When I started this First Time Inside journey I never for one second imagined the rollercoaster of inspiration and challenge it would present.

When I reflect on the journey to date I feel privileged that I have been able to meet with so many wonderful people in such a short space of time and irrespective of what the future holds those connections have in themselves been worth the effort. I have met too many wonderful people to mention individually and remarkably in all this time of attending meetings across the country only one organisation has not followed up on an agreed meeting action. On balance I’d say that’s a pretty respectable batting average.

This process of meeting key individuals, with so many yet to meet, has helped me develop a coherent concept around the ideas of First Time Inside, Prison Pack and Prehabilitation. In truth I had the opportunity to meet with some talented people prior to these concepts being fully formed – dare I say when I was unprepared – but almost all of those have shown great patience, for some reason or another, with this rookie as meat has been put on the respective bones so to speak.

Peripherally, they have inspired me to consider how to create future proof employment opportunities for those leaving prison and also for those who need a process of prevention or diversion along the justice continuum as well as inspiring a very powerful, very personal project around self care, employability and creating your own role in the workplace but those are for a later date. They have each in their own, perhaps unwittingly at times, convinced me that Scotland needs to adopt Prehabilitation as a mindset

Starting the FTI journey required finding a voice in what was clearly a congested, loud sector with many established players all of whom have skin in the game. Twitter and an emotionally draining blog helped shape that voice and in doing so created a platform for progress. Learning that life experience and life skills, chiselled over years out with the justice sector, were indeed beneficial was motivational in early days at a base level.

I am a great believer in simple is best. Whilst any problem may be complex and the solution itself a marriage of intricacy and endeavour the delivery method must be easy to understand if we are to achieve the outcomes we seek. I talk of a compassion gap because for some reason the world seems to need jargon and a nuanced narrative almost like society devours comfort food in times of stress when in reality the root of the gap is common decency, common sense and empathy. Moving forward I’d love to see more people aim to deliver simplicity because I think it could be quite transformative in a positive way. With that in mind I encourage Twitter users, for example, to drop the carefully crafted, pseudo-intellectual clichés and deliver clarity you’ll be surprised how it impacts on your engagement levels….but I digress.

To date FTI has been an audition of sorts, a piece of market research if you like as well as a service aimed at reducing the trauma of going to prison for the first time. This process has until this date been one of a personal nature, literally self funded and strategized in a specific way to allow me to reach informed opinions on what was really needed. Nobody has been charged for this service to date (despite the website stating it’s a paid service) and moving forward I intend to roll the practical elements of FTI inside Prehabilitation.co.uk which will ensure that – with a fair wind – the service will never have to be paid for by those who need it most. Prehabilitation.co.uk will truly be a dedicated online resource creating motion on the prehabilitative pathway and I look forward to engaging with all sectors to have them join that resource. This week we meet with web designers to initiate the process of developing the Prehabilitation website…More to follow on that very soon.

Thanks to everyone who has made FTI feel welcome in the justice world to date, we look forward to building on those valuable connections in the coming months.

As is the norm please find a short diary excerpt from a prisoners notebook below to remind us why we do this in the first place;

“Since being told that I will released next month on home detention curfew (HDC) time has ground to a halt. That in itself is probably easily explained and understandable but the negativity in my mind as a result is overwhelmingly surprising.

The environment – which I previously viewed as abhorrent and demeaning – has suddenly become impossibly intolerable, the daily patronisations and processes almost asphyxiating. There is nothing about this place which I can relate to and I just want to have my door locked now and opened again next month. I no longer feel able to indulge in small talk with staff, or to interact with fellow inmates. It’s an incredibly weird feeling but the news of release whilst tearfully joyous has had a massive negative impact on my mood.

It is almost like the survival lie battery pack I’ve been wearing and I have been living expired on the receipt of the good news and I am met with an overwhelming urge to explode verbally at every sight of inhumanity and incompetence I witness. I feel like my smile has been replaced by an uncharacteristic glare and I just want to find a quiet spot to hide for the next month. I’m aware that even now the slightest transgression could cost me that early release. Strangely it’s the knowledge that there are those who would delight in seeing someone fail to achieve something positive that helps cling to my sanity when the doors are opened and interaction cannot be avoided.

I don’t emerge from my cell as quickly as normal because the early morning routines of medications and the subsequent trading of the same has become soul destroying to watch. The instant noise and search for whatever is needed at that time makes painful viewing and can’t help think, for the millionth time, that these spectacles carried out without a real attempt at discretion could be positively interrupted if there was an appetite to do so. Every day in here I go to the loo whilst on work duties and there are guys out of their faces on drugs in the toilets. Drug trading and taking is taking place in the work unit every day without real interruption. There are some fantastic staff in there but it’s obviously easier to accept the environment as is rather than trying to interrupt the flow.  There must be something more for some of these guys out side of this storeroom of broken souls than they think there can be. There must be a way to create an environment which offers more than a dry bed and a three square meals a day. At what point can someone step in and make a difference? That doesn’t sound like an easy question but the environment is so negatively managed and operated that it’s demanding of an answer, I don’t know who is qualified to provide that but like so many things in life I’m sure there are thinktanks to discuss the thinktanks outside these walls. I wonder how many in the thinktanks have every really experienced this shit and how many are really motivated by a desire to change rather than contribute to a document or proposal because it has positive CV connotations. It’s so easy to sceptical and negative in here.  

The shaft of light that the thought of exiting here provides seems to be dulled by a sudden realisation that the future is entirely unknown.

At 8pm last night I was told my daughter in law had gone into labour with my first grandchild and I’ve spent the night I must confess wallowing in something akin to a puddle of self pity although it quickly developed into self flagellation. It’s not a comfortable feeling, it’s not something that I am used to but the realisation that I am set to spend what would be another one of the happiest days of my life in this place is a total mind feck. Being unable to find out if everyone is healthy is perhaps the root cause of the self pity because it reinforces the debilitating complete lack of control you feel when that door is closed at night. I pray everyone is healthy and when this door is opened at 7am I’ll phone home in the hope of good news. In the few months I’ve been here I’ve missed so many significant events in our families lives that you really do get a sense of the pace of life in the real world as opposed to the laborious, slow monotonous drudge that we experience here.

I was thinking of my lawyer last night – amidst my night of confusion – and I was thinking of the change in tone of language that writing a cheque inspired. It made me think of an old joke that if you told would probably be frowned upon in our politically correct real world but in here would generate a chuckle or three and it’s important to be seen to possess a little humour even when the clouds of doom are perched on your shoulders. There are two young guys chatting, one of whom is about to get married and his friend asks him if he is looking forward to married life to which he replies, I am mate but if I’m honest I’m a bit nervous because my fiancé is sex daft I struggle to keep up at times. His pal considers this and tells him not to worry because there is a cure for this condition, it’s called wedding cake. Apparently a slice of their own wedding cake is sufficient to regulate that previously demanding amorosity. (Is that even a word?) Wedding cake = cheque, that’s a story for the future right enough. I feel like my ramblings are becoming increasingly incoherent and look forward to putting this bookies pen down for good. “

Thanks as always for taking the time to read the blog here at First Time Inside, please do fell free to comment on Twitter, at the website or even by e mail you have all the details by now.

Have a great week @firsttimeinside out   





Comments (1)

  1. Denise MacLean


    Thanks for all that you do. I agree that the status quo has to be broken and I hope with all my heart that the changes you outline will attract the attention of good people who support your efforts and take some pressure off you. I hope that the next month passes quickly for your diarist and he enjoys a long and fulfilled life with his loved ones.

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