SHORT EXTRACT FROM MY NEW BOOK LIFE OF SENTENCES, OUT NEXT MONTH

Alan had actually approached meto ask if I might be interested in becoming the Chapel Orderly in the prison chapel.I was undecided at first but having taken counsel from a couple of prison officers I’d accepted the job, pointing out that although I had a strong personal faith I was in now way a Christian.
I actually started the job on 4th November and was very quickly impressed by the warmth of the chaplaincy team. The more I got into the job the more I felt I was part of a team doing a very important job.I also found myself very impressed by the warmth and obvious happiness of the many Christian visitors who attended the chapel from the outside community and their apparent sincerity.
But then the doors opened, not the cell doors but the doors f my mind. There was no blinding flash of light, no fanfare of trumpets, no vision of angels or anything like that. I simply lounged on my bed and I heard myself talking to the Boss, that’s what I called my God until then, and to be honest still do sometimes.I heard myself saying “okay, I’m not going to fight any longer. I am yours, from this point I give myself totally to you and from now on I am going to trust you completely. I’m in your hands, use me.”
And that was it, almost immediatly I experienced such an overpowering feeling of love and peace, so much power that I could feel it radiating deep from my inner self engulfing me totally. I have no doubt whatsoever that the power of the Holy Spirit was ll pervading. My command of the English language isn’t sufficient for me to actually describethe feeling I experienced, perhaps the nearest i could come to iti to saythat it felt as if a warm, luxuriant air ws flowing through every part of my body. I didn’t just tingle, I buzzed!

PRISON SUICIDES

We are constantly bombarded with the statisics for prison suicides and rightly so.
However a constant stream of statistics really doesn’t achieve anything. Yes, we need to know but we would be much better off trying to have some positive effect in bringing the numbers down. I have worked in the past for some time as a Listener so have first hand knowledge of suicides in prison.Full details will be found in my new book A LIFE OF SENTENCES due out later this year.
To summarise it is wrong to blame the prison system per se for what is happening. Of course in individual cases there may have been failings and negligence but it is totally nonsensical to blame the system. It seems to me that too many individual and organisations do nothing but criticise, much of the time for criticism sake. What we all need to do is work together to come up with positive ideas to address the problem.
We all know there is a great deal wrong with the prison system as it is today but we won’t achieve anything by constantly making negative comments about it.
There are things that can be doe but it will take strong campaigning and action not constantly trying to score semi political points by being the media face of prison change.

NO PRISON FOR DRUGS POSSESSION

Nick (Mr U turn) Clegg has announced in the Lib Dem manifesto that drug users shouldn’t be imprisoned for drugs possession. So what’s new, ah, an election just around he corner, time to promote unpopular policies in the hope of scoring headlines which equal extra political points!!
That apart though it is very much about time that the law was changed to ensure that those convicted of possessing drugs, even class A, for their own use should not be imprisoned rather given treatment for their addiction. After all people have never been sent to prison for being drunk.
The problem though is that very few prison sentences are actually given for possession alone. It is usually the case that offences are committed whilst under the influence (of either drink or drugs) and if imprisonment is justified for those offences theaddiction, whilst it clearly should be taken as a mitigating factor, should never be allowed to be used as an excuse.
The broad principle is right but before implementation there has to be a great deal of research and management.
We must always remember too that apart from in very rare cases no one is forced to take drugs. That is a choice they have made and they have to have some responsibility for that deciision.

SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS

I s any more proof needed that government are more interested in profits than people than the use of so called impact bonds within the prisons private sector?
Already these have ben proven to be failing beyond any reasonable expectations. Once again the only answer is to de-privatise but of course that would affect the profitsof tory supporting contarctors.

HELP FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS

There are many wonderful organisations in the voluntary sector working with young offenders and I genuinely and sincerely applaud all their efforts. Would that government would also support these groups with resources instaed of constantly chopping fundings.
One aspect I would like to see would be these organisations and any organisation working in the CJ field make a dtermined effort to make far more use of ex offenders as a positive resource. I do feel that this particular group of people have a very positive contribution to make. They have the experience but far more they have the respect of young offenders who can relate to them.
I’ve worked as a listener in prison and I know jsut how much more other offenders open up to people who they see as in their own peer group.
Society generally tend to forget that all offenders, whoever they are or whatever they’ve done, are individuals each with an individual story, each with an individual personality and all of who need understanding.
I am not in any way endorsing their offending and there are occasions when the offence is so abhorrent that it is hard to look at the offender as a person but that is what we must do. No one is born to offend, their subsequent offending is the result of differing sets of circumstances which have led them down a certain road, each one down a different road but sadly ending up in the same place.
I am a Christian, and proud of it, but the same applies to any creed, it is only by not judging and approaching the situation with an open mind that we can help offenders and as a consequence help society. We must show true pure Christian love if we are to succeed and make any progress. At the end of the day, who are we as individuals to judge other individuals, better to allow an open mind to be the guiding principle.

GLEN PARVA

The Chief Inspector of Prisons has today published a very damning report about HMYOI Glen Parva as no doubt readers of this post will have seen in the media.
This doesn’t surprise me at all, in fact from my own research I would suggest that this represents just the tip of a very big and dangerous iceberg.
I would suggest that a similar situation exists in every YOI in the country and the situation is going to get very much worse.
As regular readers of this blog will know I regularly lay the blame for what is happeing at the feet of Chris Grayling and his Ministry of Justice. On this occasion though I have to say that the problem has existed for many years before the present MoJ was even opened.
Glen Parva’s problems started the day it opened and even before that serious problems of a similar nature existed at places like Feltham.
Once again this illustrates a total lack of forensic forward planning. In the heady days of the fifties and sixties prisons were reasonably quiet and in some senses effective. Simple logic then if they work for the adult prison population a similar system will work for young offenders. Wrong, very wrong, the two groups are totally different and need different treatments.
Has no one at the then prison department been made aware of the differences between adult offender and youngsters? It’s hardly rocket science to realise that what is good for one isn’t in any way suitable for the other.
Then to add further fuel to the fire someone had the bright idea that larger establishments were more effective. Again, as has been demonstrated so many times since that theory is totally at odds with reality. Of course there then followed privatisation, a totally destructive cancer which is more and more working its way through the system.
We have to make radical changes to the thinking in this particular sphere of public management. No longer can we add piecemeal projects to the system and hope that all will become right with time. It won’t, things will continue to go downhill until before very long the wholesystem implodes upon itself.
The whole thing needs to change but specifically in the young offenders field action is very urgently needed.
Society cannot lock thousands of young people into a melting pot like Glen Parva without there being consequences. The youngsters have on the whole come from an undisciplioned society where they are allowed to run free and allow their animal instincts to run wild without any fear of penalties, to be suddenly locked away with many hundreds of others with the same lack of controls and guidance is a disaster.
We ahve to get back to a society where discipline isn’t a dirty word, where parents can chastise their children without fear of being dragged before a court of law and where no means no.
Childhood is a period of learning and of growing and of training for the future.Part of that revolves around discipline and society must reintroduce discipline into every day life. Teachers and schools must be allowed to instil and maintain discipline and if this means returing the cane to schools then so be it. It is not in a child’s interests to allow it to run free until he or she has learned the parameters of behaviour that normal people in society expect. No doubt I will be called a reactionary but in fact I am a realist, a child without discipline is missing a massively important part of his education.