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