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Common Sense Alert! 15

A while back one of the lads in here (who has only been locked up fairly recently) wrote to his bank to ask them to please send his statements to him here rather than at his home address. Now obviously no-one would want their bank to simply accede to such requests without carrying out the relevant checks, but the response they sent was simply bizarre.

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Common Sense Alert! 13

A couple of months ago I was running down the stairs to get to use the telephone before going to work and I twisted my ankle really badly. I saw a nurse about it and they gave me the day off but said I could go back to work from the next day, so long as I didn’t put too much pressure on my ankle. Well, since the prison had thrown me into a textile workshop as a sewing machinist, I couldn’t do my usual work because it required me to use my foot to drive the machine. But I did ask for some alternative work (of which there was plenty). Unfortunately, the workshop instructor had other ideas and said that, if I didn’t work on the machine, I was refusing to work and would be sent back without pay. I put up with that for a few days, but soon tired of it since I was not refusing to work at all, I was happy to do whatever work they could give me that was appropriate, given the circumstances. Continue reading

Common Sense Alert! 12

I feel really conflicted about this one. A while ago an officer on my wing came up to me and, out of nowhere, said “That’s an interesting blog you’ve got!” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right at first but when he repeated himself I was really taken aback and could only think to say “Oh, right, yeah. Um, thanks.” He said a colleague had stumbled across it and asked him if he’d seen it so he took a look. But then he said something that threw me even more.

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Common Sense Alert! 11

Sometimes I really have to wonder at the sheer audacity of this place. When the law changed making it illegal to smoke in public places the same rules were applied throughout the prison estate. It was deemed that a prisoner’s cell could not be considered a public space, and they may therefore continue to smoke there, but all other areas of prisons were public and smoking in those areas was therefore prohibited.

This applied to staff and prisoners alike and was instituted across the country. Except at Wakefield. Here staff refused and continued to smoke on site.

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Common Sense Alert! 10

Recently the regime here at Wakefield has changed somewhat. Now each wing is kept off work for one afternoon a week and given association time instead, so that they can be left locked up during the evening. The reason given for this is that the prison, like many others now, is drastically short staffed.

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Common Sense Alert! 9

Some turns of phrase make total sense. Others don’t. Prison Officers tend to like the ones that don’t.

One example I’ve heard a lot lately is ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’. Except, of course, that’s rubbish on absolutely every level. If you take it literally, it’s simply wrong. Cigarettes aren’t on fire. Smouldering maybe, but not on fire. Yet the fact that they ‘smoke’ is the whole point!

So, OK, maybe it makes sense on a metaphorical level then, right? Nope. To say where there’s smoke there’s fire is like saying that whenever anyone says anything about you, anything at all, it has to be true. Well doesn’t that mean there’s no such thing as a lie or a liar? Unless of course someone actually calls you a liar. Then, since where there’s smoke there’s fire, they must be telling the truth and there is such a thing as a lie after all. In fact, you should probably check your pants because where there’s smoke…

Yet Prison Officers seem to love parroting that absurd line at anyone they can. No sooner had I been accused of being involved in trouble than I heard one of them saying “Where there’s smoke.” Innocent until proven guilty? Not in prison. Here you aren’t even guilty until proven innocent. It’s worse than that. You’re guilty until a better scapegoat comes along.

But then actual justice isn’t much part of this justice system, so why should actual guilt have anything to do with being found guilty or sense have anything to do with common sense?

Common Sense Alert 8

A letter in the May issue of Inside Time recently asked how NOMS justified the value of the fines issued to prisoners for damaging prison property. In response NOMS said “The standard charge for a replacement TV is set at £57. When a TV is destroyed, regardless of age, a replacement is required which involves such costs”. So the prisoner would be charged the full £57 regardless of issues such as ‘wear and tear’.

That doesn’t sound too unreasonable. At least until you discover that the same principle does not apply to prisoner’s property that is lost or damaged by the prison service.

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Common Sense Alert 7

I want to start this post by saying that I totally get that Wakefield is a high security jail with some of the highest risk prisoners in the country. But not all of the prisoners here are high risk.

Take some of the older prisoners here. There are prisoners who can barely walk, prisoners who are blind, and even wheelchair bound amputees who are all categorised as cat A, high risk prisoners and housed in one of the most secure prisons in the country. If categorisation were applied as it’s meant to be (based upon risk of escape and potential danger to the public in the event of escape) then how could anyone justify keeping an eighty year old blind amputee in these conditions?

It just makes no sense.

Common Sense Alert! 6

A while back the Ministry of Justice changed the rules regarding how prisoners in high security prisons are searched following visits with their families. They said that 100% of category A prisoners still needed to be strip searched, but category B prisoners no longer had to be. Instead, they said, each prison should set a percentage of category B prisoners who would be strip searched at random. Most high security prisons did this immediately, setting the percentage at between ten and twenty percent. Not HMP Frankland. They did nothing. Continue reading