Category A (Psychology)
# 2. Mattress
This one is yet another example of how going about things in a courteous manner can lead to a malicious C-Nomis entry when dealing with the ‘wrong’ officer.
The mattresses we use here are made of memory foam; although, it soon starts to forget. Any kind of support goes within 12 months. We can apply for a replacement mattress; historically, every 12 months. A Governor’s notice came out with the new protocol: your mattress had to be assessed as needing replacing by a landing officer, who would authorise this on your application. This I did. The application was returned with a note saying that I was not eligible for one until the following year (that would be 2 years).
I spoke with the officer who had rejected my application, to find out why they are not following the Governor’s instructions. Despite being courteous, they very quickly became defensive and evasive. I offered to show them the Governor’s notice but they declined. Eventually, they admitted that it was the store man, not a CM or Governor as they had been implying, who had told that mattresses would only be issued every 2 years. There was nothing to indicate that they had an issue with me or how I had approached the issue. This is the C-Nomis entry they made:
“Approached me regarding a request he has submitted for a new mattress…which I rejected. He was issued with a new one in May of last year and as the life expectancy of the mattress is 2 years, he is not eligible. I explained this to graham [sic] who wasn’t happy with my reply, and kept referring to Gov […] and a notice of which I am not aware. He was quite arrogant in his attitude, and questioned every answer I gave him. When I informed him this came from the person who deals with mattresses and he was at the last staff briefing we had and gave instruction supported by management, he was disgusted at the fact that I had taken instruction from a ‘store man?’ Displayed ideas above his position. Mr Coutts often forgets he is in prison and subject to certain expected behaviour.”
Oh, where to start on this one. Firstly, after our conversation I submitted an application to the Governor in question and was issued with a new mattress
without any further delay.
Secondly, “arrogant?” I am not aware of ever being referred to as “arrogant” in nearly 15 years of prison. Sure, as a young man I could be prone to arrogance; which is why I know with certainty that has not been the case since my early twenties; life soon knocks it out of you. Besides which, one dictionary definition of arrogant is “ having an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance or ability.” Could this not be applied to someone who makes a C-Nomis entry stating: “Displayed ideas above his position.” What century is this? Apparently, I also often forget I am in prison and subject to certain expected behaviour. Well, I have been an “enhanced” prisoner for about 95% of the last, nearly, 15 years; a level only achieved by prisoners whose behaviour is of the highest standard.
This C-Nomis entry only makes sense when you are aware that this officer has a history of making malicious C-Nomis entries when appropriately challenged by prisoners who are articulate. In fact, I am aware of at least 2 other guys who also had accusations of ‘arrogant’ thrown at them; guys who are, like me, courteous and able to articulate a cogent argument. I was subsequently told, by one who ‘in the know,’ that this officer feels is intimidated by anyone who has some form of intellect.
Given what I knew about this officer, I felt that any further conversation, no matter how I approached it, would lead to yet more defensiveness and another possible malicious file entry.
I dealt with it via the provisions within the Data Protection Act 1998; specifically the 4th Principle which provides that: “4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.” This allows a data subject (me) to have their dispute and opinion also entered on C-Nomis.
After a complaint requesting that, under the DPA98, an additional entry be made, which was refused by a wing SO (something they have no authority to do), and an appeal, the following entry was added to C-Nomis;
“… Mr Coutts, comments are as follows. ‘I dispute her claim that I was ‘arrogant’ and ‘disgusted’. I only asked further questions as I felt she had become defensive and, as a result, evasive, and that she refused my offer to show her Governor […]’s notice, which would have given her the correct protocol to follow, not the incorrect instructions she had followed.’ …”
What should then happen, as per advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office, is that both entries should be connected to avoid any further processing of inaccurate data. In other words, just by copying this inaccurate data onto their report, without reference to the further C-Nomis , Psychology have breached the DPA98; as well as making me out to be a thoroughly unpleasant individual. Now, why would they want to do a mean thing like that? Interestingly, Psychology didn’t copy the part of the entry in which this officer stated that I had “displayed ideas above [my] position.” Perhaps, because it says more about that officer’s attitude towards me than it does about my attitude towards them.
Be happy, be safe.
Graham Coutts, 29th October 2017