Common Sense Alert! 5

A while ago, at another prison, there was an incident where a prisoner attacked a number of officers resulting in some serious injuries. He was subsequently put on trial for attempted murder but was cleared of all charges when it was found that he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and had genuinely acted in the belief that it was self-defence. The following day the Governor of the prison appeared on the local news and stated that it was a travesty of justice and that the Courts had got it wrong.

Seeing this, I sent a letter to the prison newspaper, Inside Time, to say that whilst I wouldn’t wish what had happened on anybody, I found the Governor’s comments confusing. The prison service regularly tells those prisoners who are maintaining their innocence that prison staff have a legal obligation to accept the verdict of the courts and therefore cannot entertain any possibility of them actually being innocent unless they successfully appeal. And yet here was a prison governor disputing the verdict of the court because it had not gone in his favour. It seemed that this was a governor in denial.

The censors department intercepted my letter and refused to let me send it on the grounds that I had identified individuals by name (which is not allowed in articles intended for publication and is also why I haven’t identified them here). So instead, I sent the letter to a family member with the intention of them forwarding it on to Inside Time themselves.

Some time later, I wanted to get a copy of the letter back so I asked them to send me a copy, which they did. But here’s the funny part. When my letter arrived back at the prison, the censors department intercepted it again and said that I couldn’t have it because allowing me to read it could compromise the good order and discipline of the prison. They completely missed the fact that I knew what it said because I was the one who wrote it!

Common Sense Alert! 4

A few weeks ago I had a doctors appointment. It was nothing major, just a bit of dry skin, but the doctor’s reaction was farcical.

I showed him where the dry skin was, my left foot, and told him that I’d already tried creams to treat the symptoms but they hadn’t worked. He immediately said I needed athletes foot powder so I asked if he was going to give me it and he said that he couldn’t, I had to buy it for myself. Since there is no powder on the prison canteen list, I told him so and asked where I could get it from. He couldn’t even tell me. He just shrugged his shoulders and said “Well, people get it.” Then he said he’d prescribe more cream even if it doesn’t work!

But I’m one of the lucky ones. There’s a guy on my wing who broke his wrist and was told by the nursing staff that there was nothing wrong with it for six weeks before they finally x-rayed it and saw that not only was it broken, it had started to heal out of line. They put a cast on it, and then left the cast on for well over the four weeks he was recommended. He was still wearing it three months later! In the end he had to take it off himself.

Sometimes the mind boggles.

Common Sense Alert! 3

In the December issue of Inside Time a prisoner’s partner wrote in asking for clarification on whether prisoners are allowed to have photos taken. They had previously been banned whilst the Ministry of Justice decided what to do, but despite this ban being lifted since then, a number of prisons still aren’t allowing it.

NOMS (The National Offender Management Service) published a reply to this letter clarifying that photos can be taken, but that they are to be retained in the prisoner’s possession and not to be passed outside of the establishment to any relatives.

Meanwhile, the prison rules state separately that prisoners are not allowed to have pictures of themselves in their possession at all as this is a security risk! Some prisons overlook this, but most forbid prisoners from having any photos that the prisoner is pictured in. That being the case, what is the point of letting us have photos taken if we can’t keep them ourselves, and neither can we send them out to our families?

Common Sense Alert! 2

When I sent the first posts for this blog to my mum to put up, I had the letter returned to me by the prison censors who said that they couldn’t let me send it because “prisoners aren’t allowed to blog.” I’m sure the likes of Jail House Lawyer, Noel Smith, and (most famously) Ben Gunn who already fought for this right and won, would have something to say about that, but I nevertheless had to go through the normal complaints procedure.

I pointed out that the rules state that prisoners are not allowed access to social networks such as Facebook, but the Prison Service Instructions themselves state that prisoners may publish their writing online as long as they do not receive payment, talk about their own offences or those of others, or identify individual prisoners or members of staff. In their response, the prison service requested the website address so that they could check the site and ensure that I had not posted anything I should not have. Of course, I gave the address immediately, but had to point out that they might have trouble checking the content since it was them who had stopped me sending any content!

Even more strangely, whilst I was still trying to resolve this, my mum sent a few printouts of the site in its construction phase, with “Adam Mac: blogging behind bars” written right across the top of every page. Since, at that point, they were still saying I couldn’t blog, you’d think they’d have stopped this letter from getting to me. But no, I was given it without any argument!

Still, after a second stage complaint and an in depth check of the site (minus any actual content) the prison service relented. They said I could blog after all!

Maybe common sense does prevail sometimes.

Common Sense Alert!

Prison Service rules state that if a prisoner wants to change their appearance they must first submit an application for permission so that an updated photo can be taken.

There’s one guy on my wing who keeps a beard but occasionally trims it back. Recently he was trimming it when he accidentally went too far and took out a chunk of hair. Obviously he wasn’t keen on walking around with a facial bald patch so he trimmed it right down to the stubble all over so that it could grow back evenly again.

The following morning he was threatened with being placed on report and faced a loss of privileges on the grounds that he hadn’t put an application in to cut off his beard. He told the officer that he couldn’t have put an app’ in because he didn’t know it was going to happen, but the answer he got was simply bizarre. He was told that he should have kept the beard with a bald patch on his cheek and waited to shave it off until his written application could be sent to the security department for consideration.

That’s Prison Service logic for you.