Talk About Personality!

This year the psychology department here at HMP Wakefield piloted a new idea. They decided to hold mini lectures on the last Monday of every month with a different “psycho-educational theme” each time.

There have been five so far and whilst I didn’t get to go to the first one due to other commitments, I have found the others absolutely fascinating and a great idea. However, this probably wasn’t for the reasons they had intended.

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Looking for a Research Subject?

A while ago it came to my attention that many of you following this blog are undergraduate or postgraduate students of subjects such as criminology and psychology. Now I’m all too aware that many prisoners and ex-prisoners have a sort of phobia of engaging with anyone who works in these subjects, but I am not one of them. Perhaps I should be, but I’m not. So it occurred to me that it might well be of use to some of you to have a case study or research subject for your dissertations.

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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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Facts from the Hard Drive Part 2

In one of my previous posts I wrote about how reports that are compiled by prison and probation staff regarding prisoners often contain highly misleading and potentially damaging content. Invariably the author claims that content to be factual either because they read it in a previous report on their computer (which must make it true) or simply because they believe that they can say what they like and get away with it. Well, having recently received the latest wave in reports written for my forthcoming parole hearing, I am going to start sharing a few examples of the so called “facts” written about me over the years.

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Enough with the Psychobabe Rubbish

I totally appreciate that I’m not your average prisoner. I came to jail much younger than most and I’ve been in prison ever since. I’ve spent my entire adult life behind bars. But I’m sick of reading about so called ‘psychobabes’ in Inside Time and hearing other prisoners here go on about them.

For those of you who don’t know, ‘psychobabes’ is a term coined by prisoners to refer to the very many twenty-something psychologists who work in the prison service. Many prisoners say that they don’t like them because they are fresh out of university with no life experience and yet they try and tell grown men how they should be living. Others say that they don’t like them because they are usually middle class suburbanites who couldn’t possibly relate to the daily tribulations of an inner city grafter. But I don’t care what their reasons are. I’ve had just about enough of it.

The term itself is enough to get on my nerves. It is derogatory and sexist. It reduces the many young female psychologists to ‘babes’ without any reference to the few male psychologists that also do the job. And as if that wasn’t enough, the meaning behind it bugs me too. They might not be fifty year old working class men, but that doesn’t mean they have no life experience. They’ve got lots of experiences that I’m sure we could all learn from, just as they learn from ours too. And in any case, they’ve spent more time living life on the outside than I have!

But don’t get me wrong. I happen to think that the way psychology in prisons is run is both unreliable and counterproductive. I just think that calling the psychologists names that trivialise who they are and what they have achieved does no one justice. If you want to argue against prison psychology, fine. But lay off the personal attacks on the psychologists themselves.

Alternatives to Violence

I have a bit of good news. After about two months in segregation, they have moved me back to the wings. To a cell on the top floor of the wing in fact. From the dungeon to the penthouse suite!

I don’t know yet whether that whole situation is all over and dealt with, or if there are still things going on behind the scenes. But at least I’m not in solitary any more.

The whole process (witnessing the fight and then everything that followed) has made me think though. I’m fed up of the violence in these places. I’ve been inside for twelve years and I’ve seen everything from handbags at dawn to the decapitation and disembowelment of another prisoner. Sure, I’ve had a few fights myself too. I’m by no means a pacifist and I do believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves – you don’t just curl up and take a kicking. But I never start a fight and will do anything I can to avoid one starting if it’s at all possible. I’m just sick of how easily some people here seem to resort to violence. And that goes as equally for staff as it does for prisoners. I’m sick of witnessing it. I’m sick of having to deal with it myself, and I’m sick of people assuming that, as a prisoner, I must be the same.

So I’d like to draw your attention to a fantastic group who try to combat exactly that.

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Justice for the Rich

Recently a serious fraud trial was dismissed on the grounds that the defendants had been unable to find a barrister willing to represent them due to legal aid cuts. Since then, the Court of Appeal has overturned this decision, saying that it is not impossible that a barrister could be found and further efforts should be made to do so. But what next?

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The Psychology of Segregation

I don’t know how long they’re going to keep me here in segregation, but the prison is saying they can’t move me back to the wing until everything has been investigated and conclusions have been reached regarding who was involved and who wasn’t, and despite me having told them exactly where to find the evidence that I wasn’t part of the incident, no-one seems too keen to actually do that. So I wait.

In the meantime, I’m going to be examining some of the things I have experienced during this whole process and asking why things have to run this way.

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Whole Life Sentence

A while ago I got thinking about the way drugs can affect your perception of time, I wondered whether scientists would ever be able to isolate the chemical compounds that alter temporal perception in order to accurately reduce or extend how individuals experience time. I even considered how this might affect imprisonment and the idea that costs could be drastically cut by administering a dose of this chemical in order to make a single second feel like an entire week. If this were ever to happen, there would be no need for most prisons, the punishment could be administered in court at the time of sentencing. A sentence of a year could be served in under a minute and a sentence of a hundred years could be served in just under an hour and a half. There would be no need to pay thousands of prison officers. No need to buy in food, train riot officers, administer searching procedures, provide beds, toilets, or televisions, or even to arrange visits. No need to pay for any of that.

However, I didn’t look at it the other way. I didn’t consider that maybe sentences wouldn’t be shortened in real time but feel the same length, maybe they’d be extended in real time and feel even longer instead. Maybe we’d end up serving ten year sentences that feel like a millennia. And I definitely didn’t consider what would happen if people’s lives could be extended too so that you could serve hundreds of years in real time that feel like an eternity in your head. Well, recently someone else thought of exactly that. These thoughts are really disturbing. Check the article out at aeon magazine.