Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A deal is a deal

Seventeen or eighteen years ago, I was in the Special Control Unit in Durham prison - in fact, I was one of the very first batch of prisoners in the place. Now, if anyone wants me to, I can check with my diaries and give exact dates and times, but for my own part I can't really be bothered - I'd have to dig the bleedin' things out. Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, Durham Special Unit, along with half a dozen other recalcitrant hooligans - the prison service's problem children. I make no secret of the fact, I don't deny it, but, to put it bluntly, from the point of view of the prison service I was what is commonly referred to as a fucking nightmare. I had, up to that time, been moved from prison to prison, Special Control Unit to Segregation block over forty times. I have no idea what it must have cost with escorts, police cars and helicopters, but I bet there was no change from a tenner! So, I had finished up in Durham Special Unit because, to be quite honest, no other prison would accept me.

Then, one day, I was visited by a Principal Officer - a tall, raw-boned Scot - and a couple of assistant Governors from Frankland Prison. They had come on the instructions of the Home Office with an offer for me - go to Frankland, behave myself, carry on with my educational studies, do a bit of gym, stop attacking staff and drug-dealers and, in a few years, they would have me off the Category 'A' and progress me through the system toward release. I told them that I wasn't going to work and they said I wouldn't be asked to - I could go on education classes and do cell study. Would I agree? Would I give my word?

"Okay," said I, "I'll give my word."

A few days later I was moved to Frankland prison, and I have been a good lad ever since. I gave my word and, when I promise someone something, they can take bets that I will keep my word. If a man has not got his integrity, he's got nothing.

Well, I settled down - got into the odd scrape here and there, but nothing serious - and in the last ten years I have not spent one second in any segregation unit nor been on report for anything at all. I'm only one step down from sainthood really. So, I've kept my word ever since I had that deal with that Principal Officer (who will have retired years ago) and those two fresh­-faced young governors. The question now is - did the prison service keep its word to progress me?

Ha! Ha! Did they bollocks. I only got taken off the Category 'A' two years ago - AFTER a court hearing in the High Court and the court ordered it. The prison service actually appealed the court's decision twice but had to give in with poor grace in the end. So that little bit of progression only came through a court order.

Today I find myself in a position where the prison service is not only refusing to progress me, they are actively attempting to obstruct any progress. The Parole Board has recommended that I be sent to open prison to allow me to adjust and prepare for release into the community. Let's put aside all of the achievements I have managed to reach - the degrees and all the rest of it, the complete character change that has taken place, so admirably memorialised by the Parole Board in its letter of recommendation to the Secretary of State - let's forget all that for the minute. What is the prison service reaction to this absolute success story that they have on their hands?

They are challenging the decision for me to be sent to open prison - CHALLENGING it! That's what I'm being given to understand. Their reasons for the challenge are poor - pathetic in fact - and were actually gone into in great depth by the Parole Board. So, why the obstruction?

A good question and I can't answer it.

Even more curious - all of the documents I have been sending out of the prison to Andrew, my solicitor and even to my probation officer, don't appear to have left the prison! The prison doesn't even want anyone to know about the challenge.

Ah! But even that tells a tale. IS there a challenge at all? I don't think they have that option unless there has been some sort of major and serious incident to justify a challenge - and there hasn't been.

So, I'll tell you what I think - as do a lot of staff around here. I think that I am not being challenged, but that this place is obsessed with a pointless love of secrecy and quite simply doesn't want to tell me that I am going to open prison. They probably have some strange and weird idea that they will simply come and get me one morning in the near future, tell me to pack my goods and chattels, shove me in a taxi and tell me to bugger off.

Why bother? Why do they have to make things so difficult?

I have written a document to the Number One Governor, Hoss the Boss, about it - sent him the Parole Board's letter and let him know what's going on. The one thing about Hoss the Boss is that he likes things done properly and doesn't care for fools who bugger things up without good cause. So we will see what he does about it.

I've applied to see the Independent Member too (formerly known as the Board of Visitors). They will check the mail and see what they can uncover.

I am also seriously considering writing directly to the Parole Board and informing them that the Lazy L is refusing to implement its recommendation.

The way I see things is that seventeen or eighteen years ago I made a deal - and a deal is a deal, right?

The Voice In The Wilderness

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