale

Heather Robertson gets emotional while talking about a prison inmate client. Photo courtesy of OWN.

The finale of “Breaking Down the Bars,” a reality program that follows inmates and workers at the Rockville prison in Indiana, airs its season finale this Tuesday at 9 p.m. on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

OWN’s Web site identified Heather Robertson as a social worker at Rockville, the largest women’s state prison in Indiana. Robertson is actually a case manager.

However, Robertson told us she hopes her appearance on the program will raise the public’s awareness of the services people in social work and other helping professions provide prison inmates and their families.

“I was excited to have the opportunity to talk about what I do,” Robertson said.

To watch a program excerpt featuring Robertson, click here.

To learn more about the myriad services social workers provide, visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” consumer Web site by clicking here.

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  1. I have worked with ex-cons and their world, even outside of prison, is very violent, aggressive and completely opposite to the world of someone who has been a good citizen. Indeed, as a Social Worker it is very important to protect ourselves emotionally and detached from potential threats.

  2. I currently work in a prison with acute patients. Prison is a very different environment and should not be seen as equal to the community. Unless you work there there is no way to describe the cultural differences. It is important to have an emotional wall not only to protect yourself but also to be able to treat the abundance of personality disorders that are found in that setting. I always remember that what happens isn’t personal, they are trying to get their needs met and their needs are not always appropriate to meet.

  3. Well put Brenna. I work in a sex offender treatment program for high risk offenders in prison. If you do not have good supervision and a support system at work to process what you’re going through you can be manipulated easily by inmates before you recognize what is going on. It is also a struggle to straddle the role of a therapeutic provider helping a client while enforcing facility rules. It takes a great deal of effort to build rapport with an inmate to get them to open up about all aspects of their offenses when they fear it can be used against them for civil confinement.

  4. I watched the show “Breaking Down the Bars” and think the social work sessions should play more of a role. It looks to me as if they do not get enough time with a social worker, but I’m sure there is a difference between what really happens and what is shown on TV.

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