Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The cheating game

Yesterday, Saturday 19th December 2009, a couple of things happened which, whilst completely unconnected, are worth a bit of a mention - well, I thought so.

The first came about as I idly watched a pair of hooligans pretending to be Ronnie O'Sullivan on the snooker table. As everyone is fully aware, I am not allowed to name either Noel or Israel so I have to give them noms-de-convenience. Therefore, I shall call these two fine, upstanding villains er... Christmas and Syria. No connection there then.

So, Syria is playing properly in that he attends the table when Christmas takes a shot. On the other hand, Christmas buggers off when it is Syria's shot and Syria has to wait until he comes back. This is annoying to Syria, and so it should be.

In the end I say to Syria during one of Christmas's absences, "Why not just cheat? Move a red!"

"What!" answers Syria in shock. "I'm not cheating!"

"Why not?" I ask, curious.

"I don't cheat," says he sanctimoniously.

"So," say I, "you are quite happy to rob, cheat, steal, lie and point guns at people, but not to cheat at snooker eh?"

A crook by definition spends his time cheating society yet won't cheat at a silly game! Curious indeed.

The second thing was a letter from my probation officer. She tells me that there is to be a video-link on Thursday 14th January at 2:15pm during which she hopes to see my sad and raddled countenance and have a chat. I've never been involved in such an enterprise before, it should be very interesting to say the least. I'm not at all sure why she has this desire, but I suspect it probably has something to do with the new parole hearing scheduled for the New Year. She has to make a report. She also seems a bit, shall we say, 'put out' by the fact that she wasn't asked to contribute to my recent Sentence Planning Meeting/Board. (Incidentally, at that board they promised me a copy of the minutes - I am still waiting.)

Well, Syria may have an aversion to cheating but the prison service has no such moral qualms. It will not only cheat but will lie blatantly to achieve its own ends. So, who is the better? The prisoner, who makes no secret of the fact that his social conscience leaves a lot to be desired, or the person working for the prison service, who does exactly the same thing with the full support of a failing system?

I hope everyone who reads this has a good Christmas and I wish them all the luck they wish for themselves in 2010. Dear me, the year two thousand and ten .... I'm still struggling to get used to the nineteen seventies!

The Voice In The Wilderness

The case of the vanishing men

Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, prisons ran more or less calmly without drama or crisis (apart from the odd riot here and there - though a good riot never hurt anyone and often helped clear the air of tension, not to mention presenting the prison with an opportunity to get rid of a few less desirable elements).

So, prisons ran fairly calmly and, left alone, would continue to do so. Each wing had a wing governor - an Assistant Governor who held the acronym A.G. Above him was the Deputy Governor who everyone called 'The Dep'. Then we had the Chief Officer who ostensibly held sway over the staff and their behaviour, but at the top of the pile sat the Number One Governor. The Number One! A prisoner could get up in the morning, go to the Principal Officer's office and make an application to see the A.G. of that particular wing. The P.O. would ask what it was about and, if he couldn't deal with it, he would send the con into the next room where the A.G. sat dispensing decisions. If the A.G. could not deal with the matter, then the con would be added to the list for lunch hour. If the Number One was on a day off, then the Dep would take the lunch-time applications. At lunch-time, the con would see either the Dep or the Numher One, get a decision and, hey presto - job done.

Today, just a few short years later, what do we have? Well, we now have governors for bins, table tennis balls, low flying ducks and knitting circles for one-eyed lesbians from third world coutries. The prisons are crawling with governors! However, try to get to see one, or worse, actually speak to one and ask for a decision about something. Go on, just try it. These men (and women) will not even condescend to answer a WRITTEN application let alone see (and God forbid actually SPEAK) to a con. As for a decision about
anything - forget it. They don't do decision-making - bugger that, they might be held responsible for it! No, they hide away in their little dens and hold perpetual meetings about insane things which serve no other purpose than to irritate the prison population. Prisons are no longer being run for the benefit or betterment of their charges. Oh no, they are being run for the convenience of the staff!

Where are these governors? They have all disappeared into thin air! They have gone! They have vanished! Why don't the media send a group of investigative reporters to find these poor, lost souls? Surely their families miss them and have reported them missing to the police!

Mind, the police are not much better I suppose, they are far too busy running down old age pensioners for not paying their telly licence fee.

Oh dear, I'm just getting old, that's my trouble.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, December 14, 2009

Business as usual?

It occurs to me that I may give the general impression that prisons in general (a lot of generals there - more than the Italian Army), and this one in particular, run fairly smoothly. Well, I'd better correct that I suppose. This emporium of misery and soul-crushing staggers from crisis to crisis and nobody seems to know what anyone else is doing. Nor do they care. Still, what can you expect from a prison with a governor who has an ego the size of a small planet?

Be all that as it may, I mention it in passing because some fool managed to lose a quarter of the wing's canteen sheets this week and consequently those fellows can't have any canteen - no tobacco if they smoke, no stamps to write home to their folks with or to send Christmas cards with, no toiletries, no little bits of food to supplement their diets, nuffink. And, what does the prison do about it? Sweet bugger all, that's what, and the reason is simple: they don't care. Why should they? They go home every night and can toddle off to Tescos with the best of them.

But I am not desiring to discuss the hubris of this prison and the shrinking violets who ostensibly run it. No, I want to bring up the subject of the Parole Board. I had my last parole board in March of this year, nine months ago. Apparently we, us prisoners with no prospects, get such a board hearing every three years, unless there are exceptional circumstances. I have received a letter from the Parole Board informing me that I have a parole hearing next month, January. This will, of course, be a paper exercise because my solicitor will request an oral hearing and then it will all be postponed for a few months. The point is, I have a hearing scheduled for next year.

Are they going to free me? Of course they aren't. I have only been in prison for coming up to twenty-four years, that's not half long enough. I'm just learning the rules! Besides, I haven't been punished and tortured enough yet, not by a long chalk.

My guilt or innocence has nothing to do with it. The prison service sees itself as far better judge than the men (and women) who sit on the Benches every day dealing out the years. These judges sit and listen to cases, all the ins and outs, and then come to a studied decision. But when the prison service get hold of a poor unfortunate, they completely ignore whatever the court felt was a just and fair sentence and impose their own.

Who is behind such decisions? Who is running the engine room? I'll tell you - trainee psychologists who have recently left school and who have absolutely no experience of anything at all. They don't look old enough to have left home never mind making life-affecting reports and ruining lives. They may be doing their best; they may be full of good intentions - but the good Lord preserve me from people who are doing their best and the road to perdition is paved with the souls of the well intentioned.

Speaking for myself, I'd better get off my gluteus maximus and go and see about getting my canteen, or at least get some bloody postage stamps - or nobody will be getting any letters from me this week.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


The question has been asked - would I write a piece or vignette about my years in prison and my hopes and aspirations for the future?

Well, the years in prison - almost twenty-four and counting - would take a long time, and that would be WITH my diaries to help - diaries, incidentally, which I keep every day (it's therapuetic). Putting all that to one side, the story would be a long and very unsavoury horror story worthy of the pen of Mary Shelley, or even one of the major political parties' manifestos.

So I won't write about my years in prison, not here anyway - I am already doing that in 'An Abuse of Justice'. Which leaves us hopes and aspirations, and once again I have to say that it would take longer than a short effort such as this will allow. Ah! But all is not lost, because one word springs from the question which I can say something about. The word is 'HOPE' and, when it comes to prison, hope is often the only thing we have.

Hope - it springs eternal according to the poet, and as far as I am aware, he knew nothing at all about prison. Maybe he would have seen things differently if he had. Arthur Clough had something to say about hope, although not in so many words. He wrote:

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks, and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the Main.
I know that I have used this quote before, but I DO like it - it speaks to me, as it were. It first came to my attention several years ago via the agency of Hilary Hinchliffe, as fine a person as ever graced this sorry planet, and even now the ageing, yellowing piece of paper which she sent to me bearing that verse still sits on the wall before my face - and ever will.

Hope - often the only thing a prisoner has to keep him going. Oh, they can take so many things away from us - our freedoms, our rights, our families, our decency, even our life sometimes. But they cannot take away the hope. Even the meanest prisoner can, in the confines and privacy of his own cell and mind, cling on desperately to hope. It is often all that is left.

Of course, some prisoners give up and lose that hope. It is quite simply crushed out of them by an uncaring system, and when that happens yet another gets a letter to tell them that their father..mother..son..husband.. has committed suicide in their prison cell.

But the majority of the prison population carry on with that small fire burning in their hearts, the fire that is hope. We all have it. One day we will end this nightmare and come back to the world where people treat each other with common courtesy generally, and decency. We all aspire to going home, the promise of seeing a friendly face at last, the pleasure of closing our eyes and sleeping properly at last, the chance to finally let down the guard we have held up for year after year, the hope of better times.

I do not even try to say that every prisoner is a good, decent sort of cove, because they quite simply ain't, not by a long chalk. However, as bad as some may be, and they are, that gives no one the right or mandate to crush hope out of them. Eleanor Roosevelt said:

No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.
Well, removing hope from those who need it the most is really putting them into a category as unworthy, inferior - in all the years, through all the tribulations, I have never given anyone permission to look on me as inferior.

Happy Christmas and all my very best wishes for the coming year. May everyone receive the good fortune they wish for themselves.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The human touch

On Wednesday 18th November I had to go in front of a Risk Assessment Management board, one of those wonderful devices created by the prison service which tell the future. (Why are more of these people not winning the lottery?)

So, there I was, sitting in my kennel reading (again) a book by Geert Mak - 'In Europe'. I have read it before but I always get more from a book on the second or third reading because I race through in the first reading - I can't help myself, I have to know what is on the next page. However, that's not important, we are not discussing books here, we are discussing RAM boards.

It will be remembered from last week that Sympathetic Salome had informed me about the board and shortly after 2.30 on the afterrnoon in question she arrived to escort me before the board which was being held in a little back office where no-one would hear my screams of pain and outrage.

"It's on the wing," said Sympathetic Salome.

"Have you been pulling me to bits?" I asked in a jocular fashion.

"Certainly not," said she - and I believed her!

In we went to be confronted, not by the usual collection of dire, po-faced, miserable sods such as Oliver Twist faced in the Board of Governors at the work'us, but by nothing more than three pleasant young women, one of whom was of course Sympathetic Salome, she of the honest face and decent manner.

"Have a seat!" or words to that effect, said a young woman wearing glasses who I can't name, beyond the fact that it was Governor Karen Bourne whose name must be changed to protect the 'concerned' amongst us, such as Fiddler the Wise. (We all know Fiddler by now.) I shall call the governor Freda the Fair and hope she doesn't take offence - none is intended.

The third person, another young lady, was taking the minutes of the board and I shall call her Quink the Quill, and my remarks about not taking offence apply to her equally.

So there we sat - Sympathetic Salome, Quink the Quill and Freda the Fair - with me of course: the Sacrificial Lamb.

I have got to state here, right now, unequivocally and without any form of prejudice whatsoever, that I have never, in my twenty three and half years in prison, been treated so fairly by any board anywhere. I have to ask myself - why? Obviously my own attitude had a good bit to do with it. I don't care for men much. What I mean by that is that for some unfathomable reason, men always come across as aggressive on these boards and I react badly to aggression. However, I am never rude or offensive to females and I do not generally find them to be aggressive - so I give no aggression back.

Well, we all had a good, long chat and I gave them a short extract from 'An Abuse of Justice' to read - 'March 12th 1996 - Ambitions' - and after it had been perused, Freda the Fair said, "I don't know anyone who could have written that!"

Sympathetic Salome said, "Anyone would think you were outside. It doesn't seem to have been written by someone in prison."

Quink the Quill didn't say anything as far as I can recall.

The final outcome of the whole affair was that I would be assessed for the C.S.C.P. programme as quickly as possible - but I probably would not need to do it - and they wanted me moving on to a Category B prison as soon as possible. So everything will be fast-tracked. And that seemed to be that.

I asked about a copy of the minutes and Freda the Fair assured me that when Quink the Quill had typed them up I would get a copy.

"I'll put them onto my website," said I.

"What website?" asked she.

"Mine," said I, and gave her a letterhead from Andrew so that she could go away and have a look.

I have to say that it was a very convivial affair and although I always keep a sort of poker face, the three young women seemed to laugh quite a lot. Not a sour note to be heard anywhere. Oh, and it wasn't a RAM board after all, not according to Freda the Fair anyway - it was a Sentence Planning board! A Sentence Planning Board after all of these years eh? I've got a sentence plan, the best one in the world - I plan to go home as soon as possible. If anyone can suggest a better plan than that, I am fully prepared to listen.

Finally, may I just say to Sympathetic Salome, Quink the Quill and Freda the Fair, thank you. Thank you for a pleasant hour or so, and for treating and talking to me like a person rather than a nasty smell in the room. I could get used to that kind of treatment, I really could.

So you see, not everyone in the prison service is determined to kick me in the testicularities. Perhaps Lady Luck had a week off!

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wham, bam - thank you RAM!

It makes a change to have something to report this week, although even I have to admit that it's not very interesting. It would seem that I have a Risk Assessment Management (R.A.M.) board on Wednesday of this week, the 18th in fact. Having said that, I have been given no official instruction on the matter, not a word. RAM boards sit every year and I had one in April or May, just six months ago. 

All of that notwithstanding, I am informed in a left-handed fashion that I have a RAM board on 18th November. To this end I have had a long chat with a female, whom I am not allowed to name for several reasons. I am not allowed to name or be nice about any member of staff because, apparently, it makes them feel vulnerable, according to Fiddler the Wise (a gentleman we have met before and who is officially known as the Brain of Britain 1926). So that's one reason I can't name her - the other reason is I don't know her name.

So, we had a chat and basically it all came down to, "I am fully aware that a large amount of the information which the board will take into consideration is completely false, but I can't do a thIng about it. However, leave it to me. I'll look into it and get back to you."

This woman deserves a name. She is destined for greater things with an answer like that - I would guess a desk at the Home Office as a minimum. I shall call her Sympathetic Salome, or SS for convenience.

So, SS assured me that she will be sitting next to me on the board and will no doubt do her best for me. It's all a waste of time really because we know what will happen. They will simply dictate to me without any input from me. They will listen to nothing I have to say. They will not accept the fact that I am not the person I may have been a quarter of a century ago, and they will not even accept the fact that I am an appellant! The fact that Sympathetic Salome has been speaking to my solicitor, who has informed her categorically that my case is currently with the C.C.R.C., will cut no ice with the ostriches on the board, who have their own agenda which has nothing to do with facts. Besides, their heads are firmly buried in the sand of error.

Ah! But then we come to the real reason why I am being given a RAM board six months early - somebody is after me. Twice in the last couple of weeks I have had delegations at my door to tell me that I had been downgraded from Enhanced to Standard and they were to take away my Play Station.(They can have it, I'm fed up with it anyway - but that's not the point.) Twice I have asked "Why?" No answer has been the reply - they don't know, just someone wants me downgraded. Well, if that's the case, they will have to get me to commit a couple of offences against discipline, which I never do these days. The only other method is to give me courses, and when I refuse to do them - BINGO! Downgraded.

So there it is, that's why the board. Whose hand do we see behind this? Well, it could be several people, including Fiddler the Wise or one of his minions, because they have a tendency to pass their dirty work down to others to do. It could be anyone in fact, but I am not about to allow any of this to get to me. Why should I? It's all a bit childish. Here I am, a geriatric pensioner who has been enjoying the tender administrations of the prison service for almost a quarter of a century, and they are still not happy. They seem to struggle with the concept of "leaving people alone", especially people who are not bothering anyone at all. Maybe they haven't heard the old saying:

It is easier dealing with a friendly lion than it is to deal with a mad dog.
We shall see I suppose - on Wednesday 18th in fact.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Invisible man

Another week passed, another week of nothing at all being said to me about anything at all - every day is the same day and it is very much Groundhog Day around this place, or any other prison come to that. It sort of makes a bit of a nonsense of the prison service's practically indecent haste to move me here in March of this year. Nine months now, nine months of no activity whatsoever as far as any prison activity is concerned.

I have become the invisible man. Even my complaints and requests are ignored.

Now, any casual passer-by could be misled by all this and get the idea that the invisible man is having a bit of a grumble, but the fact is that I'm not, not a bit of it. I'm quite happy being the invisible man INSIDE the prison, as long as I don't become invisible outside as well.

I had a letter this week from one of my brothers, Jimmy. He lives in Sunderland and is a nice enough fellow with a very poor sense of responsibility - he is a bit carefree. Jimmy has reached the stage where he understands that he only has one life and nothing he can do is going to change the course of history. He understands too that he cannot please everyone all the time, so he just goes about the place pleasing Jimmy, but not in a selfish way, not a bit of it. Jimmy smiles a lot.

So, I had a letter from Jimmy giving me a certain amount of family gossip and scandal - that's normal in my dysfunctional clan. He also informed me that he had something to tell me but clearly he had no intention of putting it in a letter; he understands that my letters are censored.

THAT brings me neatly back to letters in general, and it seems that the post office lemmings have decided to stop voting for their own demise and will have no more strikes this year - so perhaps the invisible man might get a few more letters now.

And THAT brings me conveniently back to the invisible man:

One day, Superman is flying around Gotham City seeking crooks and criminal deeds, when he looks down and sees Wonder Woman lying on the roof of a building in the nekkid. He flies down and in a split second has done the dirty deed and flies off again. Wonder Woman didn't even open her eyes! The Invisible Man stands up, rubs his bum and says, "What was THAT!"
Oh leave me alone - it's not Chubby Brown you have here you know!

Finally, and I bet there are some folk who think it was a big mistake to teach me to read and write in the first place, I have been accused this week of being a recluse. What they mean by that is that I rarely leave my cell these days, apart from the essential things. Well, I've got nowhere to go! After all of these years I have heard all the stories and there is nothing new at all. So the choices are:

a) Listen to my fellow scum talking the same ould rubbish that I've been listening to for over twenty years
b) Lock myself away in my cell, listening to good music and reading various books or writing about my experiences in the year 2003
Mmmmmm, let me think about that for a while.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Prison politics

I had a letter this week from Campbell Malone, a miracle in itself really - not because he rarely writes but because of the Post Office lemmings who are heading for the cliffs at a rate of knots. Mister Malone has sent the information about the new witness off to the C.C.R.C. and invited them to interview the witness, a man who I am still reluctant to name in such an open forum as this. However, it occurred to me that maybe it would have shown more willing if we had sent someone to interview the witness ourselves - demonstrate our keenness to have this person as a witness after all of the barren years.

Now, are we sitting comfortably? (At times I think this place is about on a par with Watch With Mother...) Are we sitting comfortably? Excellent!

When I speak or write about my solicitor and about the case or those connected to it, I use the collective 'We'. This got me thinking about the Stockholm Syndrome and it suddenly occurred to me that right at this very minute I am living in amongst a few cons here at Long Lartin who are actually suffering from what I call the 'Long Lartin Syndrome'. It's much the same as the Stockholm Syndrome only it is pathetic.

For some reason, partial running of the prison has been gifted to a small number of prisoners. Now we shouldn't be surprised by this - for years the prison system has been doing its best to abrogate all responsibility for running the jails.

Here at Long Lartin they have 'Prisoner Committees' and 'Prisoner Wing Representatives'. These self-serving grafters have wormed their way into everything and no matter what area it is it will be the same names involved in everything. They have managed and been allowed to build themselves a power-base, and the people who ought to be doing things have allowed prisoners to take over. Only selected prisoners of course - only those suffering from the Long Lartin Syndrome.

What brought it to my attention was when I applied to a governor to have free televisions for the retired, the old codgers amongst us - not very many I may add, probably a dozen in the whole jail. We get a tenner a week pay but that is a fixed sum, it can never be improved on, although the governor, FerdieParker, fixes the rate of pay for us geriatric scum. Out of that tenner we lose a quid automatically to pay for the weekly rental of our tellies. Then, if we need some toiletries and maybe a bag of sugar and a magazine (so we know what is on the poxy tellies) we don't have much left for essentials, never mind luxuries like soap!

So I put an official application in to ask for free tellies for the decrepit crowd. The answer came back telling me that I would have to ask my prisoner representative to bring the matter up at the next meeting! I wrote back on a complaint form to tell the "Powers That Be" that I do not make applications to inmates. The answer came back telling me that it wasn't an application.

What else is it then? If I cannot bring a matter before the governor unless I go through an inmate, that's an application by anyone's criteria.

I wrote back and pointed out that I don't make requests to self-serving grafters and THAT annoyed the wing governor so much that he accused me of being offensive! Offensive to whom?

I asked who appointed these rats and was informed that they had been selected from volunteers. So I have asked other cons around the place about voluteers and nobody knows anything about any lists of volunteers. It transpires that these grafters are all self-appointed!

The worst part is that they are even trying to tell other cons what they can or can't do! The tossers actually think they are no longer in the ranks of the lowly or common convict!

Last week I had to spend an hour dissuading one of our more volatile members from committing an atrocity on one of the so-called prisoner representatives, and that should never be the case. So, we have the Long Lartin Syndrome fit and well and running the place. It's very gratifying to know that my interests are being served, it really is.

Ah, prison politics! I struggle to keep out of them, I really do - but you've got to love 'em.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, November 02, 2009

A laugh in the face of adversity

And so I come to yet another week-ending where nothing has taken place that is worth mentioning. We've had the postal strike of course - the lemmings heading for the cliffs, but they can't see it. Well, I suspect that they can, they have just managed to put themselves into the hands of yet another nitwit who thinks he is far more powerful than he really is. The fool has even had the temerity to compare himself with Scargill and to add that he has more power. That must be the power of self-delusion, a wonderful thing.

So - nothing to report at all.

Instead I will tell a little story that happened a couple of weeks ago here in the wonderful world of Long Lartin jail. But before I start, I'd better point out, as I'm sure you're all aware by now, that I am not allowed to use the names of any members of staff. They are all hiding their identities - from the Taliban, the general public, Special Branch, even their own families, for all I know. Whatever the case may be, their identities must remain confidential, so I must either make names up or call them nothing at all.

This story, then, concerns a female member of staff - Miss Nothing-At-All.

One day, a couple of weeks ago, I was standing leaning on the rail watching a couple of the fellows playing snooker down below me, on the ground floor - and let me just point out here that John Higgins has nothing to worry about from these two. So there I stood, or leant, and I must have had a pensive look on my visage because Miss Nothing-At-All, who had been passing, found it necessary to stop and say, in a sympathetic manner, "Are you all right, Frank?"

Well, show a greyhound a hare and he will go for it.

"As a matter of fact, no, I'm not," said I.

"Oh," says she, leaning on the railing next to me and getting comfy for a chat, "What's the trouble?"

"Well," says I, "it's my brother Tommy."

"What's wrong with him?"

I sighed, heartfelt too. "He's a lot older than me, (I'm the oldest in the family) and he isn't all that well to start with . He lives in one of those sheltered housing things, you know, a flat in a block with a sort of caretaker looking after the old people."

"Oh," says she, "I know what you mean. My auntie lives in one."

"Well," says I, "our Tommy hadn't been seen for weeks so a couple of the family went round there with the police and the social services and they knocked on the door for ages but they couldn't get any answer."

"What did they do?" asked Miss Nothing-At-All, doing a good job of sounding concerned.

"Well," said I with yet another sigh, "they did the only thing they could do, they kicked the door in and went in. The whole place was stinking and they found opened tins of dog food all over the place - some had been half eaten and still had forks stuck in them. They found our Tommy lying on the floor in the kitchenette."

"Oh God!" says she, "Was it food poisoning?"

"Nah!" said I. "He'd broken his neck trying to lick his own bollocks!"

Now, most folk would find that quite amusing - I did, but then I have a twisted sense of humour. Miss Nothing-At-All said, "That's horrible!" and went on her way. Obviously another one of those who take themselves far too seriously and, as they say in Ireland, are 'slightly up themselves'.

I tell people that they have to learn to laugh in the face of adversity. The alternative is to cry our eyes out, and I forgot how to cry a long time ago. Who was it who said, "When we get old nobody gives us time to cry"? Oh! I know! That would be me.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A bit late to be making enemies

Once again there has been a week where nothing worth mentioning has happened. I had no response from my solicitor about the new witness evidence, not a word said about a transfer to more relaxed and progressive locations - and that fickle ould boiler Lady Luck must have sent her boots to the cobblers because she hasn't kicked me in the polar regions all week.

Having said all that, the reason my mailbag has been so poor this week could well be on account of the behaviour of the postal workers who seem to be determined to commit suicide and won't be happy until their industry has gone the way of the coal mines and everything else in this country - apart from the service industries, of course.

So, the upshot is - nothing to report.

I did have a letter from the young fellow who is the new witness in the case, although he has not mentioned the case at all. I explained in a letter to him last week that discussing the case and details may be a poor plan - well, you never know who might read the letters. He wrote to tell me a little bit about himself and his family - a nice gesture really, I could do with more correspondents in general. I call him a young fellow but really he is in his mid thirties - but at my age that makes him a young fellow - I hope he doesn't mind. Some people can be a bit touchy about their age - ask Sza-Sza Gabor about hers, see what she says.

So, here I sit, staring at the page before me and wondering what words of wisdom I can impart and I have come to the conclusion that there's not much to be said. But to get back to the business of age for a minute or two, I wonder why some folk are so bothered about it, being old I mean. We all get old, we all start to fall apart and sooner or later we will all have to face the fellow with the scythe - the Grim Reaper.

This reminds me of a story I once heard at my mother's knee (or some other low joint) and it went like this:

An ould I.R.A. man is dying and he is lying on his death bed While the priest, Father McGonagle reads the Last Rites.
The priest says to the dying man, "Are you ready to renounce the devil and all his works, my son?"
The dying I.R.A. man opens his eyes and croaks out, "It's a bit late to be making enemies now, Father." (Pause for sniggering).
So, as must be blatantly clear and obvious by this stage, I've got nothing for this week. I suppose I could mount a tirade and an abusive rant about the various fools operating within the prison and legal system, but that would only serve to annoy them really - and, as the ould I.R.A. man said, 'It's a bit late to be making enemies now.'

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, October 19, 2009

What's in a name?

It seems that Lady Luck (that perfidious ould tart with the Doc Martens and the desire to do me personal injuries at fairly regular intervals) has gone on holiday. She was here at the start of the week, giving me my normal casual kick in the knackers (she does it out of habit these days), but she must have gone off to Benidorm or the Valley of the Shadow or wherever it is she goes to get her boots re-spiked. Now, I know that none of this will be making any sense - and that's the story of my life in many ways - but I will explain.

To begin with, I am not allowed to use proper names of people who work in the prison service, not even to be nice to them because, apparently, they may be identified! So what? Are they ashamed of what they do? Is it a secret? Does the idiot who made that wise observation know what a Voters' Register is? Has he never heard of the internet and its search engines? Anybody working anywhere can be identified, and that includes those working for the Security Services, so telling me that using a real name may cause a problem for someone is complete and utter rubbish. And I can't use other prisoners' real names for the same reason - but it is okay for the prison to do so at their convenience. Never mind, instead I will make up pseudonyms for the characters in this effort - everybody knows who they are anyway.

I have recently been involved in lengthy discussions with a Governor of Security about what I can and cannot send out of the prison. But I have no desire to upset this erudite and wise fellow and so he will require a nom-de-guerre. I shall call him Fiddler the Wise. Fiddler the Wise has decided that I cannot send out the true tale of my incarceration from the year 2001 onwards. The fact that I have already sent out the years 1986 to 2001 (1,400 pages) has obviously slipped his mind. Those one thousand four hundred pages are full of names of kangaroos and cons and their deeds, none of them very nice either. Not much he can do about that now, my ould pal Fiddler the Wise. However, he CAN and HAS stopped me sending out the tale of people who have acted decently. In fact I wrote something nice about one kangaroo and THAT caused all the trouble in the first place! Maybe they don't know how to handle it when someone is nice about them - no experience you see! No precendence, no yard-stick to go by.

So here was Lady Luck dealing me one of her specials in the nether regions. It didn't really hurt - it never does these days, I'm immune to it all now. But then the cruel ould hooer went off to wherever she goes on her holidays, probably helping the Taliban decorate or something. And no sooner had she gone than a letter arrived out of the blue from a fellow who, on the face of it, would seem to be a brand new witness in my case. I can't give his name or where he lives because I should think it is sub-judice and probably has to be kept secret so that the police don't kick his door down in the middle of the night to get him to change his mind about telling the truth after almost twenty-four years.

This fellow says he saw someone disposing of the clothing and the weapon involved in the murder! That's new evidence in my book. We now have an actual eye-witness to something that is actually to DO with the murder - the only one we have ever had. There has never been one single witness to anything at all to do with the murder up to now. Let's see what happens when the C.C.R.C. get the information. I sent the letter and its envelope to Campbell Malone asking him to get it transcribed and to send the original to the C.C.R.C. along with a transcription.

New evidence! Wonderful!

The interesting part is that the witness hasn't asked me to keep his identity secret! He is clearly not ashamed of anything. Of course Fiddler the Wise will say that the whole thing isn't personal and that he is merely doing his duty, it is his job. As George Bernard Shaw put it:

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
The Voice in the Wilderness

A retrospective

Once again a week has gone by with nothing happening worth talking about or telling anyone about - story of my life really. Everything has come to a sort of standstill, a hiatus, a pause.

I should imagine that we all feel this way from time to time - that we are waiting for something but we have no idea what that may be. It happens to me occasionally and generally leads to a bit of a period of reflection, soul-searching, a retrospective - call it what you will.

Well, I had a bit of a reflect the other night in the silence of my kennel and I got to thinking about why I never get depressed or feel sorry for myself. It is not as if I haven't got reasons to indulge in a bit of self pity, but I never do.

Someone once said that you will never see a wild animal or bird feeling sorry for itself. A wild bird will simply drop off a twig dead, but it will never feel sorry for itself. Why do I never feel sorry for myself? Maybe I am wild too. Thinking about the matter seriously, I think that a case can be made out that I used to be pretty wild - unaware and heedless of danger. Nothing scared me, and that is quite stupid. Mind, stupid and me - the best of friends in many ways.

There's where my wildness came from - my lack of fear. A sensible person understands that a bit of healthy fear never hurt anyone and can be very necessary for self-preservation. I've never been scared of anything much, ever. It's got me into a lot of trouble - and out of a lot too.

So, where am I going with this? Nowhere, that's where. 

E.M. Forster once said or wrote:

I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Gird the loins!

And so we come to the end of yet another week as a guest, albeit a reluctant one, in one of Lizzie Windsor's universities for the mentally inept, criminally insane, socially inadequate and well-brought-up young ladies - and that's just the staff. Nothing happened. No progress. No regress. Nuffink.

However, I did have an encounter during the week with a fellow I have known for many years and who has been there to witness one or two of my 'episodes' in days of yore. I won't use his name - the authorites would not appreciate it, and neither would he I shouldn't wonder - but he knows who he is and I shall let him read this when I'm done anyway. Well, the way I see it is that everyone is entitled to their privacy, even in a place like dear ould Lizzie's gaff.

I went to this fellow's cell for some reason quite recently, to see him on some matter or other, but he wasn't there and I came away until I ran into him at some other juncture. Later, something occurred to me. Looking around my cell as I write I have, over time, collected and accumulated many little things which make my life as comfortable as possible under the circs. I have a stereo with speakers hanging on the wall, a Play Station where I can play games which help me to forget where I am briefly, many many books, a typewriter, tapes, CDs, games, an electric shaver, an electronic spellchecker (which just gathers dust) and so on. My friend, however, had nothing whatsoever in his cell that didn't belong to the prison service. Nothing. I am sure that he has been in prison a good fifteen years, and when I knew him in the mid-nineties in Frankland he had all of the things I have. So what went wrong?

When he came to see me later during the week I asked him. (At this point I need to make a name up for him so I think I will call him Neville. I don't know any Neville, so that should be safe enough.) Neville sat on my bed and I asked him, "Neville, when we were in Frankland you had everything, now you have nothing. What went wrong?" He simply said, "I don't know."

Of course I did not pursue this - I have no right to do so - but it did get me to thinking about how, if a fellow is not careful and vigilant, he can begin to allow small things to slip. Maybe not clean the teeth every night before bed, have a shower every other day rather than every day, not shave as regularly as he should. Then it's a small step to not answering letters as we get them, and then we begin to sleep at lunchtime during the lockup period. Little things begin to slip and slide until one day we find that we have managed to let everything go and we are sitting on rock bottom with no apparent way to begin the climb up again.

That's what happened to Neville. He allowed standards to slip. Any man (or woman for that matter) who gets himself (or herself) locked away must get into some sort of disciplined regime, for their own good and peace of mind. Once that regime or routine is established we must never, under any circumstances, allow even one small thing to slip. Never. To do so is to invite that little devil into our lives, that little devil called Complacency. There is no room for it in a prisoner's life.

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, and that could well be part of the problem. Add to that the feeling which some get that there is no point to anything, and people can give up and simply let everything slide, like Neville. Well there is always a point. We must never concede defeat in life. Inside or outside of prison, it applies to us all.

I am certain that there are times when we feel tired of it all - I do, from time to time - but that's no reason to abrogate all responsibility for ourselves. Of course we feel tired and sometimes feel we need a rest, but we are a long time dead and we can get all the rest we need when the Grim Reaper comes calling. Until then, gird the loins (I love that phrase), and stand firm against whatever Lady Luck (that fickle ould whore) sends our way.

I am going to let Neville read this now. I bet he looks at me strangely - most people do.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sitting on my back

This week I have to say that I have still not managed to get my documents back from the security governor. Obviously he is yet another nitwit who feels that the law does not apply to him. The prisons are full of fellows who thought that. I sent several complaints in but couldn't get an answer for love nor money. Finally I put this one in:

I would like my legal paperwork back (approx 250 pages) from Governor Dickens forthwith. I will be sending a Pre-Action Protocol letter to the Treasury Solicitor on Monday.
(I've since written that letter and sent it off, with a copy to Mr Dickens.) This application finally brought a response and I can do no better than copy it out in full - it is funnier than anything I could write.

Mr Wilkinson,
Thank you for your Form Comp 1. I am not aware of the Comp 1 and 1A which you claim have been ignored. However I am content to discuss these with you when we meet.

In terms of your paperwork (which is not subject to R39) I will return this to you ASAP (it has remained in my safe - not sent to Cleland House as I believe you have been led to believe). I will make arrangements to meet with you either today (2/10/09) or Tuesday 6th October 2009 where we will be able to discuss in full the concerns that you and I both have with regards to this issue.

Signed by Dickens, Head of Security.

Well, I can argue with everything he says, but little purpose would be served - I've said it all before.

The facts are simple and Rule 39 has nothing to do with it. A legal document is a legal document whether it has been sent by Rule 39 or any other rule. He can search them but cannot read them. He is forbidden to seize them. If I send anything out of the prison which is stopped by the censor for any reason then I am informed and the letter returned to me. The prison certainly cannot seize documents and have them in their possession for a month before they even admit to the seizure!

The bit I like best is the rubbish about sorting the matter out! Give the documents back! Problem solved! They will have to give them back sooner or later. I think what bothers them is the truth - they don't like it.

The whole thing puts me in mind of something Leo Tolstoy wrote:

I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Possession of truth

When oft I sit in pensive mood, (a small classical reference there) and ponder upon my lot in general, and on current difficulties in particular, something always comes to mind, and it's the same thought every time - whatever may be bothering me today will have been completely forgotten by this time next year and I will have a whole new series of things to worry about. 

That's all life is you see! Well, it is for the vast majority of us anyway. We spend it all lurching from problem to crisis, day after day. Alfred E. Newman used to say:

What! ME! WORRY!
That's the frame of mind we need to aim at I think.

My missing (well not missing exactly, because we know exactly where they are) documents, which form part of 'An Abuse of Justice', have still not been returned to me, although I DID get an answer to a complaint which said that if I demanded they be returned to me that would delay their posting out! I have never heard so much gammon in my life! Some of those documents have been illegally held by the Security here in Long Lartin for almost two months! How long does it take to put something in the post? I could have trained a pigeon to drag the package to Sheffield in two months. I have demanded the return of the documents.

I think the part that is bothering them is the fact that I am not creating havoc, making waves or issuing threats, throwing dummies out of prams, ranting and raving or anything else that could be seen as anti-social. I see no reason why I should. The thing is that they can deal with that sort of behaviour, they have the mentality to do so, and the equipment. What they can't deal with is someone who is honest about everything and calmly reasonable. The prison system doesn't do 'honest' you see, they don't understand it. They actually struggle with the whole idea and concept of 'honest' because they do not employ it.

Let me put it this way:

Does a snake understand how an eagle flies?
The snake has no conception of the thing, but it DOES know that the flying creature above is a danger to it. Well, that's how it is with the prison system and an honest prisoner. They have no idea what to do about him but do understand the fact that he is dangerous. The danger comes not from the honesty but from the attitude of those running things in the prison system. And I do not mean the ordinary kangaroo who has to deal with prisoners on a daily basis. Oh no, most of them do their best. It is the upper echelons who sneak about in dark corners, whispering behind their hands and misleading, lying and backstabbing. How high up the food chain they climb actually depends on their ability to lie and mislead.

Let me give a perfect example of this. Every prison security department knows the identity of every junkie and dealer within its environs, but do they give them weekly drug tests? Do they hell. They give weekly tests to the prisoners they KNOW do NOT take drugs because that gives them a good figure for their quarterly report on drug management policies. 1t is a fraud, smoke and mirrors to fool the general public. "Look!" they cry. "Our test figures show that we are sucessfully tackling the drug problem!"

All lies of course. They make no attempt whatsoever to tackle the drug problem, not so much as lift a finger. In fact it is quite the opposite because they actively encourage drug taking as a control measure.

They deal in a murky world as second nature! This is why they have no idea what to do when they come up against an honest man. They have no reference points to work from.

Now, having said all I have said, it will be seen as subversive and troublemaking. It's not their fault, it never is, it has to be the fault of the prisoner.

Wasn't it John Locke who wrote:

"It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of truth."

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, September 21, 2009

... and again!

Well, when the fickle ould whore gives me one of her periodic size tens in the gusset, I've got to give her credit for never doing things by halves. Oh no, no slipshod work where that wicked strumpet is concerned. She sits at night with her gang - you know them: Chaos, Panic, Plague, Pestilence and my personal officer - plotting and planning to seek out even further ways to make my life just that little bit more difficult. And the gang have done it again!

Some time ago, when I was downgraded from Cat A to Cat B, I put in a request for transfer to a Cat B retirement prison. There is only one that I know of - Kingston in Portsmouth. Well, at sixty-two I can't have much longer on this wonderful little rock and I thought I'd like to spend a short time in the sun before handing in my dinner pail.

So, I made the application on the correct form and handed it to my personal officer for her to complete her section and to pass it on through "channels". Then I sat back and patiently waited for the answer from the powers that be. I asked my solicitor, Mike Pemberton, to take the matter up too - it never hurts to fire extra arrows. Mike wrote several letters to the prison asking about the transfer request but all were ignored, until this week. Clearly fed up with him badgering them, they sent him a letter telling him that there had been no request or application from me for such a transfer, and that I should submit one.

What can I say?

I have now made a further request for transfer and this time I handed it personally to a Senior Officer who assured me that she would see to it personally. We will see.

So once again, Lady Luck has booted me,
assisted by my personal officer - and I'd been so nice to her too! Maybe she isn't used to anyone being nice to her; perhaps she has no reference point for it. Well it won't happen again. I won't be nasty. I don't do nasty, I just do ignorance. I've learned how from the Prison Service.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Lady Luck does it again

She's done it again!

Once again, that fickle ould tart Lady Luck has donned her well-polished Doctor Martin eighteen-holers, grinned wickedly at the other Fates, Muses and Lesser Gods, taken careful aim and ... KABOOM... right in the family jewels.

As I lie writhing in agony on the floor, it occurs to me that it is about time she turned her attention elsewhere to be honest. It is a well-established and historical fact, that every time I feel that things are finally beginning to go right for me, along she comes, sashaying along the boulevards in her five-oh-ones and her D.M.s, swinging her handbag at any nearby pigeons.

Some time ago, when I was downgraded from Cat A to Cat B, I wrote about the fact in this blog. In that vignette I mentioned my personal officer and, as far as I recall, I was quite nice about her. Well, apparently this sort of thing is frowned upon within the prison estate because it seems that she complained and became 'concerned' about it. Before anyone asks the obvious question - I don't know why! Okay?

For a long time now, I have been writing a document about my case to assist in the struggle for justice, the title of which is "An Abuse of Justice". I have been sending out regular weekly instalments to Andrew, who manages my website. Every fact, every figure is taken from my diaries and, where I can, I include legal documents to verify what I say. The output so far is about 1,450 pages, and I have reached the year 2003.

On August 10th, I sent the latest instalment, plus supporting documentation, to Andrew - but it never got there! I had sent it, as I always do, by recorded delivery so was obviously confused by its non-arrival. So when I sent out the next instalment on Monday August 31st, this time I sent it by special delivery. That didn't get there either.

Then, on Sunday September 6th, I was called into an office where I met the Security Governor, Mr Ian Dickens, and a Senior Officer. My documents were all on the desk, unposted. Mr Dickens (he's got the name but not the imagination), had apparently been on to my website in response to my personal officer's concerns and had there discovered that the logo encompasses the words "An Abuse of Justice"! He informed me that I had done nothing wrong - everything had been done openly and honestly - and that the matter would be resolved by the middle of the week (i.e. September 9th).

Although the Prison Service is not allowed even to read legal documents, never mind confiscate them or keep them from me, the documents have not been given back to me.

So here I am again - writhing about the floor after Lady Luck's delivery of another one of her specials to the bollocks. The part I particularly like is the fact that I have done nothing wrong, not a thing. I spend my days constructively, never break any rules and generally comport myself with decency and fairness to all, yet I keep getting these steel toecaps in the testicularities. Maybe if I were a thieving, lying, treacherous backstabber of a junkie I would be better thought of. I'm not, so I suppose I will just have to carry on as I am - but I may take a few extra precautions against the lady in the Doc Martens. Does anyone have an old cricket cup they don't need?

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, August 03, 2009

Some news - lots of thoughts

This week we have news! And the news is on a par with the arrival of Halley's Comet, an eclipse of the sun and Ian Paisley speaking civilly to a Republican. In fact, it would be safe to say that this sort of news is as rare as rocking-horse dung.

The news is about the appeal! I had a letter yesterday (Friday 24th July) from Mr Campbell Malone in which he tells me that the C.C.R.C. have written to both himself and myself to inform us that we have now been allocated a Case Review Manager and, according to Mister Malone, the manager in question is a worthy, capable and thorough fellow - which I am delighted to hear. As yet I have not received my letter from the C.C.R.C., so perhaps it has been sent to my previous establishment of H.M.P. Whitemoor. Whether they send it on to me is another matter.

Mr Malone asks me if I have asked the C.C.R.C. to consider any matters other than those listed in the original application. I don't know - I haven't had the letter to check yet. I wonder if I have asked the C.C.R.C. to consider anything which I haven't yet told Mr Malone about. I don't know. I think I asked the C.C.R.C. to examine my website, because there is an awful lot of stuff on there they may find interesting in connection with the appeal. However, never having seen the website myself, I can't actually direct them to anything in particular, just to the site in general. Will this Case Review Manager be diligent and examine it all? I don't know. I hope so.

All of that notwithstanding, the news is that we have progress on the appeal front and that simply HAS to be good news.

Secondly, I had a letter from Mike Pemberton who deals with all of the internal prison stuff - Category Reviews, Sentence Planning, Parole Board hearings and so on. He is setting about the task of having me transferred to a Category B prison - at least he will ask the Powers-That-Be, which is not the same as having any success. It took me twenty-three years to get off the Category A, so to get a sensible move may take just as long - the Ministry of Justice may not be too kindly disposed towards an upstart who has had the temerity to challenge them in the High Court. I may have to pay for that with more years of stonewalling - but we shall see.

So I sit here and ponder, something which I have grown quite accustomed to doing over the years. It is supposed to be good for the mind and soul apparently - they even have courses to teach prisoners how to ponder. As William Henry Davies put it:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
The point is that we have got some movement with the C.C.R.C. and that has to be welcome news.

Finally, I am sitting here before this decrepit old typewriter and searching in the midden of my mind for a pithy quote to end with, and nothing is coming - the mind produceth zilch! So I thought I would just throw in one from Herbert Spencer apropos nothing at all:
How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, July 20, 2009

Numbnuts the Dragon Chaser

There is no further news this week - about anything at all really! In fact the only thing I have had from anyone or anywhere this week is the official notification of my downgrading - and THAT came via my solicitor and not from any official source. To be fair - and we all know that I am fair if nothing else - to be fair, they have promised that full reasons for my downgrading will be issued later in the month.

I shall look forward to that.

So, absolutely zilch to report - nada, zero, nuffink, nowt, as they say in Yorkshire.

However, I have an interesting tale to tell which is connected. Earlier in the past week I was sitting here, in my little bedsit (government designed of course) and banging away at my typewriter, as I do every day. Well, it keeps me off the streets.

Someone tapped on my cell door, shoved their head inside and said, "Frank, can I have a word with you?"

I turned to see who dared enter the bailliwick of this brand new category B prisoner. I saw a fellow - and at this stage I have to say that I cannot use his name. It is verboten, forbidden, not allowed, proscribed. Well, we have to consider the privacy laws - much as the police do when they kick someone's front door in with their size twelves at the crack of dawn. But let's not be vindictive here.

No, I cannot use this fellow's name so I have to think of a nickname which suits him. I shall call him either The Great Pretender or Numbnuts the Dragon Chaser. I think we will use the latter, it fits him nicely.

So, I regard his ravaged countenance and say, "'What can I do for you, Numbnuts the Dragon Chaser?"

He comes in and parks himself on my bed. "Frank," says he, just to help me out a bit in case I have forgotten my name, after all, I'm getting on a bit now. "Frank," says he, "you know this case you have just won, can it help me at all?"

"Who knows?" said I.

He doesn't listen - the dragon-hunting fraternity never do. He says, "I've been in jail nearly as long as you and I'm still Cat. A. My case is just the same as yours."

"Ah!" said I, " Not quite."

"It is," he argues. "I'm denying everything so they can't ask me to do any courses and... "

"Numbnuts," said I, stopping his flow, "there's a big difference between avoiding courses and actually being innocent. Besides, I've done courses. I've done full Offending Behaviour Group courses, and that's not counting the education I've done and all the rest of it."

"Yeah," said he, not listening still, "but I've been a Cat. A for..."

I stopped him. Had enouqh of him to be honest. "Look," said I and wagged a finger, "I'm going to tell you the facts of life here, Numbnuts, and it's up to you whether you listen or not. I don't give a shit personally. You are bang at it on the smack, everybody knows - you have been for years. I've lost count of the times you have been moved from prison to prison, under very controversial circumstances to say the least. You need to face reality, mate. Until you stop taking that shit, you are going nowhere. And I'm not talking about stopping for five minutes, you'll need between five and ten years clear, no trouble. But you won't see that, will you? I don't give a toss what you do, none of my affair, but if you want to go home, you need to take notice of what I am saying."

"I've got a parole hearing soon," said he. "I think I'll get it."

Ah! The logic of a dragon-chaser. They can convince themselves of anything - apart from reality and the facts. Oh well, he is over twenty-one, he can make his own mind up and go to buggery in any way he sees fit I suppose, but I'm not about to waste time or effort to help him.

I said, "I haven't got the wording of any judgements. All I've got is the court order, and as far as I know that's only on my website, I don't have a copy here."

"Have you got a website?" he asked. "I never knew that. I'm going to get one."

Oh dear, no matter what anyone says to a Fellow of the Dragon Quest, he will instantly adopt it.

Well he went off about his business - maybe he heard a lonely dragon crying somewhere in the distance - and I sat and thought about it. Nobody is doing a thing about this problem - the men with the monkey on their back. Oh they pay lip service but they are actually doing sweet bugger-all. If it took me all of these years to get a bit of progress, what chance have fellows like Numbnuts the Dragon Chaser got?

The Voice In The Wilderness

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm going to feed Machiavelli's ducks!

By now it will be known, by those who are interested, that I am no longer a Category 'A' prisoner but have been downgraded to a Category 'B'.

This time last week, the Secretary of State considered me far too dangerous to be allowed to sleep right through the night without Florence Nightingale waking me every five minutes just to make sure I hadn't departed my cell via the window, or some other self-made aperture. I could not prove that my levels of dangerousness had reduced to where I no longer had to have my cell searched every 28 days to make sure that I was not creating some device for tunnelling to Australia.

But now, I am no longer considered to be a danger to the public, the police or national security should I escape. Everyone can now sleep soundly in their beds, the police can go about their affairs without worrying about me turning up in some dark alley to ambush them and, of course, Special Branch can take me off their Christmas card list.

So what has happened in the meantime to reduce my levels of danger? The answer is quite simple - absolutely bugger-all.

The only reason I have been removed from the 'A' list is the precise same reason I was on it in the first place - convenience. It will be remembered that my solicitor challenged the Prison Service in the Queen's Bench Division on their decision not to hold an oral hearing into my category. That was in March of this year, and the Secretary of State lost the case - he had to hold an oral hearing into my category. Of course he appealed, on the rather odd grounds (amongst others) that to grant me an oral hearing - as laid down by law - could create a constitutional crisis. Well, I've said all I intend to say about constitutions.

The Secretary of State appealed the decision by HHJ Jarman and the appeal went before The Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Scott Baker, and Lady Justice Smith on Wednesday 24th June 2009. The matter was between The Queen on the Application of Wilkinson - the Respondent/Claimant - and the Secretary of State for Justice - the Appellant/Defendant. It was held in Court 71, appeal number C1/2009/0816, and it took a mere fifty minutes for the court to decide:
The Appellant's application to proceed with the appeal is refused.
That's that then. The court ruled in my favour and THAT is why I have been deemed as no longer dangerous - because the Secretary of State doesn't want others asking for oral hearings; not because of any constitutional cobblers, but because holding oral hearings would be inconvenient and too much trouble for those who deal with these things. It's as simple as that really. Actually, I really did want a judgement so that others COULD use it as grounds for their own cases, but that has heen neatly sidestepped of course.

Well, their reasoning is quite simple and at the same time Machiavellian:
If we take him off the cat 'A' then the problem simply goes away!
And that is what they have done. Dangerousness or otherwise has nothing at all to do with it - never has had.

So, now I have to think about what happens next because being out of the Category 'A' system I no longer come under the Secretary of State or his minions in the matter of where I go to, what prison. Put it this way - I can now make progress.

So where do I go to? Being retired and medically unfit for any sort of work, I cannot go to a Category 'B' Training prison, that would make no sense at all. I have to go to a retirement prison and, as far as I know, there is only one in the country - Kingston in Portsmouth. So, that's the next step I suppose, to ask to go to Kingston. I understand they've got a duck pond there - I'd better start to save up my crusts.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Today (Wednesday July 1st 2009) at about four-fifteen in the afternoon, I was sitting in my cell at my typewriter, banging away at 'An Abuse of Justice' as I slowly melted in the heat, when a little voice behind me said, "Frank!"

I turned to see my personal officer, a very nice young woman, who is invariably nice to all she speaks to and who seems to smile easily, an asset in this world of gloom and depression. I like her. She has that rare affliction found in very few - a sense of humour.

"What?" said I in my best James Cagney voice.

"I've been told to tell you that you have been downgraded," said she, smiling.

Why smile? I presumed I had been downgraded from an Enhanced status to a Standard prisoner [i.e. on the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme]. There was no reason I could see for such a downgrading, but everything can be expected when we deal with the prison service - the more unnecessary a thing is, the more likely it is too.

However, before I could say anything, she went on, "You have been downgraded to a Cat 'B' so you are off the Cat 'A'."

"What?" said I, great conversationalist that I am.

"I've just been told," said she. "I'll go and get you a new cell card."

Well, there's a turn up for the books. And of course it has immense ramifications in a lot of areas. Now I can have visits from anyone I like without them being security cleared, if I had that desire. I will no longer be woken every five minutes by the night fellow checking to see if I have escaped since the last time he looked. There will be less security directed at me. I could apply for a job of trust in the library, if I weren't retired.

Most important, I can now ask to go to a Cat 'B' prison. Of course, being retired, no Cat 'B' training prison will want me because they are all working jails. No, I only have the one option - Kingston in Portsmouth. A place for geriatric old duffers like me. A place where they feed the ducks and call it sport.

All of the arguments, in the High Court and elsewhere, are all academic now - redundant, finito, over. I have no idea why they should choose this particular time to downgrade me, and I'm not going to look any gift horses in the mouth, but I will wonder about it.

Whatever the reason, and some would say it should have happened fifteen years ago, I am now a Category 'B' prisoner, one of the lesser creatures in the pond, and, as such, I am now allowed to make some sort of progress.

I just thought you'd like to know.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, June 29, 2009

An expert assessment

'Risk Assessment' - a wonderful activity being carried out these days in all sorts of areas and for all manner of purposes. The general practice seems to be that experts in whatever field (and, let's face it, some of them belong in fields) gather together the facts on a particular subject, consider, and then produce an assessment before which the rest of us plebs fall on our knees to worship at the shrine of their wisdom and perspicacity.

Mind, they have to be sure they get their facts right or their finished assessment is about as much good as a chocolate fireguard.

Prison is no exception. But, while they have the general idea, they have decided to cut corners drastically so don't bother with using experts. They use trainee experts instead, who are supposed to be scrutinised by experts as they carry out their alchemy, but of course never are. Nor are there any checks to ensure that the facts are right to begin with - and one small error at the start of any assessment can have catastrophic consequences at the end. However, undaunted by this, they go ahead merrily on their assessments, ticking boxes like lunatics and telling the public what a wonderful job of rehabilitating prisoners they are doing.

This approach might help explain why they seem to be getting it wrong all the time! Not only are the reoffending levels rising, but for those who have completed such courses identified as necessary by the risk assessments, they are higher than for those who haven't.

Recently, I had a conversation with a youngish fellow who told me that he had done all of the courses and, because of that, he expected to be moved to a Category 'C' prison very soon. Once there, he would quickly get himself released, and he had his future all planned out: he would buy a bit of 'gear' (drugs) from some friends of a fellow he had met in jail, and within six months would be a millionaire.

I asked him if he had told the authorities of this plan during his assessments.

"No man! I ain't no fool! I tell them me is going to get a job and settle down with my baby mudder!"

What can I add to that?

So now we come to my own assessment. For years and years they were insisting that I needed to take part in a basic education course. I have three degrees, but it took about four years to get the assessors to actually check with education about that.

Okay, they decided to stop asking me to learn how to read and write.

Then, "We require you to take an Enhanced Thinking Skills course."

I produced certificates and essays, tracts and various writings which caused them to admit, after a few more years, that I did not require an E.T.S. course.

"We need to teach you about Victim Awareness!"

"Done it."


"Done it."

"Patterns of Offending!"

"Done it."

"Attitudes to Crime!"

"Done it."

"Excuses, Risks, etcetera etcetera."

"Done em."

"Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it!"

Right, let us consider the last twenty-three years of simply banging my head against a brick wall with none of them listening to a word I say and yet, I have not become angry or lost the plot. Everyone says I am a calm fellow who is a calming influence on the more volatile.

I could go on, but I think my general drift is clear, or at least should be to those with more than one working brain cell. It is not apparently clear to the experts who are running the prison service. They deal with real things, like tick-boxes. Well, you know where you are with a tick in a box - you can see it, it's there, it is evidence!

Evidence of what? Evidence that there is a tick in a box, that's all. It says nothing at all about the prisoner. What can give a proper picture of a prisoner is to speak to those who know him, those who deal with him on a daily basis and who observe his behaviour. THAT'S where the real evidence comes from. However, those people are ignored and, instead, faceless individuals sit in their ivory towers, checking to see what boxes have been given a tick and, of course, making assessments.

Just think, if I could create a crystal ball, I would be invited to join them in their ivory towers and then I too could rip the arse out of the public by telling them that I could predict the future - and get a huge salary for doing so. No, wait a minute, if I could predict the future I would buy a lottery ticket! I wonder how many of the experts and assessors buy lottery tickets - and, more to the point, how many of them have actually won anything...

Oh yes, and apparently I am incapable of abstract thought. That's nice to know.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, June 22, 2009

Playing with themselves

I had a Risk Assessment Management Board (RAM Board) scheduled for 2:30 pm on Tuesday 9th June - mind, when I got there it had miraculously been transformed into a Sentence Planning Board, but perhaps the two are interchanqeable. Whatever it Was, I had it on Tuesday afternoon, although it started at almost three in the afternoon, lasted ten minutes and I got thrown out at the end. Not that it matters - I've been thrown out of better places than that SOBER!

When I went in, I found myself in front of a typical prison board. They DO like their intimidatory tactics of the long table, the array of forces with their piles of folders stacked against the poor con - all that kind of gammon.

There was a young female officer who introduced herself as the Chairman of the Board - an S.O. with neither experience nor qualifications, but who am I to carp? Next to her, another young girl who introduced herself as the person taking the minutes! She had a trainee sitting next to her and I can only presume that the trainee was there to make the numbers up. Next to her sat an officer from my wing, not my personal officer of course, that would be silly because it would make sense and the prison service don't do sense. My personal officer had been sent off to one of the workshops. Going around the table the other way, starting at the Chairman, there sat another woman who introduced herself as the representative of the education department. Finally, there was a governor who introduced himself as the Head of Offender Management, Mr Sidney. My first question has to be - if there is a governor available, why isn't he chairing the fiasco?

So, I got sat down and the chairman/woman/girl asked me what my plan was for the next year? It irritates me when people speak to me as though I am a new boy or a tourist or something - patronising isn't the word.

I said, "I don't understand the question."

She said, "Well, we are here to decide on the next year..."

"I thought you were."

She ignored that. "...for your sentence plan!"

"I've got a sentence plan," said I. "I've had it for twenty-three years."

"What's that?"

"To go home," I answered. "What's your plan?"

At this point, the governor decided that more authority was needed because clearly I did not have my hat in my hands and my lips were not pursed in readiness to kiss any arses. I wasn't conforming to the norm for prisoners. Well, the governor and I started to argue ahout how I am clearly not a person who will accept things at face value and when I said, "I've been in jail twenty-three years mate, I'm not impressed", he said, "I've been in the job thirty-three years!" I came back with, "Yes, but you went home every single night. I haven't been home in twenty-three years. There's a difference."

Anyway, they threw me out and the governor threatened to come and see me the next day, Wednesday. It is Saturday now and I am still waiting. What will he have to say? Not much as far as I can see, and he has clearly realised that himself - that's why he hasn't turned up. They haven't even bothered to threaten me over the incident, not a word said.

Could it be that they are finally getting the message that I am sick to the back teeth of their games and I'm not playing any more? From now on, they will have to play their tick-box games on their own, without me. They will have to play the game with themselves - and, as every schoolboy knows, there is a name for people who play with themselves.

The Voice in the Wilderness

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Thinking - that's what ticks my box

This week there is news, of a sort. I have been given a document from the Public Protection Unit of the National Offender Management Service which informs me, among other things, that I have yet another parole hearing in June of next year, 2010. I am told that the timing will enable me to:

• Be assessed for CALM (Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it)
• Be assessed by a psychologist

Ah - therein lies the rub! Considering that I have now been here two months, after a very unseemly transfer from Whitemoor, it seems a bit curious to me that the psychology people here at Long Lartin are conspicuous by their absence. There is a long queue of fellows waiting to be assessed by these bright school leavers - sorry, trainee psychologists.

If (that wonderful word so revered by Rudyard Kipling and a big favourite of children building castles in the air), if they assess me and find me unsuitable, what happens then?

I fully intend to discuss these assessment tools with those administering them, if / when I see them. The various tools would appear to be not exactly devised for what they are being used for, but that is by the way. I intend to qualify, in discussion, exactly what they are assessing me for and quite what tools they are using and the validity of those tools.

Of course, that in itself will mark me as some kind of troublemaker - prisoners are forced to partake in an Enhanced Thinking Skills course, but God help them if they actually try to think. No, they are not teaching prisoners how to think, but WHAT to think. Let's not bother ourselves with that aspect however, let's just stick to the point.

Bugger it, let us mention 'thinking' after all - it is quite an important subject, according to the prison service.

Thinking, an abstract exercise of the mind.

We all think, some of us less coherently than others, and some of us downright insanely, but we all think. That's the problem really - we all think. The difficulty comes because most people miss the fact that we are all individuals and none of us think alike, yet we all make the mistake of thinking that we do. This is why a poor thinker gets upset when he has an idea that, to his way of thinking, is perfectly operational, and then a far superior thinker spots the flaws and shoots the idea down in flames. At the other end of the spectrum we have the good thinker who is explaining what is, to him, a perfectly simple concept and who gets annoyed when a nitwit can't grasp it.

What we should be doing is facing the fact that we all think differently. We shouldn't condemn people just because they don't think like us, or don't think the same things.

This is where the prison pervice and their trainee psychologists fall down. They think they know best - and perhaps they do, but that has to be tested. I suspect it may not be quite as they think and that they do not have any answers, certainly not in the tick-box culture. The tick-box culture and thinking are diametrically opposed really - one does not encourage the other.

Anyway, I have a provisional parole hearing in June of next year - I just thought you would like to know that.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Monday, June 01, 2009

Friendly lions or mad dogs?

This week has brought one snippet of interesting intelligence: according to Mike Pemberton, my legal superstar, the hearing of the Ministry of Justice's appeal against the recent Judicial Review is pencilled in for June 24th 2009 in the High Court. At that time, the Secretary of State's minion will attempt to put up a case that treating prisoners in a decent and acceptable manner is constitutionally unsafe and unsound. Good luck to him.

Here at the prison, meanwhile, we have a great deal of upheaval because they have built a new wing, at great expense, which was finally opened on Monday May 18th. Most of the prison was uprooted and disturbed, for no good reason really. I was quite fortunate in that it did not involve me, although I did move to a different cell on my own wing, a much better and more comfortable cell than the one I had occupied previously.

However, all of this moving about and general upheaval does not contribute to the quality of life or encourage prisoners to settle down and get on with their unfortunate existences. What the Powers-That-Be fail to understand is that most prisoners quite simply don't care whether they live in a dustbin or a palace - all they really want is to be left in peace to get on with things. It's quite unsettling not knowing where you will be from one day to the next, always expecting to hear the size twelve issue boots stamping outside the door and being told to 'Move or else!' Oh yes, they are very nice about it. Speaking for myself, they could put me in a tent in the middle of a field, I'd be all right. All I need from the system is for it to bugger off and leave me alone!

I wonder if there is a deliberate policy to keep cons on a knife edge. It is the sort of insanity that they WOULD think is a good idea - let's face it, Einstein has nothing to fear in the thinking stakes from some of those who run our prisons.

They run an Enhanced Thinking Skills course in prisons - it is laughable. What they do is supply the con with a dozen scenarios and at the same time supply the answers or solutions to the problems posed. The prisoner then goes away and learns the answers by rote and when he has done that he gets a tick in a box and a certificate. He is now deemed to possess enhanced thinking skills! What cobblers!

However, be that as it may, what I want to know is why there can't be a course to teach enhanced humanity skills to the people in charge of the prisons? Forget enhanced thinking, that is out of the question, that advanced stuff. No, they will simply carry on coming up with ridiculous schemes and ideas which serve no other purpose than to agitate and irritate. Then they wonder why the prisons do not operate smoothly!

There is an old saying, which I can attribute to nobody - it is certainly not mine, although I have used it several times over the years. The prison service could do a lot worse than pay heed to it:
It is easier dealing with a friendly lion than with a mad dog!
The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Doing the right thing

This week saw the arrival into my grubby little hands, direct from my solicitor, of the document which the Treasury Solicitor has submitted to the Appeal Court on behalf of the Home Secretary and which gives the reasons why the Home Secretary should be allowed to appeal against HHJ Jarman's recent Judicial Review. The main reason advanced seems to be that to grant me a victory would create a constitutional crisis and encourage others to ask the court to do the right thing!

I've got a couple of things to say about that.

Firstly, this country has no constitution, never has had. The nearest we have ever been to one is Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215 in Runnymeade Meadow. However, even that was not a constitution. It was merely the Barons (and those who commanded large gangs of cutthroats) wanting to keep their pillaged loot and not be put on trial for stealing it in the first place - much like our present bunch of bandits, generally referred to as the House of Commons.

So, we have never had a constitution and for those who keep referring to things as though we do have one, well, that is sheer humbug and gammon to confuse the ordinary man into thinking he has rights. He doesn't.

If he did, then so many of the poor things which go on in this wonderful sceptred isle would not be tolerated - and aren't in countries where they do have a constitution.

Secondly, how can the Treasury Solicitor object to the fact that my victory over the Hosts of Error would bring about the practical downfall of the system? If that's the case, then it is a reflection on the inhumane system, not on me!

It merely demonstrates the fact that the system being operated is unfair and unjust and that it is imperative that it be corrected as soon as possible.

William Garrison said:
I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard!
Lord Hewart (1870 - 1943) said in a judgement in Rex v Sussex Justices, 9th November 1923 (Kings Bench Reports, 1924, Vol. i, p. 259):
It is not merely of some importance but it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
Then of course we have Magna Carta itself:
To no man will we sell, or deny, or delay, right to justice.
Then let us not forget Lord Milner, that staunch devotee of justice, as fine a man who ever donned a black cap. He said:
If we believe a thing to be bad, and if we have a right to prevent it, it is our duty to prevent it and damn the consequences.
Now, I could go on all day quoting these eminent figures from the past, who all said the same thing really:
Do the right thing! As long as a man goes about doing what he knows in his very soul is the right thing, then he will not go far wrong.
That last one is my own of course. But if a man should do what he absolutely knows is the wrong thing, for the sake of expediency or some other reason, then he must learn to live with himself and hope that one day he will be forgiven. Unfortunately, that won't help the people whose lives have been ruined by his acts.

Perhaps the Treasury Solicitor should consider Parliament? He'd fit in there all right.

The Voice in the Wilderness

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Creating a pen and ink

There is a shortage of news this week, and nobody to blame but the Mills of Justice - they grind exceeding slow, as the Bible would put it. Consequently I have to think of something else to write about. It's very odd, but I seem able to sit down at my sophisticated machine, invented in the 19th century by someone who couldn't write very clearly, and simply produce a lot of waffle at the drop of an aitch. Perhaps it is the Irish in me, the gift of the gab, so to speak.

This leads me quite conveniently to something which I feel needs commenting on - writing. I use a fountain pen as my preferred weapon of mass production and the preference stems from my callow youth when, as a schoolboy, I had a gift of a fountain pen from an aunt who thought it might encourage me to write her a letter every Christmas. I don't recall if I did but I think it improved my handwriting because, for some reason, the use of a fountain pen has that effect - it encourages care.

So, I use a fountain pen, and of course this means that I have to keep it filled with writing ink - bottled or cartridge, either will suffice. Have you ever tried buying writing ink? It's not as easy as it would seem, not in Long Lartin anyway. We are allowed to buy it, no doubt about that, it is listed on the document of items prisoners can purchase and have. There it is, bold as brass - ink for fountain pens.

Try to buy some.

I applied weeks ago to buy ink and the answer I got back was that they would need the name of the pen and any other information I had to enable them to get the right ink. I duly informed them that the pen is a Messenger and either cartridges or bottled ink would be fine - blue or black, either would do.

They wrote back that they did not have a supplier and had I tried the prison shop/canteen.

Of course I had! They said that they do not sell ink.

The answer to that was, did I have the name and address of a supplier?

Of course I have - CPL Computer and Office Supplies of Blandford in Dorset.

The answer came back - sorry, you can't order from there, they are not an approved supplier. Why don't you ask the governor if you can have it sent in from outside?

So, that is the position at the minute - I can have ink but I am most definitely NOT ALLOWED to have it. I can order it but not from anyone they deal with and certainly not from a perfectly legitimate supplier - because they are not approved!

What do I do next?

This is the sort of obstacle put before prisoners all the time. I don't want to seem unkind, but I don't see how anyone can consider my problem as anything but the most simple and easy to resolve, yet the difficulty created is astounding.

If they cannot sort out a small problem like ink for a pen, what chance is there of them getting something complex and difficult right? Not much.

Lord Salisbury said:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe.
and I would like to add:
If you believe the prison service, you need counselling.
The Voice in the Wilderness

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The more I see of men...

The actual news this week is minimal, hardly worth the mention really. The only thing of any note is the fact that I had an actual reply from the Big Boss here to the letter I sent him a couple or three weeks ago - the letter about my move here and how it seemed to be contrary to the spirit and purpose of the recent Judicial Review decision. The reply seemed a little ignorant, slightly patronising and a good deal threatening. Clearly he took the fact that I had been successful in the High Court as some form of personal attack on him. Well, I can only apologise to the ether if that is the case - I do not intend to do so to him. He needs to learn what abstract thinking is. But at least his strange letter gave me something to grin at.

Nothing else happened this week apart from recording the fact that already I am being asked for advice by one or two residents on various subjects from 'Nobody loves me' to 'How do I go about a Judicial Review?'

Well, the simple answer is, I don't have the answers. If I had the answers to life, the universe and everything I would not have heen sitting in durance vile for the last twenty-three years plus. I know nuffink!

One question came up, however, which I will mention - let's face it, there's nothing else to write about this week - and it is a question that has cropped up many times in recent years. The other morning when we were all unlocked for breakfast I went out to get hot water for tea. I had been listening to music prior to being unlocked and had a tune in my head which I was humming under my breath. At the tea urn another fellow, as miserable a specimen as ever graced a Crown Court Dock, mumbled something about he had no idea how I could be so cheerful all the time.

What makes him think I should be miserable? I don't like my current position in life but I make the best of it. I take whatever small simple pleasures I can from each day and I find it easier to grin than to cry. I've tried miserable and I've tried cheerful - cheerful is better.

However - and with me there is always an "However" - however, there is something I would like to say about my time and how I view prison life, namely that I find it quite a chore at times to come out of my kennel and be cheerful and hail-fellow-well-met because, to be blunt, I am sick of the sight of men, I'm sick of the sound of men and I am sick of the smells. Oh to live in a world completely populated by the female of the species! Let's face it, it's not as if the male is actually necessary anymore, what with artificial insemination and everything else. In fact, the only reason women need men is because they don't have to change the batteries and to buy them free drinks.

I think it was Madame Roland who said:
The more I see of men, the better I like dogs.
The Voice In The Wilderness