I’ve recently discovered that earlier this year a number of members of staff here at Wakefield were nominated at the Prison Officer and Team of the Year Awards Ceremony. Well, there are actually a fair few officers that I actually think deserve this recognition. But none of the ones who I think truly deserve it received anything at all. What’s worse, in my opinion, some of those who actually won awards don’t deserve anything other than a prison sentence themselves.
There are some minor niggles I have with some of the nominations, and then there are some more major objections. Firstly, one officer was nominated for the Diversity and Equality award. This is the same officer who was told that a prisoner was stockpiling medication in order to commit suicide and, admittedly, spoke to the prisoner concerned and asked if they were going to kill themselves, but accepted the answer “no”, without actually checking the cell for the medication, or making any further enquiries at all. The mental health team were not informed (despite the prisoner having had previous contact with them) and no further action was taken to safeguard this person. In the end, it was left to prisoners to take direct action to look after him themselves. I should point out, at HMP Wakefield the roles of Diversity & Equality and Safer Custody go hand in hand. But this officer was up for an award.
Then there was the nomination for the Reducing Re-offending award. The officer nominated here was one who is not even aware of the correct procedures for the issuing of IEP warnings and reviews (as detailed in my previous post, Incentives and Earned Privileges). When I was once late for work one of the officers there sent an IEP warning to the wing to be issued against me. The award nominated officer brought it to me and I explained that I was only late because prison staff had changed the time for movement to work without telling anyone. Another wing officer vouched for this. However, the award nominated officer informed me that it was not his job to issue IEP warnings (i.e. to rubber stamp it), it has already been issued by the officer who sent it to the wing. But this is simply untrue. The rules state that any officer can recommend a warning, but it is for the wing senior officer (in this case the award nominated officer) to issue or reject it. I therefore had to make a special appeal to get the warning overturned, supported by the other wing officer who had vouched for me, which had to go before the custodial manager. Had I not done so, the warning could have resulted in me being downgraded in regime status and denied progression, it could have had a knock on impact on my sentence plan, and it could have impeded my rehabilitation. But the officer in question was nominated for the Reducing Re-offending Award. Then there was the Rehabilitative Culture Team Award, which the Assessment SL Interventions Team (the psychologists) here actually won. This would be the very team who promised me a place on an offending behaviour program and allowed me to withdraw my application for parole pending completion of the course, before immediately withdrawing their offer of a place on the program, leaving me without any chance of progression for at least another year.
There were a few officers nominated who I don’t actually know, so I wouldn’t question those nominations at all, and there was one award which I actually agree with. This was a commendation given to one of the officers who is consistently fair to everyone. Just recently he was presented with an opportunity to really stitch me up, simply by agreeing with a lie that had been told about me. But he didn’t. My experience of many officers is that even the good ones won’t say anything to defend you when their colleagues are on the war path, but this one was honest and fair when it counted.
On the other hand, the biggest objection I have to any of the awards is the Team of the Year Award given to the segregation team here. These are the people who denied me clean clothing, bedding, and even heating in my cell last year. The people who insisted on placing me on an exercise yard next to the window of someone who was known to be shouting abuse on a daily basis, and who refused to place me on a different yard. The people who denied me a lunchtime meal on my first day in segregation. The people who restricted my access to the mental health team and refused to allow me to attend the chapel, both without any justification. The people who were instrumental in an assault on me by three officers, and who egged them on and laughed. The team of the year.