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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

A Woman’s Right to Choose

I read recently that Nadine Morano, the former French family minister, said publicly that she had seen a Muslim woman sitting on a French beach in a headscarf, a long sleeved shirt, and trousers, but that it was a French woman’s duty to wear a bikini on the beach because ‘when you choose to come to a country of secular laws like France, you have an obligation to respect our culture and the liberty of women. Or you go somewhere else.’ But this is a point which I have heard from a number of people and which, I have always thought, actually contradicts itself completely.

Continue reading

Intellectual Property and the Thought Police

I have had a problem with the idea of intellectual property for a while now and, at last, I think I know why. For starters, I have always thought that if ideas are to be regarded as intellectual property which can be protected by law, then those laws need to be enforced on the basis of ideas, and that can only ever be done by the thought police. Who else can claim the right to tell me which ideas I am permitted to have and to manifest?

Continue reading

Court on Camera

Recently, Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court said “I think there is a strong case for saying that [British court cases] should be televised: that is merely the modern extension of enabling the public to enter the courts physically.”

Continue reading

High Law

It is no secret that the use of ‘legal highs’ over traditional, illegal drugs has been steadily increasing over recent years. The effects of these substances both on individuals and on society as a whole have also been increasing at a similar rate and recently the Centre for Social Justice published a report claiming that deaths related to legal highs could exceed those related to heroin use within the next two years.

Continue reading

Food, Glorious Food

Ever since 2009 I have kept to a strict vegetarian diet. This is something which, on paper, the prison service caters for entirely. However, the reality is sometimes very different and, in my case, it led me to finding myself over £10,000 in debt!

Continue reading