Have you noticed just how cheesy the songs are that TV adverts are using at the moment? If it’s not some guy with his ukulele dum-de-dum-de-dumming his way through hackneyed rhymes that have been shoehorned in, it’s the slowed-down minimalist cover, with a fragile and ethereal girls voice. The new low point is a guy singing “You’re the One that I Want”. It’s awful (another childhood memory destroyed_. I think it’s the sheer mawkishness of these tunes that gets under my skin. I’m an old school musician who likes nothing more than listening tro (or playing) what I like to call “adrenaline rock’n’roll”. I’m often to be found with my headphones on full blast, dancing like a dolphin thrashing about in a tuna net (yes, still at my age). That’s not to say I don’t like lots of other music. I’m particularly fond of the melodic vocal harmony. Combine that with “adrenaline rock’n’roll” and you’re got “powerpop”.
To illustrate how influence I have been by “powerpop” (neat link, huh?) check out the SONGS AND MUSIC page (which hopefully will be active this month) and download LITTLE BY LITTLE.
Something I’ve witnessed many times in prison is that whenever a member of staff behaves in a less than professional manner (aggression, provocation, inappropriateness, etc) it’s always the prisoner who ends up taking the blame. Even if their behaviour has been faultless. Prisoners are extremely vulnerable to this kind of insidious attack as staff information is graded as ‘reliable’ but prisoner information is seen as ‘unreliable’. Very often, file information isn’t even disclosed to the prisoner. This creates a situation where they are powerless to challenge any file entries that are not true. These false or inaccurate entries can impact negatively on the prisoner’s quality of prison life and add years to their progression through sentence to release.
I have had personal experience of this whilst at HMP Frankland in 2011. It all started with a member of staff telling what was ostensibly a ‘little white lie’ to cover up their behaviour towards me, which would have been deemed inappropriate.This would’ve been a minor non-issue outside but in here it was very serious and damaging.No action was taken against me until I challenged this through the internal complaints system. There then ensued a 9 month war of attrition waged against me by middle and senior management (legally termed as ‘malice’) as I continued to challenge their misconduct, which I documented in my journals (which were finally seized and to date HMP Frankland have refused to return). I will be detailing this undignified matter on this site at a later date. It will give a real insight into what is nothing short of a totalitarian state. In fact, the Guardian once wrote that prisoners are the only section of society that lives in a totalitarian state.
After HMP Frankland manufactured , through unlawful means, a reason to transfer me out of their establishment, I arrived at HMP Wakefield. After 22 weeks behind my door with no job, I was finally employed in the Education department as a student. This led to a position as an Education mentor, which earned me a positive IEP (Incentives and Earned Privileges) for my work. However, in July 2013, for reasons the Security department refuse to disclose, I was removed without warning from my position (totalitarianism).
At the beginning of this year, I was allowed to attend Education as a student. However, once again I was removed without warning or reason. After several weeks of asking the question, “why?”, I was finally given a grain of informatioon. I was removed because of “information from a previous establishment (which) raised concerns over your interactions with Education Staff” (Security SO, 05/11/2014). I was also verbally informed that Security had said that it was “out of the question” that I returned as an Education mentor.
Where to begin? Firstly, whilst I was still at HMP Frankland, several witnesses provided statements for the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman which disproved this”information”. Secondly, this “information” goes back to 2011. Security cleared me for Education in 2012 and then as an Education mentor in 2013. They also allowed me back on at the beginning of this year (all despite the “information” they reference). Thirdly, I have never been anything other than conscientious and hard working, and certainly never aggressive or inappropriate. So what “interactions” “raised concerns”? Good question. Don’t expect Security to answer that one anytime soon as there is no foundation to their claim. They can act with impunity as they answer to no-one (totalitarian).
So what is this all about? Well, this is an environment driven by fear and paranoia, which can only lead to irrational and disproportionate decisions. I’m a warm, friendly and (occasionally) witty person (with no agenda). It has become apparent to me that if you don’t dispense with your humanity, and become a soulless automaton, you become a target.
Further, there is never any “due diligence” from the Security department (or the Psychology department for that matter). You are found guilty with little or no investigation, no opportunity to discuss the issues, “interactions” or “concerns”, and left to stew in a vat of stress and anxiety. It is little wonder that so many prisoners develop mental health problems and have violent outbursts. Although, in the interests of clarity, I don’t do violent outbursts but I have experienced just how stressful these issues can become.
So what has been achieved here by Security? They have removed me from a job I am good at and enjoy, consequently turned a win-win situation for the prison, Education staff, the students and myself into a lose-lose. However, as with every challenge in my life, I am not prone to wallowing in self-pity. Life is imperfect. errors of judgment are made as they have been here. Sometimes, life just deals you a bad hand., The only positive step to take is to pick yourself up and find the positives in your own personal reality.
There has recently been a change in the IT risk assessment. The rumour is that a prisoner in some other prison gained access to the internet. Despite never having been to any illegal sites, never having abused IT over the past 11 years+ I’ve been in prison, and none of the computers even being connected to the internet, I am deemed too high a risk to use IT in prison because the Judge at my retrial said I had been “trawling” internet sites. I’m not even allowed to go into a room with a computer, as are many others who have been caught in this umbrella for similarly tenuous reasons. Maybe there is a fear of someone accessing pornographic web sites. If that is the case, perhaps they should stop prisoners buying pornographic magazines (yes, they can buy them). If this is the reason, perhaps Security should check out which guys are interested in this sort of material. If they did they would see that I’ve never bought any pornography in all the time I’ve been in prison. It is of no interest. Surprised? You shouldn’t believe everything you hear from the media (or the prosecution). They make their careers and fortunes from histrionics and hyperbole.
The prison host 4 “family days” throughout the year. These are special visit days which last for about 4 hours (instead of the usual 1 and a half hours) and are more relaxed affairs. A buffet is made by the prisoners and there are various activities that take place. My Mother made the 13 hour round trip to visit. I played a few acoustic tunes. My vegetarianism seemed to cause some consternation – “do you want some scampi?”, “no thanks, I don’t eat meat”, “it’s fish”, “Yes, fish meat!”. Then when I plated up some stilton and broccoli quiche I was met with “stilton’s got feelings as well y’know” (ha, ha, very witty – nock the veggie).
I will be meeting with Mark (Newby, Jordans Solicitors) on 2nd December. I hope to report some positive news. However, it is looking likely that my CCRC application won’t now be submitted until next year. I am still hopeful that,should my appeal be successful, I will be out on appeal by 2016.
Finally, should you wish to show your support, please feel free to send me a Christmas card. This small gesture has such a powerful and positive impact on my life in here.
Be happy, be safe, see you next time.
Graham Coutts 14th November 2014