Life doesn’t have to be difficult. Things don’t have to become complicated. If you treat life simply, it can and it should just be simple. But in prison, this very often isn’t the case. In fact, it is so rarely the case that it truly shocks me when things are done right or done well. I wish that wasn’t the way it is, but it is. And just lately I got a real shock when something was done even better than I thought possible.
When I was in the segregation unit I had no access to my Open University books and so I couldn’t complete the final assignment for my penultimate year of study. For normal assignments this would be easy to resolve by simply asking for an extension. However, end of year assignments cannot be awarded an extension. Instead there are only two options. The first is to defer the entire course and repeat it at your own cost the following year, including redoing all of the work you have already completed. The second is to apply, with evidence, for a discretionary postponement of the final assignment, submitting this at the next available examination date. Since I had received quite good grades for all of my other assignments, I didn’t want to have to repeat them, so I wrote out an application for discretionary postponement detailing my situation and sent it to the relevant department of the prison to be sent on to the Open University for consideration.
However, it was immediately returned to me with a reply saying that it could not be sent on to the OU (no reason given) but that they would ask the OU to issue me with an extension. Well, like I said, extensions are not available for end of year assignments, so I became quite worried that I would fail the course and that my many years of previous work would all be wasted. I raised these concerns with the staff in segregation and they repeatedly told me that no, I had definitely been granted an extension. I knew this couldn’t be right, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to wait until I returned to the wing in order to deal with the situation.
When I did eventually get back to the wing, I immediately submitted an application asking how and when to submit my end of year assignment. But I got no reply whatsoever.
Then I saw the woman who runs the relevant department in passing and asked her about it. She said someone would be coming to see me as soon as possible. But no one came.
After a few weeks I then saw the very woman who was supposed to be coming to see me, again in passing, and I queried the whole situation with her. She said she would get back to me when she had some information.
A couple of times after that, we bumped into each other and she told me there was no news as yet but that she was chasing it up. I saw no real movement at all. So I put in a complaint. I did say that, to their credit, the two people I had spoken to had said they were chasing this up and I appreciated them going out of their way to do so. But I also said that the lack of movement was worrying me since the academic year was nearly over. They replied and confirmed in writing that they would liaise with the OU and get back to me.
I didn’t hold my breath, but to my surprise, they did exactly that. They came back to me just a week or so later and confirmed that they had emailed the Open University and were just waiting for a reply. The following day they brought me written confirmation that a discretionary postponement (not an extension) had now been granted, and I could submit my final assignment at the following examination date.
But it got even better. With all of the confusion I thought that I wouldn’t be able to start my final year of study until my previous one was sorted out, so I didn’t apply for a course to do over this next year. But that wasn’t the case at all. Without me even asking, the woman who eventually got my discretionary postponement confirmed also asked what course I wanted to do next and went out of her way to make sure the relevant forms were put together to arrange it.
So, never one to deny people credit where it is due, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a public thank you to everyone who was involved in eventually sorting out the whole mess and ensuring that my years of study did not go to waste. I only wish that it didn’t shock me so much when something finally goes right!