Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bureaucracy or Commercialisation?

We all know it's extremely difficult and often unwise to comment on cases when not in possession of the full facts, but sometimes you become aware of something that triggers a train of thought and some uneasy questioning. 

I was alerted to the following blog via Twitter yesterday and mindful of the whole TR omnishambles, it got me thinking about how all this was impacting on individual cases given the bureaucratic nightmare the split and privatisation has created. 

We know things weren't perfect before, but of course we now have commercial considerations to take account of where CRC's are concerned......  
Petrified and in Pain: Prohibitive Probation

Imagine finding out, aged just 49, that you have a heart condition. Imagine finding this out whilst incarcerated in prison, at the mercy of prison medical staff. Healthcare in prison is poor at best, every prisoner considered a hypochondriac who is swinging the lead to get stronger medication or a cushier ride. Imagine that heart condition getting increasingly worse. Imagine all the different medications you have to try just to be able to breathe and get through each day, and imagine how long it takes to actually get each medication when living in prison.

Imagine being taken out of prison to see the specialist while handcuffed to a prison officer. Imagine the fear of facing a potentially lethal condition, day after day on your own, knowing that every night you are locked up alone in a room, unable to summon help if you suffer a stroke or heart attack....

Now, jump forward four years. You have had two non-invasive, but still frightening and painful, procedures to try to solve the problem. Neither has worked. You have exhausted all the medication available. You are at daily risk of a stroke or heart attack and you urgently need a five and a half hour operation which is your last and only chance of a cure.

Imagine finding out you are finally listed for your operation, at your heart specialist's London hospital. Imagine the fear building up as you worry about being under general anaesthetic while parts of your heart are burnt away. But imagine the hope building up when you imagine a healthy future, a future where you can breathe properly, where your heart beats steadily and slowly, where you can once again be a productive member of society, where you can be the partner and family member you have struggled to be, where you can look forward to your wedding planned for next year, knowing you will walk down the aisle fit and strong.

My Scottish friend has her operation booked for Wednesday. It's an urgent operation and so she has been placed high up the list. But, as it stands today, she won't be going.........

She left prison 15 weeks ago. She served her time for a crime that she was manipulated into, that she admits was based on a wrong decision, and she has been a model prisoner. A first time (and only time I am sure) offender she is the lowest risk category. She has no direct victim, it wasn't a violent crime and she has nothing added to her standard licence. Those who have read my blogs will know that she left open prison in June as a textbook rehabilitated prisoner, with a full time job, a car, a partner and a new family. But, 15 weeks later, the Probation Service has managed to take away both her job and her car, and are preventing her continuing her relationship with her new partner. She is also isolated from her only family, who live in London. She is still unemployed and living in homeless accommodation in Scotland, nearly 600 miles from the place and people she considers to be home.

Nobody quite knows why Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC are being so awkward and prohibitive. They still refuse to respond in writing, to communicate effectively with Scottish probation, PAS. the Scottish lady herself or her legal representatives. The local CRC office refuses to make any decisions about transferring her case to England or even about visiting temporarily while having this necessary surgery. They insist such an "unheard of" request to live with another ex-offender has to be considered by a senior officer from the National Probation Service. But there are many, many examples of two ex-offenders on licence living together and marrying without any of this kind of prohibitive and vindictive behaviour from their probation officers. Different agencies working with ex-offenders and also other Probation departments have confirmed this. Nobody can get to the bottom of the KSS CRC decision making. There does not seem to be a ruling or prison law that forbids this. There is nothing in either person's background or behaviour that would forbid this.

Whether or not a higher officer has to make the decision though is not the crux of this matter. The extremely urgent and life threatening issue is that the request for transfer was originally made over three months ago, the paperwork was sent (more than once), the hospital dates were known about, and yet......... still no decision or communication is forthcoming. Imagine how scared you would be about undergoing surgery, and how frightening to still not have confirmation that you can actually attend just three days before!

On Friday the Scottish lady visited her GP. She has been told that the stress caused by Probation's appalling behaviour towards her has massively increased her risk of stroke and/or heart attack. She has now been prescribed Diazepam on top of all the other daily medications she has to take to try to keep a serious heart attack at bay. The GP, who works four days a week in the prison service, has written a supporting letter. In it he states:

"I believe if she went onto a myocardial infarction/heart attack whilst placed on yet another waiting list, the Probation Office could be found medically and legally liable"

This letter has been e-mailed to Scottish Probation, PAS, the solicitor, KSS CRC and the senior officer who is refusing to deal with the situation. Ironically an out-of-office reply came back from that same senior officer, saying she was out of office until 23rd (the date of the operation.......). But for those of you who are technically minded bear this in mind.......

The out of office reply was sent, not as an automated reply, not with alternative contact details, but with a short sentence in it, FIVE HOURS after the email was received!! Slightly suspicious don't you think??

It seems that the Criminal Justice System can behave in any way they please, break any rules they like, make up rules as they go along. But ultimately, this is a human being. They are risking the death of a 53 year old lady, a living breathing human, who has a daughter, a partner, a sister, a niece and nephew, a whole new family.......

I hope they sleep well at night, I know the Scottish lady doesn't.....


  1. I wouldn't give any significance to the email debacle. It takes up to six hours for my emails to be received by local agencies. I suspect the secure 'gsi/gsx' system has a role to play. And our out-of-office system doesn't, as with some, specify if its an automated response.

    Other than that, on the face of it - shocking.

  2. Awfu - I bet it's all about the money! It occurred to me yesterday when I struggled up 6 flights of stairs, because the lift in our building has been out of service for 2 weeks now, that had the escalators in John Lewis broke down, preventing people from getting to Santa's grotto or any old sale, they'd have it fixed in a nano second! However, staff and clients who have asthma, angina, ar disabled, use walking sticks or are in wheelchairs cannot fulfil their contracts or court orders, we just have to struggle on, but then, who cares?

  3. I see that a comment has been added to that blog just this morning thus: -

    " KSS CRC Communications has left a new comment on the post "Petrified and in Pain: Prohibitive Probation":

    Thanks. The National Probation Service and ourselves are looking into this very urgently. kind regards Ann "


      That comment was not posted "just this morning" but rather yesterday thus timed: -

      "22 September 2015 at 01:52"

      I guess the email time lag does not only happen within the NPS and CRC intranets!

      I had previously seen the comment timed at 09.55 TODAY as when I read it also via Twitter I 'clicked ' to follow by email out of interest.

      I am just glad I am not the case holder - I recall movements between Scotland and England of probation orders needed to go via the Home Office and HM Gov's Scottish Office donkeys ages ago and doubt that has changed!

  4. From what I understand from what I have read it probably boils down to KSS not wanting to take the transfer because they won't get paid for her and so would have to work for nothing for the length of time the woman in the post is on licence.

    1. Hello - as someone else has said these sorts of situations are often not as simple as they may appear and I can't go into the individual circumstances. All I can say is that it was not about money.

    2. I made that comment. Thankyou for getting in touch.

  5. I know the woman about whom the blog post is about and interestingly the story is not as cut and dried as the original blog poster would have us believe

    1. Hence the caveat at the beginning of this post:-

      "We all know it's extremely difficult and often unwise to comment on cases when not in possession of the full facts, but...."

    2. Just received a message about this: -

      " KSS CRC Communications22 September 2015 at 04:33

      We've sorted out the situation with the lady involved and her surgery will be going ahead. Thanks for alerting us to this. all the best Ann "


    3. Still begs the question tho', of why it took a public statement on a media blog before the CRC resolved an issue that is its bread and butter work ie handling transfer in requests. Mind you, I am not surprised. I know from personal experience that if a matter gets to the ears of the CRC parent company that could result in loss of credibility to them then things happen very quickly indeed. Sad but true.

    4. FROM TWITTER: -

      " Amanda ‏@outofsync8 25m25 minutes ago

      @Andrew_S_Hatton @Elsie2127 @lankelangley @WomensPrisonsUK @JohnMcNallyMP

      8 hour op took twice as long as thought, but all good tonight.

      https://twitter.com/outofsync8/status/646832250143830016 "

  6. and finally, the most recent blog comment is from KSS which says the issue has been looked into and the operation will go ahead tomorrow.

    Whatever the circs of her offending, she is still clearly a very sickly human being, so good luck for the op and her future.

  7. EDITED: - From The Independent

    " Prison inspectors call for review of entire youth detention system after detailing appalling violence "


    AND from THE HMI website: -


    1. Prison inspectors have called for a review of the entire youth detention system after detailing routine violence at a unit where teenage groups armed with home-made weapons targeted lone victims and stamped on their heads.

      Cookham Wood young offenders’ institute has seen a sharp increase in children being taken to hospital, including many with head injuries from violent attacks, according to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

      In six months, the unit had seen more than 150 fights and attacks – nearly one for every inmate - with specially-sharpened cutlery and heavy items put inside socks used as violent weapons. A search of one wing had found 15 such improvised weapons.

      Attacks on staff had also increased while the prison authorities were so overwhelmed with intelligence reports about violence and weapons that hundreds were not acted on.

      Some children were too frightened to come out of their cells amid an atmosphere of intense intimidation with one boy subjected to a “kangaroo” court during a night visit by inspectors. More than 40 per cent of the boys aged 15-18 held there said that they felt unsafe.

      Despite the level of violence, inspectors found the disciplinary system in disarray with some cases of violent behaviour unlikely to be dealt with because of a backlog of some 200 incidents.

      Force had been used against boys 400 times in six months, compared with 282 in the run up to the last report in 2014. Inspectors said that in one case, a boy was kicked by an officer after he refused to leave a room after a review was carried out into why he had self-harmed inside the prison.

      The uptick in violence has come despite falling numbers of teenagers in prisons to about 1,000 across England and Wales that inspectors said pointed to wider problems across the prison estate.

      Two years ago inspectors reported that gang violence was out of control at Feltham, one of the five units that detain under-18s. The falling numbers have left the units dealing with some of the most serious youth offenders in the country. At Cookham Wood prison in Rochester, Kent, a tenth of the 166 boys held had been convicted or charged with killing someone, and faced many years in prison.