Friday, 12 August 2016

More Prison Thoughts 2

Here we have another contribution from the other side of the fence, well worth highlighting in my view, especially as part was caught in the pesky spam filter:-

Ben details some of the issues prisoners who are not of the revolving door kind experience after release. One thing I’ve noticed both during my time inside and afterwards is that those who go in and out of prison don’t suffer the same kind of issues adjusting back to society that those serving a one off sentence tend to probably because the revolving door breed familiarity with problems both inside and out making them oddly easier to deal with in some ways.

TR was supposed to bring in a whole host of help for people leaving prison. The reality is what help there used to be has pretty much disappeared due to lack of funding thanks to the cuts implemented by I-have-a-fetish-for-high-viz-jackets-George and the CRC’s have definitely not put any money into replacing what has disappeared from the public sector. Add in the fact that resettlement departments in prison are beyond useless and always were and there is zero help around to help you get readjusted to life on the outside and it is a big readjustment even if you’ve only been inside for 12 months or so. And the longer you’ve been inside the worse time you will have readjusting.

In prison you are treated as inhuman at worst or at best the equivalent of an inconveniently delivered parcel to be passed around the system at whim. Granted there are some officers who are really decent and who treat people as human beings but they seem to be in the minority and management certainly doesn’t view any prisoner as a human being. All control over your life is taken away from you. You are dictated to as to when and where to sleep, when are where to eat, what to wear, what work you can or cannot do and so on. In fact the only control you will have over your life whilst inside is which one of the shitty menu choices to select each week. This is hardly teaching anyone to accept responsibility for their choices and to consider the consequences of their actions which seems to be essential for a law abiding life on the outside.

When you get out, probation will dictate who you live with, what work you may or may not do and who you can have a relationship with a lot of the time and the ever present threat of recall hangs over you at all times no matter how law abiding you are. You will probably be eating the same sort of shitty food you did inside as JSA isn’t sufficient to eat a well balanced nutritious diet and thus your health which was crap to start with after a diet of prison food will only worsen.

You will also be living in the same sort of piss poor accommodation as you did inside i.e. dirty, vermin infested, cold and poorly maintained due to the refusal of most landlords to take anyone on benefits and housing benefit basically consigning you to the worst sort of privately rented accommodation available because you can’t afford anything else. Getting social housing is virtually impossible as most Local Authorities consider you to be a very low priority despite the fact you are classified as vulnerable on release most of the time.

Then you also get dictated to by the DWP who makes you jump through increasingly ridiculous hoops to continue to receive the pitiful JSA allowance with the threat of sanctions also ever present. The fear factor you live under on a daily basis is immense.

All of this is added unnecessary stress for people trying to restart their lives after a prison sentence. And that is difficult enough for someone who didn’t have mental health issues before going to prison and who didn’t develop them inside as many do.

Psychologically adjusting back to life on the outside is not easy. Many people on first time sentences wrongly that it is going to be oh so easy to just pick up where they left off. Well it may be for a very lucky few but for the majority there is nowhere to live, you’ve lost all your possessions, often you partner and family too, your pets and your ability to get a job has just fallen off a cliff because for every Richard Branson willing to give offenders a second chance there are hundreds of employers that won’t even if probation is willing to let you work (which oddly a lot of OM’s don’t despite the stats which clearly show that you’re chances of reoffending diminish with a regular stable job).

Then even if you don’t have mental health issues there will be a lot of difficulty psychologically readjusting. Speaking to all those I have kept in contact with, we’ve all suffered from either depression, become anti social and averse to mixing with people or become isolated through ill health. We have difficulty trusting people on any level and we all have a deep seated anger, whether or not that is overtly expressed or buried. PTSD in people released from prison is not that unusual and a staggering majority will suffer from it in some form or other. Accessing counselling to deal with what you experienced for those inclined to do so is really difficult without money due to long waiting lists and a limit on sessions (most NHS Trusts limit you to six which would barely scratch the surface of the situation)

Prison doesn’t do anyone any good in the long term and scars you for life in some way or another either physically or mentally. Oh it may cause some to reconsider a life of crime as a career path but being inside damages people that were for the most part pretty damaged to start with. Whilst locking people up may remove them from society in the short term, eventually pretty much every prisoner will be released and will bring with them the scars of being imprisoned. Prison simply does not work and there are better ways for society to deal with law breakers for the most part but with the marked reluctance of any politician to buck the tabloid hysteria and actually develop a system that works in terms of desistance from crime but which does not severely damage people mitigates against it.


  1. From BBC website:-

    Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe 'to move back to prison'

    The Yorkshire Ripper is expected to move out of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital and into a prison after medical experts ruled him mentally fit, BBC News understands. A health tribunal has found that Peter Sutcliffe no longer needs any treatment for any mental disorder.

    In 1981 he was convicted of 13 murders and 7 attempted murders and given twenty life sentences. Moving Sutcliffe will need to be approved by the Ministry of Justice.
    Between 1975 and 1980 Sutcliffe preyed on women across Greater Manchester and Yorkshire. His victims were mainly prostitutes whom he mutilated and beat to death.

    Sutcliffe was initially sent to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, but after three years he was moved to Broadmoor in Berkshire, where he has remained since being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

    A former lorry driver from Bradford who now calls himself Peter Coonan, he was caught when police found him with a prostitute in his car. They became suspicious and found he had a fake number plate and weapons including a screwdriver and hammer in the boot.

    A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Peter Coonan will remain locked up and will never be released for his evil crimes. Decisions over whether prisoners are to be sent back to prison from secure hospitals are based on clinical assessments made by independent medical staff. The High Court ordered in 2010 that Peter Coonan should never be released. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

    "Our thoughts are with Coonan's victims and their families."

    1. Just goes to show how brutal the government's work capability assessments have become when they're even kicking the Yorkshire Ripper off the sick!


    2. 'Decisions over whether prisoners are to be sent back to prison from secure hospitals are based on clinical assessments made by independent medical staff.' That makes it sound as if the medical staff make the decisions - why no mention that the Secretary of State is the one who makes the decision?

  2. As the poster of the original prison-related comment the other day I can say that most of these post-release issues have been problems I've also faced, but to be honest many of them (housing, benefits) are beyond the scope of the CJS. These are societal problems which have been neglected for a generation, but seeing as comments along the lines of "jeremmy corbin is bad 4 dis cuntry lol" continue, that discussion is quickly killed.

    I do feel that the Probation Service public protection remit takes precedence over and above all else, though. For example, someone I knew was released to an AP as is home town was essentially an exclusion zone. He finds himself in a new town, gets on the housing list, tries to get suitable private housing with no luck. He is under 35 and is only eligible for 'single room rent' Housing Benefit. In short, he can't find a flat, and soon enough the hostel want to kick him out because they need space. His OM, well-meaning but seriously misguided, assures him everything will be OK because he can find him a place in a homeless hostel in yet another nearby town. Not good. Now I can see the OM's perspective, he has no clout in benefits or housing but does have an obligation to protect the public. Nonetheless, nobody should be made homeless in the interests of public protection, after consultation with some shady and mysterious MAPPA group who have decided that this is the best option, in spite of the fact that this person is only homeless because he can't enter the town where many willing and concerned friends and family members would be more than willing to accommodate him. This individual is now living in shared housing, despite being recommended an IPP at PSR stage by his OM, having done no OB programmes and being 'single cell only' in prison due to risk he is able to live in a multi-let which he found off his own bat, at the risk of being homeless otherwise. Many prisoners would find their relationship with their OM to have been broken beyond repair at the mere suggestion of a Salvation Army type hostel as a means of protecting the public. I certainly would.

    I don't know how you probation officers feel about this, but it's for things like this that you're often considered a law enforcement agency with a phoney, chummy facade amongst prison inmates. Whilst even as an offender I can see the reasons behind making public protection a priority, so long as it's at the exclusion (and occasional detriment) of the offender's day-to-day well-being nobody is benefiting.

    1. I agree with what you are saying. It is why with sadness I am leaving the profession. The whole point of Probation Officers was to ensure that people did not enter 'the system' and were diverted to probation. However, due to the meddling of politicians, Probation has become part of the system and is used increasingly to be punitive. The public protection guise is just a smoke screen for social control. Probation officers are now joining straight from university with no life skills. There is a severe lack of male probation officers to become role models. Probation is dead, it is just now another department of law enforcement. People who are outside the system are no going to engage and trust someone who is part of the system.