In a week where we have started a small discussion around our complimentary concept of Prison Pack the diary excerpt below seemed an appropriate accompaniment to our positive week.
With various law firms making a range of encouraging noises in regard to the future development of Prison Pack, not to mention the wonderful support received from Beltrami & Co in that regard, and with a meeting scheduled next week with the Scottish Government prison Policy Team to discuss a variety of topics it felt like a good moment to remember less exciting days.
I’ve been encouraged and fascinated, from a distance, watching a movement grow towards a trauma informed culture in our little country. Creating a wider environment with compassion at the core can take Scotland on a real journey of self discovery. It is no surprise to me that Scotland is embracing that culture as we are historically innovators and inventors of the highest calibre. That said one of Scotlands greatest strengths historically has been our sense of community and for me this movement is an opportunity to restore those values of community that have been eroded for many reasons in the past years. Marrying that innovation to services that actually make an impact on the ground is of course the greatest challenge but there seems to be a will to make it happen which is wonderful.
When you witness lawyers like Iain Smith and Tony Bone embrace an ethos of engaging with kindness it offers hope that others will follow and when Karyn McCluskey a leading figure within the justice community tells us that “Empathy is what keeps us together” you get a sense that there is change in the air with events like the forthcoming “What works conference” in Glasgow this November cementing that belief, long may it continue.
Enjoy the diary excerpt below, have a great weekend and I look forward to sharing more of the First Time Inside journey with you in the coming weeks and also enjoying the movement towards a more compassionate country together;
“I hear a lot of talk in here about post traumatic stress disorder.
Part of me thinks it’s a crafted conversation which creates a reason for a prescription and another part of me thinks some of these guys probably are suffering terribly but have no coping mechanisms. This place certainly won’t help with that.
I suspect in the future someone will tell me I’ve suffered some kind of trauma.
For now I just think I’ve fucked up and I’m having to deal with the consequences, what eludes is me is why I screwed up in the first place that’s the part that haunts me every minute of every day. I can reason it out but can’t understand the process of poor decision making, it is a mystery to me. On one hand being substance free is a curse of sorts in here, I see that now because whilst others administer their chosen painkiller to help them forget or cope I’m alert to my world every day and all through the night, there is no release from the pain. On the other hand I thank God that I am strong enough to get through the days without a painkiller because it strikes me that the relief is temporary and over time the need for a stronger source of pain relief will become inevitable. The mood swings of the community I’m living in demand alertness and those combustible changes in temperament are largely brought on by need of some poison.
Watching the desperation before lock up of some frantically bartering and searching for something to take after doors are locked is soul destroying. Human beings reduced to shells, beaten down into something less by something else and with little or no self respect despite the bravado on display. That it all takes place in full view of the staff I still find incredible.
All of that said my little diary friend a few nights ago I myself was in a dark place, a place where it felt like the lights of the world had been extinguished, that the reasons for my existence where at best questionable and at worst absent. The internal conversation that took place was incredible, it was like I was a bystander in my own life, I had one part of me saying pull yourself together and another saying just lie down and let the world win. Reflecting I can’t identify a trigger or event it just felt, walking on to the wing, that the floor had transformed into heavy wet concrete grabbing me by the ankles as I tried to reach my temporary home, the smell of the place had become so pungent my nose and eyes felt irritated and the atmosphere reeked of drug enhanced toxicity. Arguments were in process, between inmates and between guards and inmates, there was food leftovers lying all over the place, the cells on either side of me were alive with laughter and music blaring on the back of drugs being taken. How do I know there were drugs being taken? Well what grown man sings and dances to the Nolan Sisters when they’re sober? Just another day but for some unknown reason – walking back onto the wing – without warning my chest tightened painfully, my throat constricted and I felt the overwhelming urge to create a small space and crawl inside.
Without being able to escape to my treehouse I shudder to think what I could have experienced that night. Building that structure high in the branches of the tallest tree is my safety rope and my source of relaxation or at least coping but let’s keep that between us my notebook friend as the world might think I’ve flipped my lid. Perhaps in the future I’ll market my treehouse design and help others create a safe haven all for themselves which reminds me I’ve got some work to do on my roof tonight.
I was going to share
But oh hell the fare
I’ll lock it away
For a better day
If I keep it quiet
People will buy it
I’m well I’m healthy
Best bury it deep
Where it’ll keep
Paint on a smile
Hold down the bile
Need to be strong
To move along
No time for weak
Not this week
I listen to some staff talking openly about how they hate working in this place, watch how they view the population and am often surprised that they don’t realise the message – consciously or otherwise – that this passes on to those who do not have the luxury to leave at the end of their day. It’s almost bizarre to extent of hysterical that this place is populated almost entirely by people who simply don’t want to be here. The incarcerated certainly don’t want to be here (although sadly and most depressingly there are some who enjoy it here, utterly tragic as that may be) and the staff, in the main, look almost permanently like they’ve just found out their life partner has been having an affair with their best friend. With staff morale in the toilet is it any wonder this place is so inspiring. I heard someone mention rehabilitation the other day I assumed they were practising a comedy routine. I’d love to be able to access YouTube in here and gorge on comedy sketches for a night I crave the release that real laughter brings.
Today I’ve been fixated on what I’m going to do when I leave this place after I tire of simply holding my loved ones close although I can’t imagine ever tiring of that. Whatever it is it’ll be something different from before because whilst making the rain fall is easy and demolishing targets are second nature they really only bring me satisfaction. Sure they provide my family with peace of mind and food on the table but I’d like to achieve that tranquility whilst setting new targets. How good would it feel to offer other people the chance to feel that tranquillity? I might be onto something here my little A4 pal, no I’m not thinking of join the priesthood but I am contemplating a radical change where others can benefit from my efforts. I know it all sounds a bit airy fairy but we are not going to be here forever and there is no point planning to fail again, let’s knock the future out of the park and make some people smile along the way. Sound like a plan? Yes, I realise you are mute and that’s why that was a rhetorical question you sarcastic piece of paper. When I leave here I’m leaving you for digital communications you are so yesterdays man. Gerry Cinammon, a new name to me, is currently painfully loudly from next door proclaiming she’s a belter I’m taking that as a sign we are on the right track of thought senor papyrus.”
As always many thanks for taking the time to read our Blog and diary excerpts hopefully somewhere amidst the ramblings something resonates with someone. If so feel free to comment here or on Twitter, we enjoy hearing the feedback of all types.
Have a fantastic weekend, @firsttimeinside out.