I started my Travels of a Virtual Nomad some time ago to campaign against the impact that Ministry of Justice policies have had on prison arts and to raise money for The Koestler Trust. After 228 miles I have already reached Whitby and my travels continue but policy changes are already apparent.
Over the summer the MoJ reversed the decision to ban steel strung acoustic guitars, and recently they decided to remove the limit on the number of books allowed in a prisoner’s possession. But don’t be fooled. Electric guitars remain on the banned list despite many prisoners having invested months of wages in what is for many a very important coping strategy and, speaking for Wakefield at least, it is harder than ever to get other instruments such as keyboards. And the issues don’t stop there. Drama courses remain rare, creative writing is still often censored or even removed from prisoners’ possession, and it takes longer and longer to get hold of art and craft materials.
I have reached the northernmost point in the Yorkshire leg of my journey and I am now heading back south again, but I can only argue that the whole policy area needs reviewing if you all get behind me to sign my petition and sponsor my travels. Please do what us prisoners cannot do for ourselves.
Sponsor me if you can, at my Just Giving page
and sign my petition, at 38 degrees
I recently read an article in one of the national rags about how a certain prisoner had been made to take his glass eye out in order for officers to check whether he had any drugs stashed inside. You might find that quite shocking in itself, but that isn’t even the bit that grabbed my attention.
I remember being just 17 and in HMP Warren Hill as a juvenile. I had a personal grievance with one of the other lads and we actually had a few scuffles. It was never anything too serious but he was a fair bit bigger and stronger than me at that time and staff began to pick up on it. One officer in particular already had it in for the other lad and got it into his head that he could use me to get to him.
A few months ago I posted about the inception of a new initiative here at Wakefield aimed at making the prison into an Enabling Environment where people live and work together to improve both themselves and each other as well as the environment around them. Since then a lot has changed.