In one of my previous posts I wrote about how reports that are compiled by prison and probation staff regarding prisoners often contain highly misleading and potentially damaging content. Invariably the author claims that content to be factual either because they read it in a previous report on their computer (which must make it true) or simply because they believe that they can say what they like and get away with it. Well, having recently received the latest wave in reports written for my forthcoming parole hearing, I am going to start sharing a few examples of the so called “facts” written about me over the years.
The first “fact” comes from my probation officer about this very site. She writes:
“In our most recent interview, Mr Mac disclosed that he has started his own blog, Adam Mac ‘behind bars’. He manages this by writing to his [family] who then post the content of the letters for him on-line on his blog. The content of the blog includes essay/writing around his incarceration, segregation, day release licence, and fines/criminal damage. This has been notified to the security department in HMP Wakefield for review by the Prison Service to take a decision if this is an appropriate activity for a prisoner to be undertaking (as the content is unmonitored) and to make sure it does not breach Prison Rules.”
Except that isn’t how the interview went at all. I did disclose that I had started a blog. That much is true. But isn’t that a good sign? My probation officer had no clue that I had done so and the fact that I disclosed it voluntarily should therefore be taken as a reassuring sign that I am being open, honest, forthcoming, and engaging with probation, shouldn’t it?
So what about the content of the blog? It is true that in the first half of June I did write around half a dozen posts on exactly the topics my probation officer lists. But I have been blogging for almost a year now. How many posts have I written about segregation, day release licence, and fines/criminal damage? It really is limited to those half a dozen. So why has she seized on those topics rather than the subjects I write about far more often such as the positivity of prison arts? In my view, there are two reasons. The first is convenience. She happened to take a quick look at this site in mid June, straight after the interview, and those half a dozen posts happened to be the most recent. She simply didn’t bother reading further. The second reason is one I am all too familiar with. When faced with the choice of reporting the positive things I do and say, and painting everything as negative, prison and probation staff always go for the latter.
What about her claim that the content of this site is unmonitored then? Well she clearly knows that that isn’t true at all since she already knows that I upload content by sending it in letters to my family. Letters which, she is fully aware, go through the prison censors department to be read prior to sending. And if she knows that my letters (and therefore my blog posts) are read, then she knows they are monitored. So why say that it isn’t? Only to justify her decision to report it to the prison security department for investigation. For the record, blogging doesn’t break any prison rules and they therefore took no action. But if she thought it was concerning that I am blogging, then why not raise those concerns with me during the interview? She said nothing of the sort. She actually sounded quite supportive.
And let’s just keep in mind what the role of probation is. They are there primarily to keep the public safe by reducing offenders’ risk of reoffending. Some of the biggest ways to do that is to encourage those offenders to engage in constructive activities, to find a legal source of income, and to maintain a strong support network. Well, it is my family support network which has facilitated the building of this site. Maintaining the site and writing about a whole variety of things related to the British Justice system is clearly constructive. And doing so has already resulted in me receiving numerous opportunities to write for a number of magazines and even to engage with television media. Potentially, one of those opportunities could lead to a job and a legitimate source of income when I am released.
Unfortunately, I cannot stop anyone from writing such things and putting them in front of the parole board. All I can do is explain to the parole board why those things are wrong. And if you were on the board, who would you listen to? The prisoner of twelve years or the trusted probation officer? But, for prisoners, that’s simply how life is.