We are letting people down every day of every week and really there is no excuse for it. A little pre-Easter flashback to previous posts combined with a little opinion sharing.
“My story, in terms of this element of First Time Inside, began when listening to a Sheriff tell me (without looking at me) that I would be returning to court a month later for sentencing. She also added, although she directed it towards my solicitor, that he should be realistic in discussions with his client about potential outcomes. Right there and then I knew I was in danger of going to prison for the first time.” – excerpt taken from https://firsttimeinside.co.uk/2019/04/08/too-lazy-to-change/
It is that very instance which spawned the concept of First Time Inside although the conscious thought never materialised until a little later. In that intervening period of some four or five weeks I had fairly regular contact with my solicitor but was aware that the prospect of prison and adapting to or entering that environment was accepted to be out with the remit of my legal representative.
In retrospect I think that is wrong. That’s not to say that he was wrong but more that the system is fatally and frankly embarrassingly flawed because it does not make provision for preparation to enter the prison system. By abdicating that responsibility we are delivering a clear message to the accused that they have already lost status in the eyes of the system, they are of less value to society and they, by virtue of their actions, are less entitled to common courtesy than other human beings.
Now I could understand that to an extent if the environment you were entering was a shrine to rehabilitation (no laughing at the back please). I could understand it, in part, if lawyers, courts and Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) knew in advance of your prison entry that upon arrival there would be a detailed briefing of what’s in store, a process of sorts, an induction worthy of the title rather than a set of literacy and numeracy tests, never visited again, which are about as much use as a paper bag in a rainstorm in terms of your survival strategy in prison. Your lack of knowledge going in, your lack of awareness of the basic practicalities mean you stand out in the crowd.
Going into prison for the first time the last thing you need is to stand out in the crowd for any reason.
For example ; When sending someone to prison, for the first time, for non violent non drug related crimes we must recognise that we are taking that person and housing them in a combustible drug oriented environment. Should we just let them find their own feet or recognise they may need help adapting? Should we allow anyone to enter that environment without offering insight beforehand?
I understand, as a lawyer said to me recently, that there is a required positivity when speaking to a client especially early on as suggesting to the client that they may well end up in jail is not the best way to sign up a client or build client confidence. That to me sounds like the start of a race to the bottom. Purely in sales terms it suggests that the pitch to the client is blinkered and lacking imagination or innovation. In actual fact it is defeatist and suggests that genuine sales training should be on the CPD roster.
For those without a sales background there is only way of selling and that’s maximising features and benefits, everything else is window dressing. Sure, we can knock competitors and their products if we like but that simply lacks class and demonstrates a lack of confidence in our own products or ourselves.
At some point between being charged and being sentenced there needs to be a provision for prison preparation of some kind.
Ignoring that need simply repeats the failure of yesterday and the day before. And as someone far more intelligent than me once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Mr Einstein was 100% correct so we all need to ask why do we do it?
Concept Creation has played a large part in my life but the concept of First Time Inside is really simply borne out of a recognition that the system must do better, it really is not rocket science and the idea that preparation for prison requires addressing in 2019 is a clear indication that as a caring society keen on turning lives around we still have a long way to go.
Excerpts from prison diaries like the one below, which we have shared previously, should provoke action not just debate and at First Time Inside we will continue to pursue our ethos of engaging with kindness whilst at the same being strong and innovative in the manner we chase that dream of making a difference.
“Another Saturday has come and gone, what a day it’s been. Today started with the cell door being opened at 8am and the noise of inmates running around on the search for whatever was important enough for them to burst out their doors at 8am plus five seconds and start shouting to their pals at the top of their voices. There is no respect for other inmates who may be asleep and nothing more important than what has got their attention first thing in the morning. I decided to close my door again and just lie in bed for a while battling to relax hoping the noise would die down. It’s hard not to get frustrated with the staff who could tell them to be quiet but just don’t seem to bother. That’s been a recurring theme today.
The level of drug use continues to stun me and after a chaotic start to the day the wing was positively chilled all afternoon as there was a plentiful supply of legal high. Given the choice of chaos versus tranquillity I start to wonder if there is actually an appetite to prevent drug use here, it’s hard not to be cynical. The vast majority of this wing were high or low or whatever the buzz was today in fact it was so quiet that for an hour this afternoon whilst walking in circles on the wing not one other person was in sight despite all the doors being open. The guards job is definitely easier on, what I’ve come to describe as, a legal high day than on a day when it’s in short supply. I actually joked with one that I, as a non drug user, should be allowed a carry out for after lock up as everyone else had their fix but I don’t think he saw the funny side of that comment.
The wing was lively again at dinnertime, before lock up, as there was once again a chaotic session of people chasing others looking for whatever making sure they were sorted for Saturday night in their cells. The number of people who approach you before lock up looking or begging for something is incredible especially when they know you have nothing to give.
Anyway it’s now Saturday night and I’ve got Magic radio on and I’m planning on writing letters to my wife and kids – despite having just spoken to them on the phone they are my drug of choice – as well as some extended family and friends. That’s become my Saturday night ritual and as I write to my wife, listening to the soundtrack of Magic Radio, I cry relentlessly. Physically prison presents no great challenge but mentally it’s absolutely brutal. The memories generated by some songs, the lyrics of any song all seem to heighten the desperate sadness of missing your family. I struggle to stay positive in my letters but know I must for their sake, I don’t tell them about the extent of drug use I witness only that I miss them and can’t wait to see them at the next visit.
Deserate times call for desperate measures and I’m going to stop writing to watch the X Factor. I could keep writing as it feels like a two way conversation with myself but i’m not sure thats a good thing.
p.s. It’s just struck me what today and almost everyday in here feels like – I recall asking my wife to collect me from a night out I was having with friends and the next morning she commented that, when she came inside the pub to get me, for the five minutes she was there listening to all my pals talking she couldn’t understand a word of what’s being said although we all found every syllable hysterically funny. I realise that walking into the pub that night is the same for me opening my door here everyday. Having to communicate with so many people clearly not in full control and who won’t remember the conversation tomorrow anyway. Why bother speaking at all? Sometimes even speaking to a wall is better than banging your head off it I suppose. Now it’s X Factor time.”
Thanks for taking the time to read our rambling posts and to all who do have a Happy Easter, we look forward to meeting with you soon @firsttimeinside out.