At least one officer a month bellows Return of The Mac at me as I get back to the wing from work and it goes right through me. It had to appear as the title of a blog post at some point though and this seems as good a time as any. I’ve neglected this of late. And I should apologise, most of all to those who have sent comments, tweets, and direct messages. It’s not that I’ve been ignoring them, simply that I’ve been focusing on other things which had to take priority. So here’s what happened…
At the start of this year I felt sure that this was going to be ‘my year’. I had a list of goals I wanted to achieve, a fair plan of how to go about it, and the determination to see it through. However, the perennial problem of excessive censorship and interference with mail (which I’m sure was completely unintentional) reared it’s head again, and then I was hit by not one but two target cell spins (full searches of my cell and belongings by the Dedicated Search Team (DST) as a result of undefined “intelligence”). The first took three days, the second took five, and for, the duration of both I was moved to another cell with none of my property. Nothing was found on either occasion, of course, but these things are a significant disruption to daily life which, when they drag their feet about it, is completely unnecessary.
All of that left me more frustrated with the injustice system than ever and was only exacerbated by an uncharacteristic number of colds, the loss of one of my closest friends when he was transferred to another jail, and being told that someone I had gone out of my way to help had suddenly taken a disliking to me, leading them to put anonymous notes in to staff aiming to make life difficult for me and, perhaps, explaining the cell spins. This continued with rumours spreading that he was planning to try and do something to me directly, but eventually it came to nought and he was transferred out.
Meanwhile, restricted funds, draconian prison rules, corporate exploitation of prisoners as a captive market by BT and the Prison Service, and a variety of external concerns leading to emotional ups and downs and a personal desire to maintain more frequent contact with the outside world led me to do something which, in retrospect, was quite inadvisable, despite it making this possible.
By summer the fact that I had failed to achieve any of my goals, including starting to post frequently again, left me more than a little disappointed in myself. But, at last, in June, I was given a place on a course with the psychology department. Overall this was great news, but it came with its own difficulties and frustrations. First up was the completely unnecessary threat that if I wrote about the course in any way that could be construed to be breaching confidentiality on this blog, action would be taken. As I said, completely unnecessary since I have always stuck to the rules with regard to permitted content, including the rules of not identifying any other prisoner or member of staff and not writing about my crime or the crimes of any other prisoner. However, just to be on the safe side, I did decide to prioritise the course and to put the blog to one side for the duration of it. Second came age old concerns arising from the PCL-r report I’ve written about before, dating back to 2007 and highlighting problems which are simply not there. Nevertheless, I went along with it, I showed willing, I agreed to an additional ‘support plan’ to monitor these concerns. And, as I expected, none of those concerns were an issue at any stage of the course – or at least, none of them were raised with me as being an issue. Then came the tired old claim that my (now ended) relationship with someone who used to work in another prison was indicative of me being dishonest and breaching professional boundaries. I boiled my response down to a single question in the end: “Given that nothing happened between us until two years after she left prison employment, and no one has ever claimed otherwise, and given that I have no profession at all, what professional boundaries am I bound by that have been broken?” Their written answer was to say that this had already been answered verbally (it hadn’t) and a refusal to confirm in writing what that mythical verbal answer had been. In the end I gave up on asking and decided to focus on the course itself.
Make no mistake, these courses can be hard or they can be easy, and it’s really up to you which it is. However, if it is easy, that’s probably because you’re not giving it your all. For me there were ups and downs, harder parts and easier ones. But I did give it my all, I do feel like I got a lot out of it, and I did get through it… Just.
With only two weeks left of the course remaining, my aforementioned inadvisable decision came to light and I was taken from my wing to the segregation unit (seg). For the first time in my fourteen year sentence I am in the seg for for something I’ve actually done, as opposed to something I haven’t. At the time of writing this the matter is ongoing so I can’t go into too much detail just yet, except to say that, just as I’ve always claimed, when I’m caught for something I am genuinely responsible for, I never pretend I’m not.
My time in segregation initially lasted just short of a month under what is known as “Good Order and Discipline” (GOAD or GOOD) measures. They said this was to facilitate an investigation but, in reality, no investigation was necessary. There was a breach of prison rules, but there was no criminal offence, but this didn’t stop them referring the matter to the police. It all came across as a form of revenge and retaliation. This was demonstrated most when, on the day I arrived in the seg, I was sat down in front of three Governors, including the Number One governor (Governing Governor) who said:
“You’ve had more opportunities here than you ever would have got at any other prison. I promise you one thing, as long as I’m Governor here – and I’m planning to stay for at least another five years – you will never have another opportunity again.”
Well, with the exception of the one course I was finally allowed to undertake after years of fighting for a place, I don’t know what opportunities he thinks I’ve had. Every positive thing I’ve tried to do has been unjustly obstructed. So if he’s not talking about opportunities to do positive things, over and above the minimum entitlement of any prisoner, then I can only assume that he means to say that I now won’t even get the opportunity to enjoy the minimum entitlement. And so I found myself in the world of G.O.O.D.
One thing I can be thankful for is that the psychologists ensured that I was permitted to complete the last few sessions of my course, escorted to and from the seg each day. But apart from that, I decided to seize opportunities for myself. The fact is, I no longer have anything, past or present, hanging over me. It’s all out in the open now. So this is my chance to start from ground zero and build up from there with nothing left to undermine my foundations.
The police have already confirmed that nothing I did was a crime, but the adjudication is to be dealt with shortly (updates will follow). I’m expecting the consequences of what’s been and gone to go beyond the official punishment into targeting and excessive treatment (I hope I’m wrong but I’ve been told by staff that I’m not). But the important thing is that I don’t do anything further to make that worse, no matter how resentful I grow of systematic oppression.
Instead I’m going to focus on the positives. This year clearly hasn’t been ‘my year’, but I have re-set a number of goals and I aim to keep setting them with every one I complete. First things first, I want to get back to you guys. I want to post more consistently. And that’s something I plan to slowly increase starting from…