16th – 31st August 2015
Someone said to me recently that I over think things; that I should go with the flow. Well…I used to. I guess, in one sense, I was what might be called bohemian. It’s almost unavoidable as a musician in Brighton. So anyway, my point is: where has ‘going with the flow’ got me? I now analyse everything before making a decision. I’m not sure if it is better or worse, but I’m certainly more productive.
I need a metaphor of being swept down a river. You can go with the flow of the river and get washed out to sea, which is fine if you are ok with that, or you can fight against the current to get to the riverbank. I will always fight to my dying breath for the things I believe in and the people I love. Of course, if there is nothing or no-one in your life that is that important ‘go with the flow’; get washed out to sea and give up on the fight. I’m not sighing and shaking my head in disappointment. Some people give up too easily.
I remain ever hopeful that one day I will be confounded.
Journals Judicial Review
Following on from last month: I had a meeting with a Custody Manager and then a Governor. They both agreed that the prison could not stop my letter and evidence being sent to the defendant; therefore, Security’s decision was outside their authority
(ultra vires) and, by extension, unlawful (another one – brilliant!). Are you starting to see a pattern emerging here? Being targeted perhaps?
They agreed to send the letter by fax the following day.
So, I had my costs hearing. Not what I expected. The defendants didn’t even turn up. Not sure why? Maybe they thought I’d be awarded nothing or next to nothing (which is just what happened).
The Civil Procedure Rules allow for a litigant in person to charge £19 per hour. This has been set as a reasonable amount irrespective of your employment. So, someone who makes £100k per year is allowed to claim the same £19 per hour as someone who is on benefits.
What happened at the hearing was the Judge awarded me £60 in costs. I’d spent over 50 hours drafting the JR application. After taking off my postage and photocopying costs you are left with £31.99, which equates to 63p per hour! That is the value of a prisoner litigant in person…I’ll say it again…63p per hour! My current prison wages pay an hourly rate of about 72p per hour. Prison wages are nothing short of sanctioned slave labour. Many European countries pay at least their minimum wage, which allows prisoners to save for their release, thereby lowering recidivism rates. That’s progressive thinking. So I wasn’t even awarded that. I wonder, had I been an employed member of the public would my time be valued more? I am certain that if costs were awarded to the MoJ they would have run into the thousands, and they would have got them.
This is yet another example of the dehumanising of prisoners.
Sex Offenders Treatment Programme (SOPT)
This is another issue I’ve been wanting to blog about for some time; however, this is a bit of a saga. So, I’m going to break it down into smaller posts.
Let’s start with this: I am not a sex offender; neither in law nor in fact. Yet, I am treated as if I am one. The SOTP is a course that has haunted me over the past few years. The assessment for this course first appeared on one of my sentence plans around 2008 at HMP Frankland. Sentence plans contain targets for the prisoner to achieve which theoretically, will reduce their ‘risk’. I put ‘risk’ in apostrophes purely because this can be and is subjective. Despite my risk being assessed as low on their various algorithms and tests Iam still a Category A prisoner:
“A Category A prisoner is a prisoner whose escape would be highly dangerous to
the public, or the police or the security of the State, and for whom the aim must
be to make escape impossible.”
(PSI 08/2013 2.1)
So why the contradiction between my low risk and being Category A? Simply because prison Psychology has somehow mesmerised the system into believing that they hold all the answers. Put another way, if you don’t do their courses, you don’t progress. In their own brainwashed delusions they genuinely believe that no prisoner can reduce or manage their risk without their interventions. It appears, however, that the decision makers have failed to notice that, despite being in prisons since the early 1990s, Psychology have made no impact of any significance on recidivism. The 2 year rate is still just under 50%.
As I post more blogs on this particular subject, you will see how questionable the efficicacy is of the SOTP; many reports. Also, why Psychology are so insistent that I do this course when every official party and PSIs/guidance say this avenue is not appropriate and I am not eligible. By the end, you may see Psychology as nothing more snake-oil salespeople who, for the past 25 years or so, have, and continue to perpetrate the ongoing deception that they are the ‘cure’ to criminality.
In an effort to deal with an Officer’s petty little comment implying that I was some sort of serial complainer, I got a print out of my complaints since my arrival here. Interestingly, there has been 18 against HMP Frankland (a lot of loose ends) and 18 against HMP Wakefield; 5 were due to departments failing to answer applications; 7 were regarding security issues; 3 were about my treatment when I had my heart attack; and 15 in total were about issues that involved current or future legal action. On average, I’ve submitted 1 complaint every 10 weeks against this prison; 5 per year. Here’s the number of complaints for the past 4 years (from a Freedom of Information Act request):
Year HMP Frankland HMP Wakefield
2011 not known 5442
2012 5709 4625
2013 5304 4903
2014 4491 5565
So, for 2014, the average number of complaints per prisoner at HMP Wakefield was 8 (5565 divided by 700-ish prisoners). I’m not only well below the average, but it also demonstrates that what I blog about is the tip of a rather enormous iceberg. Both of these prisons clearly have systemic issues which need to be addressed.
They have a ‘personal officer scheme’ throughout the prison estate. Supposedly, this system is meant to be for the good of both sides. The prisoner has a ‘go to’ officer if they need anything sorting out and can develop a rapport with them. The officer is then in a better position to write reports and file entries on the prisoner as they have gotten to know them better. Although, in terms of weight, their reports are dismissed in favour of psychologists (mostly trainees) who may only spend 1 hour per year with the prisoner.
Since arriving in HMP Wakefield 43 months ago, my personal officers have changed at least 7 times that I know of and can remember. I say “know of” as you are never informed in writing and only rarely does the officer inform you that they are your personal officer. Some have been great but some have been completely uninterested in developing any kind of professional relationship with me.
Well, I’ve just had another change of personal officer. It bodes well as he introduced himself to me and appeared to be very pleasant and interested. Time will tell.
Since coming to this prison, I have had a raft of health problems. Is it the prison or is it just the accumulation of years of prison and the accompanying stress? One of these is some seriously painful episodes of stomach problems. I’ve had a whole battery of tests, including blood tests and an echogram, No diagnosis. Finally, I had an upper-GI endoscopy (18 months after referral). Horrible, horrible, horrible! My gag reflex went into overdrive. Who thinks up these medieval procedures? Sticking a snake-like camera down your throat – what was I thinking?! Anyway, nothing of note. So, still no answers.
Multi-media arts project
I got the go ahead to arrange a prisoner/staff meeting to discuss the viability of this project. This is positive news.
I’m very sad. My prison law solicitor, Catherine, has moved into teaching law. Without a doubt, she has been the best prison law solicitor I have ever had. Over the past 3 years she has proved herself time and time again as someone who is genuinely passionate, empathetic, committed and an expert at what she does. She has brilliantly handled my various moods and managed my slightly obsessive eye for detail. Although we hadn’t yet got the results we wanted, I feel sure that this will happen from the hard work she has put into my case.
Catherine, thank you so much, it was a pleasure, and I wish you all success and happiness you surely deserve.
Be happy, be safe, and see you next time.
Graham Coutts. 4th September 2015