March 2015

“Hello friend,

Well, that was an unnecessary 3 months to ( almost but not quite) resolve the issue with the following blog. The details of which will be disclosed over the next few blogs. The upshot is, there are certain parties who are attempting to suppress factual information ( which I have previously blogged about anyway ) which reflect negatively on the staff involved. I have been informed that “[…] any allusion to [CENSORED BY HMP WAKEFIELD] and the suggestion, veiled or otherwise, that it may have [CENSORED BY HMP WAKEFIELD} will not be permitted within any correspondence.”

This instruction was issued to me by the Head of Corruption Prevention… yes friends you heard right – Head of Corruption Prevention. Stay tuned to find out just how far they are willing to go to cover these facts up.

Graham Coutts, 26th July 2015

1st – 15th March 2015

Hello friend,

I dread this period of the year. The 14th March marks 12 years since the nightmare begun. I’m not just talking about my own purgatory. My thoughts, as always, are with those who have been most devastated by their loss.

As for myself, over the years I have tended to get locked into reliving that whole horrible 5 week period up until the 19th April. I used to think that this was part of my penance for my reckless stupidity and I had to serve it in order to somehow ‘ cleanse ‘ myself. Over the years, I have realised how corrosive it is to my spirit to be consumed with remorse. In the end this just becomes self – indulgent and is painful to watch for those closest to me.

“ The one thing which even a god cannot do is to make undone what has been
done .”
( Agathon )

The only positive step forward I can take, for myself and those around me, is to live in the present. I’m not talking about forgetting the past but there comes a time when thinking and talking about it becomes counter – productive and emotionally unhealthy. For all of us, the past will always influence our present and future decisions and actions but we have to be aware of this and take control of any negativity which arises.

Unfortunately, my emotional control, which has taken years, is now misinterpreted by naïve and uninformed ( mainly but not exclusively ) trainee psychologists as a lack of remorse. If they only knew.

Data Protection Act 1998 ( DPA98 )

Over the past 3 years my prison law solicitor has made a number of DPA98 requests for the personal data which the prison service holds on me. These can be all sorts of files, from ‘ property cards’ to ‘telephone logs’ to my ‘C-Nomis’ file ( a computer based file on which staff make regular entries about my behaviour ). Given my current issues with HMP Wakefield ( see previous blogs ), the most relevant of these is my security file.

Unfortunately, the DPA98 allow exemptions to the standard disclosure of personal data. So when I received my security files it was 3 sides of A4 with, bar a couple of entries, all of the data blacked out ( redacted ).

Under the DPA98, you are entitled to get false data removed if you can provide proof that it is untrue or, at the very least, have your complaint attached to the offending entry. Of course, you cannot do either of them if the data is not disclosed.

Invariably, anything of a negative nature ( just the sorts of entries you need to see to challenge any inaccuracies ) is redacted. This allows for a whole false prison history to be built up layer by layer over many years and leads to just the sort of absurdities I’ve been writing about in my past few blogs.

These negative and inaccurate entries could be a matter of incompetence or ( in the case of HMP Frankland issues ) be driven by more pernicious motives. It’s very easy for a discontented member of staff with a grudge to make a false allegation against a prisoner, be automatically believed because of their position of trust, and be protected from any legitimate challenge by redacting their allegation. It’s like trying to fight thin air.

So what can you do? Well, I sent the redacted documents back to the MoJs Data Access and Compliance Unit and asked them to confirm which DPA98 exemption they had applied. When they replied they confirmed some ( but not all) of the exemptions they had applied and (what do you know) they had unredacted some of my security file. It would seem, as I had suspected, data which was not exempted from disclosure had been unlawfully redacted. As I know what some of the other redacted entries are about I know they are also not exempted from disclosure. So why not disclose them to me? C’mon, you’re smarter than that…join the dots.

My next step is to get the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to Investigate. I’ll keep you posted.

My Prison Journals * CENSORED BY HMP WAKEFIELD

I wrote about this issue n my November 2014 blog. My intention was to Judicially Review (JR) the decision of HMP Wakefield’s security manager (the * of the * – see my previous blogs on this), and therefore the Secretary of State for Justice, for refusing to return the 2 journals to my possession.

So, I sent them a ‘ letter before claim’ ( LBC ) to which I received no reply. So I filed my JR application with the Court and served it on the defendant. Then a couple of days later I was informed that my journals had been received by HMP Wakefield’s reception the previous week and were available for issue to me. This had happened after my LBC but before my JR application.

I’ll keep you posted and fill in more of the details at a later date – when all is resolved ( hopefully ).

Scrabble Club

Following my 1st – 14th February 2015 blog – one of the landing officers spoke to Security, as thy hadn’t replied o my application asking why my Scrabble club application had been declined for ‘security reasons’. They claimed that they had not received my application. More interestingly, the Senior Officer that was spoken to could see no security reason why I could not attend. The plot thickens. I submitted another application to Security.

Safety First ?

There seems be an ongoing issue on this wing with certain staff not opening the kitchen at lunchtime for prisoners to use unless there are 3 officers on that landing.

The other day the kitchen had been shut for the rather nebulous reasons of ‘Health and Safety’. It turned out that the legitimate reason of ‘ Health and Safety’ was used to cover what was in fact a punishment for the whole wing as someone had not cleaned up after themselves. This primitive strategy is used a lot in these places. However, it invariably leads to confrontation and violence. Ill-conceived and asinine. Clearly some of the staff do not want prisoners to supplement their meagre lunchtime ration by having access to the kitchen.

However, when it comes to their own lunch all safety considerations go out of the window. It was brought to my attention that, in order to get off the wing quickly and avoid the lunchtime rush, these very same officers dispense with the correct safety protocols. When we get unlocked the cell door bolt is put back on so we cannot shut the door. When we get locked up they are only meant to take the bolt off if we are in our cells before shutting and re- bolting the door. What these officers had done was to go around early and take the bolt off so when lock-up was called they would save time by only having to shut the door.

“So what?” I hear you ask. The reason these protocols are in place is to stop prisoners taking hostages. By taking the bolt off early, these very same officers who are concerned about safety are putting at risk prisoners ( and their own colleagues ). It gets worse. There have been 2 fairly recent prison homocides in which the assailant was able to shut and bolt ( this happens automatically ) the cell door trapping the other prisoner inside with him.

Should the prison service be employing people who prioritise their lunch over the safety of prisoners and staff.
Flatscreen TV’s

On a more positive note…for some unknown reason, there has been a prison wide upgrade from some pretty awful portable TV’s to 16 inch flat screen TV’s. It hasn’t stopped some of the guys in here moaning about the picture ( it’s better than my last TV which had developed a purple-ish hue on the left-hand side ) and that the channels aren’t tuned in to the corresponding station number ( at least they’re tuned ).

For those of you who are interested, we get BBC1, BBC2, ITV, ITV2 ITV4, Channel 5, and BBC News 24. Other establishments can have alternatives to ITV2 and ITV4. When I was on accumulated visits to HMP Edinburgh all the Freeview channels were available. I’m not sure why they don’t allow this in English prisons, at least we’d get BBC4.

Incentives and Earned Privileges ( IEP ) review.

I had my yearly IEP review. This was to determine whether I would stay Enhanced (the highest level) or be reduced to Standard (or even the dreaded Basic). Well, I kept my Enhanced but what a terribly demeaning system for a 45 year old mature adult. It really is like being at school and going to see the headmaster. As I left, the Senior Officer said, “Well done Couttsy, keep it up.” As if it wasn’t al patronising enough.

Music

The music ‘collective’ did a little concert for the over- 60s club. It was a typical afternoon of low-key acoustic tinged Pop and Rock. Interspersed with the murmur of uninterested chatter and the clinking of dominoes. At least we got some doughnuts and cookies this time.

We lost 2 members f the Improvement Through Music band. So we’re temporarily down to 3 prisoners and the instructor. I thought about doing the Steve Reich piece – ‘clapping music for two performers’. After I got the score, I’m not so sure now. What a challenge. The second part, which me being me is the part I want to do, is the most head-spinning. Each 6/4 bar lasts for 12 repeats and then the second part shifts by an 8th note whilst the first part remains the same. This 8th note shift goes on through the whole piece until the 13th bar where the 8th note shifts back to what you were clapping in the 1st bar. That’s a lot of clapping !

Jim-Jams

The most exciting to happen this fortnight was receiving my tartan pyjama bottoms. The colours almost completely match the blue and pink tartan of my Print Shop mug (see 1st – 15th January 2015 blog) So now, of an evening-time, I swank around my cell in my jim-jams, dressing gown, cravat (not really), monocle (!), mug in hand, quoting Noel Coward….dear boy.

Be happy, be safe, see you next time.
Graham Coutts, 20th March 2015

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