Friday, 28 July 2017

THE WEEK THAT WAS or TW3 for those of us old enough to remember

I am angry

This is a piece written out of frustration and aguish more than anything else. Frustration because our prisons are still in decline. Anguish because I have been there and witnessed first-hand what these damning reports mention.

Now I don’t want to go off on a rant here but;

I spent a long time in prison. I didn’t stay a few weeks/months and then purport to be a font of all knowledge of prisons, what goes on in them, what is wrong with them and how to fix them. I spent just short of 4 years in them. You know what? I am still not a font of all knowledge, I don’t know what goes on in them today (granted I am in them every day but I am NOT a prisoner in them) and I have no idea how to fix them but I do know that every man, woman and child locked up by society is an individual in their own right. I do know that most violence in prison is caused by issues that the person involved has or has learnt about from outside. What must be investigated is the root cause for the violence.

Oh, and on a side issue:

Governor’s: Don’t use the words VIOLENCE REDUCTION when a prisoner comes into your custody for the first time, you are admitting to him/her that you have a violence issue that needs to be reduced. Just use “Safer Custody”, thanks.

I know that there are good things that come out of being in prison and sometimes, just sometimes it works. I am a prime example of it.

I am not a prison reformer, I am not a criminologist, I am not an academic, I am not a motivational speaker. I am an ex-prisoner that feels the pain of both staff and prisoners alike.

This week we have had a damning report on HMP Bristol, an “incident” at HMP / YOI Aylesbury (excellently reported by @prisonuk on Twitter), another incident at HMP Hewell, an “interesting week” at HMP Leicester, a terrible report on HMP Bedford and it isn’t even the weekend!

I am in anguish because I need you to think about the men/women/children who are in prison; who want nothing to do with the riots, the bullying and the fights. These are petrified people. I was one of them. The media talks about the “lags riot” crap but no one thinks about the souls behind the door who just wants to do their time and get out.

Governors:  In your SMT meetings after these incidents; do you wonder how the people are that were not involved or are you just thinking how to ship out the culprits? Be honest, not with me, I don’t need it, but to yourself. What if it was your son in the jail?

I am frustrated, people! Frustrated because nothing is changing. There are still no staff to man (or woman) the places, there are no courses run that address the offending behaviour without running the risk of turning the people into recidivists!! (ok granted a slight exaggeration). We are locking up these people sometimes for more than 20 hours per day allowing them the option of making a call to their family OR having a shower. EITHER / OR. That’s right!

I interact with people on social media who are demanding a change but yet no change happens. Why? Because no one is listening, that’s why. Yet still they shout “reform” and the response is deafening in its silence.

Well, you know what? I give up. I do.  That’s it. I refuse to continue to bang my head against a brick wall. Who was it that said the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results?

More people are killing themselves every day in our prisons, more people are self-harming, there are more incidents of staff assault and even more incidents of prisoner on prisoner assaults. Every damn year this figure goes up and what do those in power do? Nothing!

The Ministry of Justice releases pre-prepared statements saying that they will employ a further 2,500 prison officers by 2018 (that’s not eighteen minutes past eight, you know).

Mr Liddington & Mr. Gyimah; Here’s a thought, why don’t you try and keep the staff that you have got instead of letting them run through the gate to go and treated better by working McDonalds? Well trained and well respected experienced staff are worth their weight in gold. I should know, I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for my personal officer. Your staff retention is pathetic.  So, what do you decide to do about it? You hire graduates, kids of 19 years of age that if a prisoner said boo to them they would jump out of their skin and run home to mummy. They say they will not allow violence, drones, phones, drugs in our prisons and that those caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They don’t look at that root cause I mentioned before.  They say that they will learn from every death in custody and yet they don’t because the number rises every year. It has got that bad that the POA say they want their officers to carry Tasers for God’s sake! The PGA just says, “give our members more responsibility” but the MOJ won’t allow anyone of their governors to make a decision on how to better their prison never mind buy a memory stick that doesn’t cost them £95.00.

What do we do? Those involved with the CJS? We gripe and moan our little heads off like some petulant child refused his toffee apple. We bleat like sheep that things must get better. But when they don’t, what do we do? We write terrible comments (no more than 140 characters) and say, “this is ridiculous”. Then we go and buy our cafĂ© lattes at a cost of more than a prisoner is fed on per day and sit back and suck our teeth.  We make fun of those who are in power, we complain when they don’t publicly engage with us. Then we sit down to a bowl of spag. bol! I do give Martin Jones, who is the Chief Exec of the parole board, kudos for being the exception to the rule (@jones_martinw). You, sir, are a fine example of a communicator.

Let’s just cut to the chase here, people! Nothing is going to change. Not for as long as the prison system is run by politicians.

Me?  Well I will continue to do what I do. I will work for the betterment of those in custody and try to make their experience more like mine. I will continue to meet with prisoners and talk to them about how to better their time in custody.

But what I won’t do anymore is gripe about it. Because you know what?  It achieves nothing.

Of course, this is just my opinion I could be wrong.