Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Alba, Dè thachair dhut? - Scotland, What Happened to you?

I thought I could be quiet for a while, but I really cannot. 

Over the last two years I have written off and on about the sad state of self-inflicted deaths in the jails throughout the United Kingdom. It’s a story so very close to my heart and if I am to be remembered for anything, I hope that it is that what I did in prisons helped people step away from the abyss. 

Oh, before I forget, can you just remember this date for me 16thMay 2013?  Thanks.

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

I am so tired of writing about the flow of suicides in our prisons. My complaint, however,  pales in comparison with the pain of the loved ones that have lost someone to suicide in prison. 

This time however, I don’t talk only about England & Wales rather I reach further afield; to the country of my birth, to voice my despair. SCOTLAND!  What in the name of all that is holy to you are you doing to our children? I have read of two suicides at HMP/YOI Polmont this year and I weep both tears of desperation and of sadness at what has happened. I need not go into great detail here and now about the wasted lives of Katie Allan, 21 and William Lindsay, 16. You can find out more about them here and here.  

From reading about Katie Allan, it seems to me that she was being abused at the highest level by staff at Polmont and it was evident to her parents that her, already fragile, mental health was suffering. It is alleged that she was being strip searched (a policy that everyone agrees is degrading and un-necessary, unless good solid verifiable evidence proves otherwise, should not be used). She was being told to strip naked and then trainee officers were being shown how to perform such a task on a prisoner. Why were they picking on Katie to do this? Well, because she was the compliant one. The one that would do as told and not object. If this is indeed found to be the case, then shame on you Polmont! You say you checked on her. But you threatened to move her to the adult prison instead of dealing with those that were bullying her. For God’s sake, the lassie’s hair was falling out due to the stress that your actions put her under and yet you still did nothing.  Those of you that were complicit in this hold your head in shame and understand that you helped extinguish the light that was Katie’s life. Look at her photo.  The next time you look at your child replace their image with hers and ask; would you want your child to be treated like this. Shame on you!  A daughter of Scotland killed by the people who were meant to protect her.

Katie Allan (photo used with the kind permission of Linda Allan)

Now we come to the sad life of William Lindsay. William was never supposed to be in a jail. He was supposed to be in an institution so better equipped to handle his issues than a prison. But there was no room at the Inn, so the sheriff jailed him anyway. William knew he was unwell, and he heard voices telling him to kill himself. What did Scotland do? They stuck him in a youth jail and ignored his pleas for help. The boy killed himself within 48 hours of arriving at HMP / YOI Polmont. William Lindsay, a child of Scotland, killed by the system that was set up to protect him.

I read of Craig Clifton, 19 years young who died in hospital after spending 3 days in a cell in Polmont Prison suffering from diabetic seizures. On the last day of his life he was found naked and barely conscious in his cell. The staff allegedly dressed him and put him back in his bed. When the doctor came in some hours later, they took Craig to him and he immediately recognised the problem and sent for an ambulance. Too late. Craig died at Stirling Royal Infirmary later that day. What makes the bile in my stomach reach to my throat is that the prison didn’t even contact the boy’s mother to tell her that her son was in hospital fighting for his life. Craig Clifton a son of Scotland killed by the system that was set up to protect him. 

4 Children of Scotland have killed themselves in HMP/YOI Polmont since 2017. Have we no shame? 

I march, in my mind, south of the border in the hope that I might find some solace there. After all, England & Wales are working hard to stem the flow of coffins from leaving their back door, are they not? Surely, I can find peace of mind that the amount people taking their own lives in England’s gaols has decreased. Can I not? Please, I beg of you give me something to write about apart from death, England. 

There isn’t.

Already there have been more deaths in custody this year than there was last year. 71 people have taken their own lives in 2018 thus far. According to The Guardian newspaper, 24 of these people were known to be at risk of committing suicide. 

Look, I know that a lot of suicides are prevented in prison by many of the outstanding officers that have dedicated their life to the service. It is difficult to prove a negative, isn’t it? “How many people didn’t kill themselves in prison today”? However, I can’t help but sit in pain as I realise that every 4 ½ days someone is taking their life in prison.

I read with shock and horror that in 2016 12 women killed themselves in England’s female prisons. A jury recently found that there was “insufficient observational effort by prison officers during Jessica Whitchurch's last hour on this earth. Insufficient???? Why??? Who do we hold culpable? The staff? The Governor? Who sits in front of this young woman’s family and says "Sorry, we just didn’t watch over her"?

Listen, we have panels, we have meetings, we shout and decry the sad state of affairs that is our criminal justice system. A person who I respect so very highly and is known on Social Media as TheSecretBarrister has written an outstanding book on the demise of the criminal justice system. 

In this blog, I show you the consequences of a failing system. Look at their faces, look at the faces of their loved ones and do as I do. Say sorry to them. Apologise on behalf of a nation that so obviously would rather shun those who it believes have no rights as they are transgressors. These are the true victims of a failing criminal justice system. 

I’m done.

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

PS: Oh, yes that date (16/05/2013) ? It is the day I decided to kill myself when I was in prison. Lest you think I am just an ex-prisoner holding a grudge, it was one of these fine officers that I constantly write about that saved me. I am here because someone gave a dam about me. I just wish that someone did that for Katie, William, Craig and Jessica and the many others whose story I have not been able to tell.