Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The language of duty

On Thursday 12th March I appeared before the Parole Board here in the chapel of Whitemoor prison. The report of the actual proceedings is in the previous blog entry - here are my own impressions and observations.

Various people attended and gave evidence on behalf of various departments within the jail. I don't think I need to say much about any of them because not a great deal was said that I could take exception to by anyone other than the representative of the Secretary of State, who seemed very reluctant to concede anything in my favour, a fact noted on several occasions by the Chair of the panel. Even then he had to admit things which were to my credit.

One particular matter that arose, and the one I wish to address here, came about in connection with courses run within the prison. I have been assessed (after a long time) as being 'unsuitable' for the Enhanced Thinking Skills course (E.T.S.). I spoke up at that point and said that the prison seemed to be intent on using negatives rather than positives. The phrase 'found to be unsuitable' gives the impression that there is something wrong with me when the fact is that I have been found not to need any E.T.S. - in which case the phrase used should be, 'Does not require Enhanced Thinking Skills courses', rather than 'found to be unsuitable'.

This is not me simply splitting hairs, even if Shakespeare DID say that a rose by any other name is still a rose. That is not the point here. The point is that deliberately misleading words are used to give a negative effect - ‘argumentative’ rather than ‘questioning', ‘aggressive’ rather than ‘forceful’, ‘pushy' rather than ‘self-assured’, ‘arrogant’ rather than ‘confident’ and so on. My point is that reports can say exactly the same thing without the emotive language and the stress on the negative.

I did like the opinion given by Joanne Wallace, who said she could see no reason why I could not be in open conditions if not actually released. She said any course I may need could be just as easily managed in the community and that my actual risk levels, the levels used to decide any level of supervision I would need, were the lowest possible. In effect, and not wishing to put words into her mouth, she seemed to want me released.

Finally, I would like to thank both her and everyone involved, particularly my barrister Abigail Smith, because as far as I could tell the whole thing was favourable. The Chair seemed a very fair and astute person and everyone seemed to want to give me a fair hearing, apart from the representative of the Secretary of State of course.

On reflection, I suppose he would say that it was his job, he was simply doing his duty. On several occasions he could not answer the questions being put to him, but he did what he could
to give me a bad name, bless him. All he did was his duty, but I could see that even he had difficulty with some of the things he had to say. Which, as we all know by now, automatically brings me to my normal end-quote. In fact, we will have two this week, the first from John Locke who said:
It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of truth.
Finally, and may the representative of the Secretary of State take this in the spirit it is offered, a quote from George Bernard Shaw seems appropriate. He said:
When a man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
The Voice in the Wilderness

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