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Overpopulated and Undersupported

Recently I was asked for help by another prisoner who has been downgraded from enhanced regime status to standard regime for very unclear reasons. Now, this prisoner can be a headache at the best of times, but this is not entirely his fault. Some time ago he suffered a severe brain injury and now he is not always aware of it when he is being socially awkward. It is quite possible that he was fairly awkward beforehand too, but now he can struggle to understand even the most basic things and it does take some patience to deal with him.

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Why No Whistleblowers?

I was just reading a piece in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine about an NHS whistle-blower and it set me thinking. Why do we see so many whistle-blowers from a wide range of jobs and backgrounds but so very few whistle-blowers in the prison service?

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The Ombudsman’s Double Standards

Over the past year I have read apology after apology from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, both in personal letters and in letters sent by them to Inside Time, for the delays that have been seen in them investigating prisoners’ complaints. They do nothing but make excuses about how short-staffed they have been and how many complaints they have had to deal with whilst promising that it will get better. Yet this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

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Stranger and Stranger

Some of you may have seen that the High Court ruled last month that the Ministry of Justice’s blanket ban on prisoners having books sent from friends and family was unlawful. The judge even said that it was “strange” to class books as a privilege.

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Youth Restraint

I remember when I first came to prison, back in 2002 when I was just 16. I had a conversation with an officer on my wing and I must have said something to him like “You must think your job’s great. You clock on, have a cuppa or two, tell a few prisoners you can’t help them and that they should put an app’ in, have a roll around with anyone who’s awkward and get your anger out, and then bugger off home for the weekend”. It was banter and we were both winding one another up, but when I said that his face changed, he became very serious.

He looked me in the eye and simply said, “In an adult prison maybe. But not here. Do you think that I enjoy beating kids up?” I stopped joking immediately. The conversation was over.

It is officers like him who I truly believe do not enjoy the restraint aspect of their job at all. Especially when they are working with juvenile prisoners. But I have also experienced the more ‘trigger happy’ element.

At another prison around a year later, I was sitting in the TV room when another lad ran up and hit me in the back of the head. I stood up and turned around to defend myself and, if I’m honest, I would absolutely have laid into the guy in question if I’d had a chance. But I didn’t. I didn’t throw a single punch. No sooner had I turned around than an officer rugby tackled me to the ground, twisted my arms up my back, and held them there with one hand whilst he drove my face into the floor with the other. The fact that I wasn’t struggling at all and tried to keep calm despite the pain as I explained I wasn’t doing anything wrong made no difference whatsoever.

It takes all sorts to work in prisons, and juvenile prisons are no different to adult ones in that respect, but as more and more cases hit the news and the courts in response to unlawful force being used against children, I have to wonder how civilised our criminal justice system is at all.

Wrongful Arrests and Police Bail

Recently I got speaking to a lad who is due to be released and fears that, when he is, he will be rearrested for further crimes, and then immediately recalled by probation due to having been arrested. My advice to him was simple: as soon as you see a policeman looking at you, before they say a thing, tell them that you are happy to assist them with their enquiries, either there and then, or down at the station. You see, police regulations state that no one should be arrested if they are willing to be interviewed voluntarily, unless they are to be charged. By making it clear that you are absolutely willing to be interviewed, you should be able to avoid being arrested at all. So long as they don’t decide to charge you of course. And if they don’t arrest you, probation shouldn’t recall you. It’s that simple.

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