Thursday, October 27, 2011

The dance of uncertainty

I don't think anyone will be surprised (or shocked) when I say that another week has passed without any sort of definite news, or even an acceptable promise of any news. The Lazy L is working well, apparently, right on course for absolutely bugger-all. I've got this scenario in my head (in amongst the dross and drivel that normally resides there) that one day they will approach me in a manner of a reasonable nature and say, "Get your gear sorted out, Frank, you are on your travels."  Personally, I think there is more chance of Nelson getting his eye back - but that's just me being defeatist and best ignored. However, nobody must get the idea that I am alone in this waiting game because I am not - the place is full of fellows waiting for a bus-pass to greener pastures.

I understand that over the main gate they have erected a new sign which says, "YOU AIN'T GOING NOWHERE FROM HERE!"

Boudica is annoyed about it all of course, and who can blame her? Almost six months ago she found out that I had been recommended for open prison and was delighted because that meant I would soon be adorning her doorstep with my hat in hand, begging for a bed for the night. Well, that hasn't happened, and she has become disillusioned I think, as I have myself. I was full of plans as to what I was going to do to prepare my future. Now? I'm beginning to doubt that future completely.

It's not as though there is any reason for me to be contained  in this place any more - there isn't. Nobody asks me to do anything, nobody asks me any questions - nothing. I am left entirely to my own devices, completely ignored by the prison and those who allegedly run it. They want nothing from me and I ask for nothing from them other than "feed me".

Somewhere, stuck in some rat hole of a local, Victorian-built prison, there is someone waiting for me to vacate the premises so that they can have my cell and then proceed to work on their own problems toward their own release. Unfortunately they have to sit where they are too, fighting cockroaches for their beds and saying, "Why can't I be transferred to a long-term jail?"

The answer?

"We are waiting for a place for you."

I ask, "Why can't I be transferred?"

The answer?

"We are waiting for a place for you."

And so the macabre dance goes on spreading uncertainty, unrest, restlessness, frustration and everything else that goes with all of those things. In the meanwhile the prison service goes on blithely pretending that there is no problem and God help any misguided prisoner who shows signs of suffering from the stress of it all. Apparently, suffering from stress is the sole prerogative of staff - those people who only work three days a week and who go home every night. It is illegal for prisoners to suffer from stress - it is in the rules. Prisoners must smile at all times, it's the law.

However, let's not be churlish about this. After all, what have I got to complain about? I've only been in jail for over a quarter century for nothing, I get one hot meal a day, I have been allowed to buy myself a decent bed and I get a shower every morning without having to worry about anyone wanting or trying to introduce me to unnatural practices! (Mind, anyone silly enough to want to try that sort of thing deserves to be in jail for gross stupidity - either that or they are suicidal.)

What am I complaining about?

It could be worse - I could be a Lib Dem and feeling the pain of the knife in the back from the True Blues, because it's coming.

Oh, just ignore me - I'm not getting my sleep, I'm a miserable old bastard and, according to Boudica, I'm a sick man.  All that may well be true - and probably is - but that doesn't detract from the fact that the prison service isn't doing its job - but then again, when did it ever? 

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A first time for everything

Well, would you believe it!  This morning (16th October) I received a response to my request for information regarding my application for home leave. It starts off by saying that the original application went to the wrong department, but no apology for that from them, it's not expected - hubris makes no apology for itself.  It's not their fault that there has been no decision because (and this will come as no surprise) someone else hasn't done their job. I'm quite astonished really - someone not doing their job? It's unheard of in the prison system.  Ah! But it's not the Lazy L that is responsible, oh no, they are laying the blame firmly at the feet of The Wallace!  I quote:
I am currently dealing with your application [three months so far] but have not received a response from your Offender Manager [The Wallace] regarding the appropriateness of the address you gave. [Boudica will argue with that - her and The Wallace have chatted on the phone as far as I know.] However, I am sorry to say that it is unlikely that home leave will be approved from a high security prison.
That's the response.  Why is it unlikely that home leave will be allowed from a high security prison? What difference does that make? A person leaves the gate, has a week or so at home and comes back to prison, no matter what prison that may be. Where is the problem? What has high security got to do with it? I am not high security, I am the lowest security level possible. The fact that they have  not transferred me to an appropriate prison is a reflection on them, not on me.

My interventions have to begin soon, I have to formulate a viable and acceptable release plan so the sooner we have the opportunity  to get on with it, the better. Where does it say anywhere that I cannot formulate a release plan from the Lazy L?  "It hasn't been done before!"  Wonderful. Who cares? There is a first time for everything and in reality there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why I should not begin my release plans here if they can't transfer me. It's the fear of the paranoid, that's what it is. I am the one who will be facing the hardest part, not them. What are they  afraid of?

So, there we have it. What I need to do now is inform The Wallace and see what she says on the subject. She may well agree that it is unheard of for a person to get home leave from such a place  as this, but it's not fair to blame her for it.  Oh yes indeed - I've said it before and no doubt I'11 say it again, several times - but it's not easy being me.

Boudica's stress levels are rising steadily, bless her, and who can blame her! After the Parole Board decision, she expected to hear that I  would soon be gracing her front door step again, yet here we are, five months later and the only thing I am gracing is the showers every morning - not a pretty sight for those of a nervous disposition. When a fellow gets to my age he finds that things have started to slip a little bit. Put it this way, if Rodin ever needed a sitter for his second version of "The Thinker" he would be well advised to avoid me like the plague. "The Thinker"!  Well, I might do a bit of thinking, but that's about it really - I do nothing else. 

Many years ago there was a fellow who climbed up a mountain and, when he reached the summit, he sat down to survey his surroundings and got to wondering, when it got dark, where the sun had gone. Well, it finally dawned on him. 

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saint Jude is my patron saint

Here we go again - another week passed, another week of no news or sign of any advancement or progress. In fact, the only thing that seems to be gradually changing are my sleep patterns - I  am barely sleeping at night, and I understand that sleeplessness is a manifestation of stress! Wonderful! Just what I need - rising stress levels.

It will be remembered that a couple of months ago, maybe a little longer, I put in an application for Home Leave or, as they like to call it, Release on Temporary Licence - ROTL.

It will also be recalled that, some time ago now, I had an answer to an enquiry on the subject which said basically that, in the light of my pending transfer to open prison, the application to go home for a week or so was being duly processed - doing me a favour apparently.  The weeks passed, as weeks do, and last weekend I put in yet another application - a query really - asking what was going on with my request to go home for a wee while.

I got an answer back yesterday which said that the person dealing with my transfer was away on leave so they couldn't tell me anything about the transfer but would as soon as she came back!

I didn't ask about transfer!  I didn't mention transfer!  In fact I have given up on ever seeing a bleedin' transfer! All I asked was about home leave - sorry, ROTL.

This is typical of this place really. Are we to understand that when one person goes off on a jaunt then whatever department they are involved in comes to a grinding halt?  Is that why this place never gets anything done?

It's no use expecting governor grades to deal with anything so important - they are far too busy making sure that the bin lids are on properly and counting the table-tennis balls. In fact the only time a governor grade shows his or her face is to do someone down and, as often as not, they even leave THAT to a minion. Governors are not here to run the place, they are only here to ensure that stress levels stay at the appropriate levels. So my stress levels are apparently high.

Oh don't misunderstand me - I'm not ready to declare myself a basket case or anything like that. I'm not about to lose the plot and start ranting and raving - or worse. I'm in full control of myself and have been under much more stressful times, but I am clearly suffering with a bit of the ould Elliot Ness.

I'm not the only one either! Boudica is suffering a bit too, and I think it is hitting her a good bit harder than it is me - either that or I handle it better, who can tell? She told me  in a letter the other day that some of her hair came out - maybe just a few strands, I don't know, she didn't say - but whether  it was a few strands or a whole clump is hardly the point really, the point is that the strees is getting to her too, and who can be surprised at that? After all of this time she suddenly found that the Parole Board said more or less that she would soon have me back to annoy her. I was delighted myself, full of plans and little expectations. Five or six months later I'm still sitting here, picking my nose and nary a sign of a transfer anywhere on the horizon at all.

All I've got is a little hope, but that's wearing thin a bit. Mind, they do say that when a person waits for something for a long time then he will appreciate it all the more when it DOES finally come about.

That a fact is it?

I've put in another application, this one saying that I didn't ask about transfer, I asked ahout going home for a week or so. Will the question be answered?  I've got my doubts.

Ha! No wonder when people ask me who I would pick as my Patron Saint if I could choose I always say "Saint Jude".

"Why Saint Jude?" they ask. "What is he the Patron Saint of?"

"Lost causes," I reply.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Well, I knew IF I waited long enough I would, sooner or later, have something to tell anyone not nimble enough to get out of the door quickly enough.

I've got news!

Yesterday they came to see me bearing an envelope, for which they wanted me to sign. On examination of the accompanying document, I saw that it wasn't me who had to sign that I had received it, not at all - it was for the kangaroo to sign to prove he had given it to me. A case of covering themselves I suppose.

Anyway, when they had gone off about their business, I opened the envelope and it was a letter from the Ministry of Justice to inform me officially that my solicitor's request to have  my parole review period reduced by four months had succeeded.  My parole hearing is to be in May of next year. It's October  now - so that is October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May! Eight months IF you count October. The  fact is that it's seven months - you either count the first month or the last month, not both.

So, seven months to the hearing. There is a twenty-six week period set for report-writing - six months in anyone's money - and that leaves a month for me to get to open prison before I begin the reports. IF I begin them in this prison then I am not allowed to leave this place until all reports are done and I've had the hearing!  IF that should happen, imagine the Prison Service going before the Parole Board and saying, "We haven't even complied with your  last instructions yet!"

So, the next few weeks could be interesting.

However, that's not all, I have even MORE news - IF it can be called news and is of any interest to anyone other than myself. I entered the Koestler Awards again this year and I have just been informed that I have won Platinum this year. That's my fourth literary win, my fourth award!  Now, I'm not being clever here, I'm not that egotistical (I hope), but four awards for writing isn't bad for a poor white  boy from the ghetto. I'm still a poor white boy but I no longer belong to any ghetto - no self-respecting ghetto would have me  for a start.

It got me to thinking about things in a reflective way. Over the years in jail I have studied hard and worked hard on my writings, often and usually in the face of great opposition and obstruction from the Prison Service. Despite all of that opposition, I have still managed three degrees, several certificates of excellence for computer studies, I've mentored several youngsters and helped to turn their lives around, I've turned my own life around and written lots of stuff, winning four literary awards along the way. Imagine how far I might have gone IF the Prison Service had encouraged and assisted just a little bit!

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem entitled 'IF'. I think the last verse covers it all admirably:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son! 
The Voice In The Wilderness