As I press forward with the new development phase of Prison Pack Scotland I must stop and say a sincere thank you to all of the people who have welcomed not only me but my ideas into the justice arena here in Scotland, without their encouragement and engagement I would never have reached the point of introducing this new concepts development page today.

A lot of people have, rather inexplicably, given up a fair chunk of their valuable time to offer this rookie everything from advice to encouragement and I will forever be grateful. I will avoid mentioning people by name to spare their respective blushes but in the space of just a few months I can hand on heart say I’ve met not only impressive, intelligent people or potentially great colleagues but also made some very good friends.

Historically, I have been a very private person but this journey has been transformational and over the past months I have experienced the real joy of transparency with some really great people.  As with any journey there have also been those who have been a little less welcoming, some who have been more interested in acquiring an idea for themselves or their organisation or who have been keen to explain why something wouldn’t work as opposed to considering how it might. As well as those who have been only too happy to let me know the system is broken and not the place for creative ideas like Prison Pack or First Time Inside or private sector animals. Those encounters are equally motivating and educational at times as they serve to highlight the fact that people are people whatever the sector.

Rather than dwell on the widespread view that the system is broken I choose to focus on how I can contribute to making it perform a little better for some of the people who  find themselves in contact with it.

Creating concepts and contextualising them not only to fit into specific sectors but to deliver on them has always been a hobby of mine, I’d say a job but it’s too much fun to be real work, and establishing the concepts around Prison Pack into the Justice sector with a view to adding value to existing services as opposed to competing with them is something I’m greatly looking forward to doing moving forward.

You will see just by looking around the simple development platform that there are a number of notes of encouragement from an impressive group of individuals from a variety of different organisations all of whom who have been supportive in a range of ways. We will keep you abreast of further progress here and also on Twitter as normal at @FirstTimeInside

The focus of Prison Pack is considerably wider than that of First Time Inside and the mission statement a tad bolder I look forward to sharing it all with you in the coming weeks and months.

There are so many people I have yet to meet, who I am keen to meet, and so many exciting appointments already in the diary for the next couple of months that this journey from First Time Inside to Prison Pack to Prehabilitation to the Five Senses Revolution (couldn’t resist dropping that in because there is never an end destination lol) and beyond gets more fulfilling by the week. If we have not met but you read the blog or follow on Twitter and fancy a chat over a coffee please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I’ve actually started receiving invitations to meet with groups, speak to gatherings etc and whilst the thought is a little intimidating I’ll get there, just be patient folks.

Thanks to everyone for sharing the journey to date and I look forward to seeing where it goes next. As always there is wee diary excerpt below to offer a prisoners mindset whilst in prison for the first time, I hope you continue to enjoy those.

Diary excerpt below from a prisoner who finds himself in prison for the first time;

“My days in this abhorrent place see me engaged not only in survival but also in a well oiled commercial activity.

For the purposes of clarification I am not profiting from said activity but my keepers are. You wonder where the real focus is at times, profit or rehabilitation? Stupid question as there needs to a genuine choice to create a discussion, profit or caring would perhaps be a more valid query.

It’s funny in a dark humour type of way that whilst when you leave this place it will prove difficult to secure a decent job there is no hesitation in putting you to work in here to help achieve the commercial goals of the prison. In reality I have no issue with keeping busy because the alternative would be boredom in the extreme but I sense there should be a contract of sorts in place with prisoners where generating income should also be complimented by a personal action plan that creates a route to something more meaningful outside of here. It’s not good enough to simply put people to work in activities that offer no pathway to employment on the outside but which create a profit for the prison.

Is it too much to expect there to be a level of creativity that engages prisoners in work activities that genuinely reflect a desire to see them contribute on the outside as opposed to creating work programmes which tick, I suspect, funding boxes? Art, music and physical exercise are all healthy distractions which can create a platform for engagement with something more meaningful but I just don’t see that opportunity being taken here. It strikes me that those activities are more about keeping people quiet and happy as opposed to opening the doors to another stage in development but maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe being sentenced to prison is not the punishment for the crime, perhaps the entire period of incarceration is viewed as an opportunity to punish the inmate on a daily basis through a subtle and not so subtle process of dehumanisation all of which contributes to a broken, embittered soul being released without a plan that sees societal contribution being the goal.

Yesterday I had a conversation with the chargehand of my work unit which started when he publicly rebuked me for not achieving the levels of productivity he expected during a shift. For the purposes of explanation dear diary, he has a productivity incentive programme posted on the wall e.g. Make 10 get £1.00 Make 15 get £1.50 make 25 get £2.25 etc. He then explained that my 15 wasn’t enough and that I should be doing 25 each shift. Bearing in mind he has chosen to do this in front of others, I explained very politely if he wasn’t happy with numbers I was perfectly happy to move to a different work unit. I also explained about quality over quantity but that’s not important really. He essentially tried to elicit a response in front of people which I didn’t provide him and he was left confused. He thinks I like my many peers in here are a sub species and I think he’s a bully who couldn’t cut in the real world but my opinion will remain private. He eventually told me not to worry about numbers just to keep working away quietly. I question what was the point of his pep talk. The fact that he then told me not to worry about numbers in earshot of others sparked a lively discussion about why they were under pressure to perform if I wasn’t. I must admit to laughing to myself at that point.

You also contribute to the bottom line of this lovely place by spending 19p per minute phoning a mobile phone or 7p a minute calling a landline. The phones are constantly used and speaking to others it seems to be where most of their money is spent, I know it is mine. I reckon I spend on average about £15 per week on telephone calls in here. Essentially I go to work all week to make money to phone my family. In reality the money never leaves the prison it is a carefully woven cycle of profitability. In a world of instant communication, where utility companies are giving basic services away free of charge it almost smacks of institutional racketeering but it’s part of the price of being here. You want to stay in touch with family and friends then you have no options, well you could use one of the mobile phones being passed around but there is a real risk attached to that which really isn’t worth the potential cost.

It’s made crystal clear in here that you need to know your place, whatever that means. You are, to a portion of staff, the very essence of the shit that was picked up on the work boot crossing the car park to enter this dump each day. Recognising that fact and behaving submissively in all aspects of conversation and activity make for a quiet life. That said being the target of patronising instruction at a level that a kindergarten attendee would understand coupled with on too many occasions a passive aggressive manner which attempts to solicit adverse responses is tiring in the extreme and on days where the world is not so wonderful quite difficult not to react to. Masculinity and the need to express it in here is a problem on both sides of the divide.

I witness criminality in here every day, I witness a daily battle of wills between “the screws” and “the cons” and I witness a depressingly sad image of a never changing society unless something changes. Masculinity, testosterone and a warped set of ideals keep this place on edge all day every day.

There are too many people in here who think this is a good place to be. There are too many people in here who think this is their station in life. There are too many people in here who help cement those beliefs. There are too many people in here who accept that the status quo is as good it gets whilst moaning unanimously that it’s broken. I’ve lost my business, my source of income and my reputation by ending up in here but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it define the rest of my life and I’ll be ashamed of myself if I leave here and do nothing to influence or create change in this toxic world for others who have so much potential but who simply can’t see the wood for the trees. The world needs to understand that there but for the grace God go I and slip out of that pious mindset it often develops when considering those in a different situation from themselves. 

Tonight my wonderful family are coming to visit and as always I’ll slip on that cloak of positivity and try to convince them all is ok and that all will be ok whilst knowing inside that the reality is there are no guarantees that anything will ever be relaxed and comfortable again. Our home, our base of tranquility has been shattered and the reflection in my broken mirror every morning asks me what I’m going to do about that.”

Thanks as always for taking the time to read our blogs and diary excerpts, have a great day and weekend when it arrives @firsttimeinside out. 






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