Making friends has never been a part of ‘what can be’, mainly because I knew that, along the way, I will make friends. New friends, that is, as I gave most of my old ‘friends’ up. I had to, for me. So, I’ve not been afraid of what to talk about or what to share, especially when it comes to campaigning for a better criminal justice system along with a better education system. The two are inextricably linked.
No one is born a criminal, you become a criminal, but does someone have to be a criminal? Of course not, however, people do commit crime and for a list of reasons. Reasons that some perceive as excuses, but are they?
Along with having lived experience, you also get heard experience, and my years in prison, along with the roles I covered, provided me with both. Though I heard many histories from people I lived in prison with, they are not my histories to tell. However, through the histories I heard it wasn’t difficult to see several themes emerging. One’s, I should add, that made me realise I wasn’t the only one. I can’t say it was everyone I spoke to, but the majority and I shared so many commonalities. Sexual abuse as a child, school exclusion, inquisitive crimes leading onto bigger, riskier, crimes, especially if mixing with the ‘wrong’ crowd. I didn’t have a parent in prison and both my parents loved me, so had no commonalities there but it was still a theme where people in prison came from broken homes, care homes, or from the streets. Experiencing homelessness was something I could relate to but being brought up in care was alien to me, having said that I did spend time in a children’s home.
Even serial killers were once innocent children, is something I often quote because it’s true. They were. Unless of course you believe people are born evil, which I don’t.
On Thursday, July 28, the first televised sentencing to take place, something I didn’t first agree with, we saw Judge Sarah Munro QC sentence 25-year-old, Ben Oliver, to life imprisonment with a recommendation, Ben, will have to serve 9 years and 3 months before being considered for a parole that I can’t ever see Ben getting; and even if he did, with the power the government now have, they would challenge Ben’s release. No doubt, successfully.
I do not condone the crimes, Ben, was, and has been, convicted of. I am also not forgetting the victims, Ben, created because of his actions.
And that’s the point, Ben, became a victim at the hands of others, adults who were supposed to protect him. Judge Munro summed up everything that had happened to, Ben, and getting back to my point of at first not agreeing with cameras in court, especially for a case like, Ben’s, what this case did was place a massive spotlight on everything that is wrong with not just our criminal justice system but also us as a society.
I will share the link to Ben’s sentencing and if you watch it, or have seen it, if you can, do not look at how horrible the crimes were look behind the crimes.
Look at Ben’s history. A history not too dissimilar to the ones I mentioned above. I’m not suggesting that everyone with a similar history will go onto commit crime but those who do, and it’s a high percentage, will most definitely find prison as a destination.
Unless we intervene, and we intervene early, people with similar histories, where the managing of a perceived risk is done in detriment to meeting a real unmet need, will continue to occupy our prisons.
Prison doesn’t reduce crime, nor does it stop crime. Prevention and early intervention will.