Is it laziness or have we just given up? Or is just that we need a right good shake?

On todays blog we have reverted to including an excerpt from a first time prisoners diary which highlights a little of the mental battle presented to anyone who enters prison and also the effect that exposure to the system can have on all who encounter it.

Scotland is in the eyes of many the birthplace of invention. A country whose historical manufacturing prowess is world renowned. From shipyards to steel works Scotland’s skilled workforce is the stuff of folklore but even those talented engineers and craftsmen are arguably eclipsed by the creative genius of her innovators and inventors. Names such as Alexander Graham Bell (Telephone), John Logie Baird (Television) and Alexander Fleming (Penicillin) inspire generation after generation of ingenuity around the world. A fertile land where sparks are ignited and the missing piece of the jigsaw is thrust into focus offering a creative launching pad for budding entrepreneurs and those with ideas for projects floating around in their subconscious.

It is a land that can do so much better than what is explained and inferred below, it is our job to contribute to that improvement. Innovation and creativity should not be seen to be the exclusive property of the private sector, let’s use our combined imagination and drive to do better for everyone not just the select few. It’s a shared responsibility to create an environment which allows people to thrive and reach their potential.

One of the things that makes me so proud to be Scottish is our sense of community but I feel we have allowed ourselves to lose sight of the fact that every human life has a value not just those we consider to be worthy. Treating people in the same way you would like them to treat you should be a simple mantra in life yet in some areas we have lost sight of the fact many of us have unconsciously embraced a pecking order to decency and humanity. Contributing to the development of services which reverse that mindset are at the forefront of my mind because we cannot expect the vulnerable to achieve radical change on their own and it is unconscionable to think that we are happy to allow the status quo to continue.

Diary excerpt from a prisoner who find himself behind bars for the first time below;

“There’s a rule in here that says if you’re cell is searched and anything is found that is not listed on your property card you will be subject to a report. I am also regularly reminded that being the subject of a single report could have damaging if not fatal consequences for my quest to be released on Home Detention Curfew (HDC). The date on the system for my qualifying for HDC is the single most important date for me living in this vile place and it influences everything I do and everything I say. For want of a better expression that has become the prize I aspire to achieve more than any other these next few months. I’m obsessed with getting out of here, my family talk about that date as being the end of this ordeal for us all and failing to be granted HDC would quite possibly break me. It certainly influences my reaction to certain situations where any normal person would feel justified in making a noise about how they feel or are being made to feel would be more accurate in this instance.

Last night and earlier today I came as close as I suspect I ever will to blowing my chances of HDC. Every time you think this place has bottomed out or you think you’ve acclimatised to this abhorrent environment something happens that proves to you that your status in life, your value as a human being, has been utterly eroded certainly in the eyes of many of the staff here and that in reality there is no fixed basement for standards of dehumansation in here. I’ve no idea what standard protocols are in terms of care and compassion but today I just feel like a piece of junk, casually discarded by life, destined for a human landfill site or maybe I have already arrived and my optimism that I’ll ever leave here is simply colouring my reality. I sit here and write these pages day after day as a therapy to myself because there is nobody else here who actually hears you when you speak they all just hear triggers that create automatic responses. 

I’m working on the premise that if I manage to retain a level of disgust for this place then I am retaining an element of sanity. Could this place really just be a landfill site for broken souls?

Last night I went to the gym for a workout and had the misfortune to pull or tear my calf muscle and possibly damage ligaments in my knee. These things can happen in everyday life and whilst they are painful and inconvenient they are afforded pretty much instant NHS medical care if you need it which I think we all take for granted at times in this country. Anyway, the injury occurred and I was unable to stand upright for a short time and have been unable to put my weight on the leg properly since it happened. One of the PT guys kindly gave me an ice pack within minutes of the injury happening and then walked me back to my wing (with him acting like a human crutch) as I simply couldn’t walk on the leg. The guards on duty in the wing asked what had happened and when I explained they seemed relieved it had been a training injury and not a result of some other incident. So far so good right. I then explained what had happened, the level of pain I was in and asked to see a nurse or doctor to get looked over. I was then told that there were no medical staff available until the next morning, this was around half seven at night, and I asked if there was access to paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain in my leg. They told me no but they did make a suggestion, whilst laughing, that I should go around the wing and ask other inmates if they had something they could give me for the pain. Aside from the fact I couldn’t walk where they really suggesting I… you know I really can’t even bring myself to finish that sentence I’m so feckin angry and disgusted.

This morning I awoke, having slept fitfully at best, and instantly knew that there was no way I could attend my work assignment as I simply couldn’t walk. I managed to shuffle across the wing to inform a guard that I would be unable to attend work only to be told that to get a day off I would need to report to work, request a medical visit and then be appraised by the medical staff who would determine my fitness to work. I pointed out, politely, that work was a few hundred yards away and I really didn’t think I could walk there and asked if it was possible to have a member of the medical staff come to me or was there somewhere closer I could attend. Further explanation ensued and I was told that I had to attend work or risk being put on report (there is the real threat to HDC looming again). That was the protocol and I’d have to adhere to it. It took me about ten minutes to make my way the short distance to work by which time I was drenched in sweat and in serious discomfort. I asked for and was granted a medical visit and told I’d now need to walk to the medical department to be assessed. I got to the medical dept sat in a waiting room for twenty minutes feeling like shit and after being examined was prescribed paracetamol, for the pain, and ibuprofen, for the inflammation, who says medicine is rocket science? The best bit of the whole story is what happened next though. Having established that my leg was genuinely injured and that I wasn’t fit for work I was told that I would need to walk the few hundred yards back to my cell. What part of I can’t feckin walk is so difficult to understand? Is the added layer of humiliation really necessary over and above the incarceration in this hell hole. Is laziness and the failure to deal with someone as an individual now the norm? Should I just accept that my station in life, as a criminal, is to be put down, humiliated and treated like a piece of shit you’d pick up on your shoe? Well I won’t bow to your attempts to further belittle me. My remorse and shame are overwhelming and I have no space in my life for small minded power tripping fools who have lost sight of the basic levels of common courtesy and humanity we should all exhibit. I will continue to be polite, I will defy your attempts to provoke and continue to be courteous and friendly because all that matters is that I achieve the prize of HDC and get out here asap. My family are the ultimate prize and being reunited with them is the oxygen that gets me through every day even days like today where life simply sucks.

I’ve not felt sorry for myself since the day I walked in here, I simply want to get out and contribute again to my friends, family and society as a whole. I have always treated people with respect, my belief being that we should all treat others as we’d have them treat us. Nothing that happens in here will get in the way of that belief or core value which has been chiselled into my being since I was young enough to take on board the lessons offered by my parents. Today is a bad day but in time I’ll make sure I’m not the cause of anyone else’s bad days by treating them as I have been treated this past day or so. Going to stop writing now, it’s time to wander over to my Treehouse and escape from this reality for a little while.”    

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog posts and we hope to welcome you back soon.

First Time Inside aim to make the transition to prison a little less traumatic for people experiencing it for the first time. We can do this in one to one meetings with those facing incarceration but we can also do this through a process of education working with legal representatives and third sector partners. It’s a shared action that will make the difference.

Comments are welcome to @firsttimeinside on Twitter or via our Contact Form, have a great day @firsttimeinside out. 


Comments (1)

  1. Reply

    Hard to believe that things are no better as far as just simple humanity and a bit of kindness goes, Something really needs to change, why have we so many prisoners in the first place that is a question I keep asking.

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