Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Prisoners 3

Monday saw the last episode of the three-part BBC1 documentary series 'The Prisoners' filmed over 12 months at HMP Pentonville and Holloway. Given the grossly disturbed backgrounds of the vast majority of prisoners featured in this and the previous two programmes, I defy anyone to adequately explain to me why it was felt some time ago that a social work qualification was no longer felt appropriate for new probation officers?

We've seen Jayde from previous episodes and she's displaying the same dangerous attention-seeking behaviour in this one. Still extremely emotionally immature, she is finding it difficult learning that behaviour has consequences and a longer time in prison may well mean that she loses her beloved dog. Whatever her issues with alcohol, drugs or relationships "I don't often want to talk about the past," she desperately needs counselling, preferably in the community. 

There's almost no chance of that of course because it's too expensive, virtually unavailable and in any case one missed appointment would swiftly lead to her being 'signed off' as not being motivated. No such policy is available to the Probation Service of course. We have to stick with such clients right through all their chaotic phases and try and do our best.  

Ben was interesting because he positively chose prison as a far faster route to drug treatment and a residential rehab place. He was proved right, but such a facility is very expensive, also virtually unavailable, and sadly it was never likely to work given the current way in which such service's are organised and located. I loved the oft-repeated refrain "No-one tells me nothing!" Anyway, we left him seemingly making his own efforts at dealing with his drug issues. On the news of the death of his father, following a reconciliation, it was particularly moving to hear him say that he'd "lost him again." Ben probably needed counselling I think.

On the face of it Michael and Chloe were in many respects an unlikely couple, not least due to their 20 year age difference. Despite what she said, Chloe had difficulty with a partner that didn't show her violence. I'm sure she could benefit from counselling. Michael was much more 'grounded' and soon realised that there was little chance of their relationship flourishing and Chloe in particular remaining drug-free, unless their release-dates coincided. They didn't and Chloe soon spent most of £700 not on a sofa, but drugs and similar. Poor old Michael only got a £20 postal order paid into private cash. She summed things up pretty well I thought "I did everything I had promised not to, and didn't do anything I had promised to."

Despite this, it was interesting to see Chloe indulge in some distorted reasoning and try and shift responsibility for her drug-taking onto poor Michael during a prison visit. "You think I'll mess up - so I might as well." Later she reflected "I'm a drug addict. I relapse. That's what I do." Wisely Michael calls it a day on their relationship and I hope he's doing well. He could see clearly that she would remain a negative influence upon him as he tried to dealt with his own journey of abstaining from drug use.   

Clearly Lauren had been inside many times previously for drug-related offending, but on this remand had clearly decided that at age 40 it was time to change, and found herself for the first time doing a job on the servery. She'd decided, like many do, that she'd had enough of prison and the lifestyle and was going to seriously try and not come back. I don't think it was the result of any particular 'intervention', she'd just had enough full stop, and fortunately a DRR was on offer. 

Some might say prison had 'worked', but it's clearly been a long expensive business and other methods might have been effective rather earlier. She got a DRR, but the risk of alcohol substitution clearly remained an issue. I was struck with the drug worker saying it was her 'last chance.'  In probation I'm not sure we recognise that sentiment. Failure always remains delayed progress for us.

Sign the No10 petition here.       

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