Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Hippos all

The Audio File of this blog is  Here

Are We all Hippopotami?

It’s been a while since I have written /ranted/ blogged / pontificated. Did you miss me?

This is the first of two blogs. In this first hotch potch of writings, I promise to be gentle with you. A sort of easing back into the machinations of my mind, if you will. The second (out later this week) will let forth like the storms of Thor in a full-blown rant.

Look there are no right or wrong answers, here, it is to be food for thought. Digested and discussed over a cheeky little Martini or an Irn Bru  (a far better option, if you want my opinion).

So, onto the topic of this post.

I am new to the world of the soap opera, and purely for research you understand, I have watched an interesting program over the last few weeks called EastEnders. Anyone heard of it? It’s ok, if you want to admit it, no-one’s listening (or probably reading for that matter). The entire premise of this show seems to be that the world is a rotten place and everyone is up to something “dodgy” and if we don’t end up in jail then we end up dead, alone, unemployed, the parent of a child who is a murderer or some equally disastrous fate. What we won’t end up is happy.

Then we switch channels and see something called HolyOaks. Same thing, different accent. Then there is that wonder of Coronation Street; same thing “differenter” accent. Emmerdale; same thing more sheep! Oh, whatever happened to Benny in Crossroads?

So why this trip down the Points of View memory lane?

It leads me into telling you about the sitting back and watching I have been doing on Social Media recently. I haven’t posted much of interest latterly and for that I don’t apologise. It was really a self-imposed exile more than anything else.

I have looked at the postings of most across the criminal justice system and my particular area of in-expertise – that of prisons.

What I have noticed is the outright condemnation of the state of our prisons by those who deem themselves to be authoritarians on the subject. Quite rightly so, I say, the prisons are an absolute mess and the way the country treats my former cell mates is degrading and inhumane.

I have watched everyone decry the state of justice in our country, complain that nothing is getting done and things are only getting worse. To a certain extent that’s indeed the regrettable case.

However, (there is always a “however” isn’t there?) I wonder if we, as a nation, enjoy wallowing in someone else’s quagmire of problems? WE watch these soap operas by the millions and seem to revel in the desperation of what new fate has fallen upon the characters since we last caught up with them 24 hours previously? Did X really kill Y? Did A rip off B? I could go on but I fear I might lose the ever waning will to live that I have now after watching these programs.

Do these programs mirror real life, albeit in a rather more fluid motion than we are accustomed to?

Do we watch them for escapism? If so, what are we escaping from that makes the life of a fictional TV character seems more appealing than ours?  If they are not more appealing then the answer must be that we do indeed watch them to “enjoy” their misery.

I then follow that thought through to those involved in the “Penal Reform” movement. If (granted it is a huge “if) all was well within our prisons and everyone was being rehabilitated and everyone that wanted it had their own cell with a closed off toilet, staffing levels were up to standard, we didn’t jail people for the most idiotic length of time or reason for that matter… (wow, long list) what would these people then do?

I find a lot of people like to moan, myself included, and if there was nothing to moan about in my chosen subject; would I then move onward to find something new to decry?

When something idiotic happens in our prisons, or something catastrophic occurs, we all reach for the twitter button and shout and scream. “Oh, how stupid” we say. “When will they listen to us” we cry. “When will they change things” we wonder. Quick question… who do WE think THEY are? If WE think THEY are politicians then are We that na├»ve to believe that THEY will change a thing for the fear of losing an election?

Over the last year, I have worked in a number of establishments. I just plod away, trying to make a small difference in prisoner’s lives. I have witnessed some sheer and utter idiocy by some staff, governors and above that it would make your hair stand on end and reach immediately for the TV remote control and tune into that day’s episode of HolyEastCoronationFarm.

But I have also witnessed dedication, innovation, empathy, sheer random acts of kindness from all of those that I berate above. I have read reports of good work, solid work, work that helps change for the better those that we incarcerate. But what I don’t witness is the rejoicing of this. You may have a bad opinion of our jails and of course you are entitled to your opinion.  I have fought and continue to fight for your right for just that. But what I fail to understand is that when something good comes out in the media about the state of A prison and perhaps that prison’s dedication to try and change; it is met with a silence so quiet that I can picture a tumbleweed passing through my screen. Why?

Is it because we don’t, really want our prisons to improve because if they do then what can we gripe about? It is an interesting conundrum, isn’t it? I know that some of those that are reading this are thinking “balderdash” but I ask you to dig deep down and ask yourself the question.

We want “reform” but what is “reform?”  What I may deem to be a reformation you will not. Why? Well, because I have a personal experience that some do not? So, when I ask for the basics to be changed, you may not understand that. There was much too made of the announcement this week of prisoners being able to cast votes. Lovely idea, wonderful. Let the prisoners all vote for; oh, I don’t know, perhaps a candidate that stands for human rights. Let them cast their vote and go back to their cell where they can eat their dinner 3 feet from where they defecate. Excellent idea. 

The only time things will change overall is when the entire populous demands it. Not just a few thousand of us. Reformation is a long drawn out process that is driven by politics. Revolution, on the other hand, is not (just saying).

I moan like the rest of you, I despair with the masses, I pull my hair out so often when doors are slammed in my face that I am starting to resemble one of those bald chaps in EastEnders. But, and there is a but, I like to read about the good things that happen in prison. I care not if it is a prison in which I have worked or had that door slammed in my face. I just like to hear good things. Why don’t you?

So, as I end this little ditty, I ask:

Are we not all hippopotami that like to wallow in the bog of human disparity? Do we not need/want/like something to moan about? After all, if we have nothing moan about, isn’t life then just dandy?

Let’s do this, can we not celebrate the good things that are going on in our prisons? Just a little tweet that says “Just heard that HMPXXX is doing this.... good on them”

As always just my opinion, I could be completely wrong.


Tickety Tonk.


The Audio File of this blog is here