I've been uncertain about how much to say here, or even if I should be doing this post at all. Being released on licence is a rather precarious position to be in after all and making too many waves can be a very risky thing. Being of “good behaviour” is a particularly vague phrase that to even the most mentally stable of licencees will have cause for some consistent concern, particularly when they've already had many experiences of professionals making decisions to above all else, cover their own backs.
I'd like to say at this point that I do fear the tone of this post may ruffle some feathers and it is certainly a worry that any waves could bounce back on me in a rather unpleasant way. However after years of blowing in the wind about my experiences in this all to dysfunctional of systems, I feel the only good that may come from my experience is by speaking out, only this time it's on the relatively open forum that is the internet.
Considering the current climate regarding SOTP in particular, added to this the clearly evident lack of independence between police and prosecution services, I feel I should share perspectives on what I found to be an extremely and unnecessarily difficult period of my life, one that left me struggling to find the will to continue living. Now I understand that it may sound a bit rich for an “offender” to complain about feeling harmed, but to adapt a cliche, two wrongs don't make a reformed character.
Towards the end of my participation in SOTP (something I'd initially thought was what I'd needed much of my adult life), I reached a point where I felt the only good that could come of my life is through taking my life, partly because I was so tired of struggling to demonstrate my genuine desire not to be the person I've sometimes been and the feeling that no matter how hard I tried, I would always be represented as even more of a monster than I know I've been, but also in the hope that ending my life might result in some kind of contribution to highlighting the vast inadequacies of a system that seems to knowingly, or otherwise, reinforce an identity and culture of offending. One that seems designed to perpetuate and seeks to justify Victorian attitudes towards “offenders” as being inherently untrustworthy and dare I say it, evil.
Added to this a perfect storm of continued cuts to services all around, we have a situation where the odds are stacked against anyone going into the penal system who might hope to make a positive difference, professionals and "offender's" alike. It's little wonder that so many give in to cynicism and easy judgement, tick-box practices. The desire to cover one's own back is a very powerful part of human nature, particularly in these precarious times of deliberate reduction in resources and highly politically charged events, however it's important to bare in mind that such ill conceived judgements can lead to a vicious cycle of demoralisation all around.
I've rarely been seen as someone who fits any particular mould, an aspect of myself I've been trying to deal with my whole life, but it seems to be that this aspect of me has far too easily led to a lot of misunderstandings, particular with professionals who perhaps lack the expertise or even inclination to realise that things are rarely as black and white as they first appear. And no doubt there's plenty of pressure behind the scenes to build an image of an individual that reflects the judgements of a judicial and policing systems that even themselves have been stretched to breaking point over the years.
The culmination of all this is what I can only describe as a cycle of character assassination. On occasions where I found professionals in the system who seemed to actually believe in me, it hasn't taken much for things to go on behind the scenes that destroys that trust and respect. My anxious reaction to being judged this way certainly doesn't help. It's not hard to notice when a person's attitude deteriorates between meetings from one of cordial respect and interest in recognising positive qualities, to one of fear of making the wrong judgement in case a future harm might occur. It's certainly understandable but is it helpful?
As I've been told by my current (6th), probation officer, none of this is an exact science. Then perhaps some more science is what we need? From my own understanding so far from researching methods used in places like Canada and Norway, there is a great deal more science in place and far less ideological baggage built into the system, and most importantly, far more successful outcomes. And of course, as the recipient of penal “services”, I'm bound to favour systems which emphasise positive qualities, respect for human rights and dignity, and trust that a person genuinely wants to change. But I like to think I have the capability to at least some extent, be objective on these things. I dare say that given a genuine chance, there are many other “offenders” who themselves want little more than to be able to see a future where they pose a minimal risk of harm to anyone.
I'd finally like to say that after finding this blog, I've been able to, at least to some extent, see things more clearly from the perspective of those in the field of rehabilitation. I'd like to thank the owner of this blog publicly for giving me the opportunity to express myself in this way. I've been one of the lucky ones. I have a family who believe in me and have done everything to help me get my life back on track, despite efforts by some in the system to undermine that.
Sadly there will be many others being crushed by the double whammy of Dickensian attitudes and Orwellian practices. My heart goes out to them regardless of what they've done in the past. It should be a matter of principle that no human being should suffer such things in a so called advanced society, regardless of their past mistakes. I'm well aware there's no such thing as a utopia, but for once, maybe we might get some hope for something better for everyone one day.