A few years ago I actually painted the above image in full colour. The deep blue balloon was against the rich greens of the jungle and a bright orange sunrise, echoed by the terracotta temples. But I gave that painting away. I don’t regret that. It is where it is meant to be. But I do wish I’d kept a copy. Now all I have is some preliminary sketches. The drawing above is just one of these. In fact, it is one of my favourites and I do think it works in it’s own right.
Some time back I became very interested in lucid dreaming and the idea that, with practice, you can learn to become aware that you are dreaming even whilst still in the dream, and once you do, you can actually start to change the dream and to control it wilfully. This is an even more powerful idea when you consider the restrictions prisoners are subject to. Imagine having all those restrictions and yet still being able to live as you please, free to do anything, whenever you go to sleep. Then I started imagining all of the things I might dream about if I could, by which I mean all of the things. I really longed to see and do, were anything possible. This picture was one of the things I came up with.
Many people who saw the final painting asked why there are no people in the balloon. If you’re wondering the same thing then I’ll tell you what I told them. There is. There are two. You just can’t see them.
In April I wrote about how no good thing could possibly come from prison officers wearing body cameras as the Prison Officers’ Association would like. Shortly afterwards I spoke to one officer who had read that post and was surprised to find that he didn’t like the idea either, though for very different reasons which I hadn’t even considered.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that actually restore your faith in human nature. When I first started my sentence I didn’t dislike officers at all. I honestly looked at them as people who were just trying to do a job. Over time the way I was treated, and the way I witnessed others being treated changed that and led me to view them in quite a dim light. But, every now and again something will happen to remind me that it isn’t all of them, only some. This month was no exception.
Recently I took the lead on editing a special tenth anniversary bumper edition of HMP Wakefield’s prison magazine The Signpost and, to mark the anniversary, we committed to emphasising the theme of ten.
One way we did this was to collaborate in the Creative Writing class on a set of ten poems, of ten lines each, where each line is written by a different prisoner. We called it Ten by Ten Poetry and Loss was my favourite of the poems we produced.
For a few years now the probation service has required certain offenders (mostly sex offenders as far as I am aware) to take polygraph or lie detector tests. Recently a number of people have written letters to Inside Time claiming to have voluntarily taken these tests and to have proven that they are being honest when they say they are innocent. However, as much as I hate Jeremy Kyle, I think there are certain lessons we can learn from his show.
After explaining the intricacies of the prison adjudication process last month I was unsure which PSI to delve into next. I toyed with the idea of following up with the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme since this is often used as a secondary disciplinary measure (despite stating in itself that it is separate and distinct from the disciplinary system), but then the answer fell right into my lap. A fellow blogging prisoner (who I cannot name for reasons which will become clear) tried to send out a letter containing his latest posts for his people to put online for him, but it was stopped by security. This directly contradicts not just the Prison Service Instruction on prisoner communications, but also the one on access to the media. So it is this PSI I will focus on today, with specific focus on blogging in particular.
Last year a benchmarking report was published here at Wakefield which, staff have told me, stated that there should be a maximum of six cleaners per wing. At the time each wing had approximately thirty workers and it was decided that this would have to decrease. However shortly after this decision was made, all went quiet and nothing changed for some time. Then, out of nowhere and with no warning, the cleaners were called into the wing office one by one and told that they were being reallocated to one of the workshops.