Return of the Virtual Nomad

virtual nomad sticky

Well, now that I am back on the wing and back in the gym, I am also free to continue with my Travels of a Virtual Nomad.  However, there has been a slight change.

As many of you will be aware, my intention was to run, ride and row in the prison gym, following a virtual route around the country and beyond whilst keeping a diary on this site of where I would be if I were free to follow the route in real life.  The sponsorship was intended to go to the absolutely fantastic charity, Not Shut Up who help prisoners all around the country with their involvement in the arts, and who deserve far more recognition for their efforts.  However, due to technical difficulties at my end (and completely beyond the control of Not Shut Up ) it has not been possible to facilitate this.  So instead I have had to change my recipient charity to the equally deserving Koestler Trust.

The Koestler Trust work tirelessly to hold an annual competition in which prisoners are awarded recognition of their work in the form of certificates and prizes.  They also run a scheme in which those prisoners who show a particular commitment to the arts are given the opportunity to work with a Koestler mentor.

This work is priceless to prisoners who might otherwise have no outlet for their talents and I would ask all of you to follow and sponsor my journey for the benefit of The Koestler Trust‘s work and of the artistic interests of prisoners up and down the country.

But I would also like to ask you to visit the site of Not Shut Up, too.  They are hugely deserving of any donation you might feel able to give, and go to great lengths to encourage prisoners (including myself) with our involvement in the arts.  Please give them the recognition they deserve and donate whatever you can.

 

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Alternatives to Violence

I have a bit of good news. After about two months in segregation, they have moved me back to the wings. To a cell on the top floor of the wing in fact. From the dungeon to the penthouse suite!

I don’t know yet whether that whole situation is all over and dealt with, or if there are still things going on behind the scenes. But at least I’m not in solitary any more.

The whole process (witnessing the fight and then everything that followed) has made me think though. I’m fed up of the violence in these places. I’ve been inside for twelve years and I’ve seen everything from handbags at dawn to the decapitation and disembowelment of another prisoner. Sure, I’ve had a few fights myself too. I’m by no means a pacifist and I do believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves – you don’t just curl up and take a kicking. But I never start a fight and will do anything I can to avoid one starting if it’s at all possible. I’m just sick of how easily some people here seem to resort to violence. And that goes as equally for staff as it does for prisoners. I’m sick of witnessing it. I’m sick of having to deal with it myself, and I’m sick of people assuming that, as a prisoner, I must be the same.

So I’d like to draw your attention to a fantastic group who try to combat exactly that.

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Time for Change

For years Wakefield prison has been home to the phrase: “It’s the Wakefield Way”, uttered by prisoners and staff alike whenever a completely irrational decision is questioned. There has been no effort towards change and no desire or appetite for it either. Until now.

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The Grand Menagerie

For a long time now I have thought that prisoners tend to have massive double standards. The amount of people who own, or have previously owned budgies is truly amazing. But what is even more shocking is the number of prisoners who admit to having caught or kept such things as flies, spiders, or cockroaches as a pet in a small box. Yet simultaneously, the same people will moan endlessly about the brutality of caging a person in such a confined space day after day. It is their boredom and lack of liberty that makes them want a pet in the first place. But aren’t they just doing the same thing to the animal?

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Common Sense Alert! 10

Recently the regime here at Wakefield has changed somewhat. Now each wing is kept off work for one afternoon a week and given association time instead, so that they can be left locked up during the evening. The reason given for this is that the prison, like many others now, is drastically short staffed.

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Prison Dramas

There have been a lot of television dramas about prison over the years, and a fair few comedies too. From Prisoner Cell Block H and its successor Wentworth Prison in Australia, to Oz, Prison Break, and Orange is the New Black in the States, and Bad Girls, Prisoner’s Wives, The Visit, and of course, Porridge here in the UK, it seems like the public can’t get enough of Prison Drama.

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It Means Peace

One of my favourite books (and also one of my favourite films) is K-Pax. It’s the first of a trilogy of books and it resonates with me very deeply. Recently I remembered one part of it where the main character (perhaps a mental patient or perhaps a genuine alien from the planet K-Pax) tells his psychiatrist that the whole foundation of the justice system on Earth is universally thought of as being completely insane. How could a system that is constructed around the idea of an eye for an eye ever make sense as justice? In fact, how could it ever make sense as anything other than revenge?

I don’t completely agree with the point, but I do understand it and it resonates with me because it reminds me that we used to burn witches at the stake – but then we grew up. We used to hang, draw and quarter people – but we grew out of that too. We hanged people for murder right into the middle of the twentieth century – but we did outgrow it. Our perceptions of what is a humane demonstration of justice are fluid and generally, they are improving. Maturing even. And that’s important to me for one very big reason. The general public don’t seem to understand just how much being in prison without a concrete release date can affect a person. My hope is, the years will slowly teach them. And one day, maybe we’ll see just how inhumane that can be too, and we’ll find a better way to administer justice.

Oh, and what does ‘K-Pax’ really mean anyway? Well look Pax up in a Latin dictionary. To me, that’s a great place to start.

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Progress of a Virtual Nomad – Saltaire

I’m now 49.4 miles into my virtual journey and am in Saltaire. Check out my Nomad section to find out why!

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Enough with the Psychobabe Rubbish

I totally appreciate that I’m not your average prisoner. I came to jail much younger than most and I’ve been in prison ever since. I’ve spent my entire adult life behind bars. But I’m sick of reading about so called ‘psychobabes’ in Inside Time and hearing other prisoners here go on about them.

For those of you who don’t know, ‘psychobabes’ is a term coined by prisoners to refer to the very many twenty-something psychologists who work in the prison service. Many prisoners say that they don’t like them because they are fresh out of university with no life experience and yet they try and tell grown men how they should be living. Others say that they don’t like them because they are usually middle class suburbanites who couldn’t possibly relate to the daily tribulations of an inner city grafter. But I don’t care what their reasons are. I’ve had just about enough of it.

The term itself is enough to get on my nerves. It is derogatory and sexist. It reduces the many young female psychologists to ‘babes’ without any reference to the few male psychologists that also do the job. And as if that wasn’t enough, the meaning behind it bugs me too. They might not be fifty year old working class men, but that doesn’t mean they have no life experience. They’ve got lots of experiences that I’m sure we could all learn from, just as they learn from ours too. And in any case, they’ve spent more time living life on the outside than I have!

But don’t get me wrong. I happen to think that the way psychology in prisons is run is both unreliable and counterproductive. I just think that calling the psychologists names that trivialise who they are and what they have achieved does no one justice. If you want to argue against prison psychology, fine. But lay off the personal attacks on the psychologists themselves.

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