The title of this blog is my perspective of hope. A quick search of the Googles and the Cambridge Dictionary informs me that their definition is: ‘to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might:‘ (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/)
It is all too easy to take a quick glance at our criminal justice system and think “fuck em! lock em up and throw away the key” or the other statement of “if they can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” especially when the tabloids are thier only source of research. Had I not spent the time I did trapped in our criminal justice system and read the tabloids, then who knows? Maybe I would share those views. BUT! I was and I don’t, therefore, I also do not share those views and to be honest, I’m glad I wasn’t that shortsighted. I would have preferred that I had based my research on something else rather than an ethnographic approach, however, it is what it is and I now see the time I spent in prison as a privilege.
I would like you to remember that people in prison are who society, through the courts, deem are too unfit to walk our streets for a specified or unspecified amount of time, temporarily removing an individual from society to protect the public. I am aware there are several people in prison serving whole-life tariffs – sixty something I think it is, though technically perhaps there are more – but we know those on a whole-life tariff will never be released. Is it, therefore, any wonder that disturbances take place in prison regularly? Should we be that shocked over the levels of violence, self-harm and suicides in our prisons? Think about it. For argument’s sake, let’s say a particular prison has a population of 1,000 people locked up within its walls. A parish made up of some proper naughty people surrounded and enclosed by locked gates and high walls. One way to enter and one way to leave. Through the guarded gate. There are many pathways to prison, but only one gate to go through at the end of the path. There are many pathways out of prison, but only one gate to go through at the end of the path. Personally, although it can change in seconds and usually only for seconds, it shocks me how well prison environments do run in the main. It is difficult to explain the sense of community one feels in prison. A community in which I learnt how to become a better person than I was on the other side of the wall. Apparently where I was free to be who I was. Hmm! I found more freedom in prison to be who I was than I ever did in society. It’s why I went back when it all went totally tits-up for me out here.
I’m not asking for you to understand the prison environment, or at least my perspective of it. People in prison and people who have been in prison all experience prison through their own lens. The more stories of life inside we hear then, the more I’d like to think people could understand the prison environment. However, to fully understand an environment you have to see it for yourself, although I wouldn’t advise a prison environment. It ain’t Butlins, you know, regardless of what you’ve read. What I am asking for is a little more understanding as to the people behind the wall. If for nothing else, make it for selfish reasons. The sooner we can get someone who has fallen (one silly mistake or one poor decision is all it need take) into the criminal justice system, and into prison, back out of it, then the sooner there will be fewer victims of crime. We will not just reduce reoffending but we will also reduce the astronomical cost to the taxpayer reoffending costs. Real savings where the money saved could be spent elsewhere.
On average, 60,000 people are released from prison each year. Could you imagine the size of our prison estate if we did “lock em up and throw away the key”. Or the sign at Dover docks “Welcome to HMP GB and NI”.