Friday, July 03, 2009

Can't believe how bloody hot it is today it is just 1 pm and it is extremely hot and getting unpleasant already.

Richie is in a right old state too because of this horrible hot weather it is really unbearable now at 1 pm hate to think what it will be like at 3 pm when it is at its hottest.

Find it difficult to gather my thoughts today as am boiling hot must try and think of other things to take my mind off things.

Last night was remembering when I was attending Hillcroft College in London.

To do the Certificate of Higher Education so I could go to University, while at Hillcroft a group of us from the Sociology class were allowed to visit some prisons in London.

This was organised by the tutor running the Sociology class, she got us permission to visit

Latchmere House- category D,15,2,15,494,0

Feltham Young Offenders Institute,15,2,15,364,0

Pentonvill Prison,15,2,15,632,0

Belmarch Prison,15,2,15,254,0

Latchmere House had just been re-designated a resettlement prison which meant this was a prison from where prisoners could be resettled in the community.

It was a strange place with the usual security in place, we were all allowed in searched and had to leave our bags at the gate.

Inmates had keys to their cells which were called rooms but looked like a pokey prison cell.

It was like a Category c prison with the addition of a few classes to satisfy the resettlement aim although there did not seem to be anything in place to justify their new status at the time.

Prisoners we spoke to were unimpressed when the screws/guards were not present.

Feltham Young Offenders Institute was like visiting a monkey house and felt unpleasant especially when you saw that had it not been for circumstance most of the boys there could have been doing better than being warehoused in this zoo.

Most of the lads wanted to impress us and leapt around desperate to shine, poor boys.
Only one unit really worried me and that was the one for murders, here they were showing us the lads preparing a meal to eat with their families.

The other unit that upset me was the wing for the disturbed lads, as if they all were not disturbed.

This unit was called Albatross a name which even the lads thought unfortunate, the boys in that unit were very sad and I had my doubts whether they would receive any real help during their sentence.

Pentonville was one big toilet, it is a very old big London prison just up the road from King’s Cross Railway station in the centre of the city.

It was overcrowded and full of prisoners of all ages and sentences, most of the prisoners were on short to medium sentences and were very keen to talk to people from outside and this time women which seemed a huge treat for some.

None of the many prisoners we saw had educational classes to occupy their time while they were doing their sentence.

N or was there any work for them so hundreds of bored men had nothing to do to pass time inside and nothing to give them a new perspective on life.

Really sad and a wasted opportunity to make a change for the better for the prisoners and the wider community.

It was noticeable that the Rule 45 prisoners, on the closed wing for prisoners who were their for sex offences or because they were vulnerable or otherwise not suitable for the main stream wings were not as able or willing to have any contact with visitors.

Think this was more to do with the screws and less to do with the prisoners themselves, think they were told to not talk to us.

Some did when the screws were down the other end of the wing.
I had taken several packets of Dutch hand rolling tobacco with me and left one with papers in the four wings we visited.

We were told after our visit that no other students would be allowed in because we had distributed tobacco.

Belmarsh was a totally new prison for Category A prisoners.

‘’Between 2001 and 2005 Belmarsh Prison was used to detain a number of people indefinitely without charge or trial under the provisions of the Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, leading it to be called the "British version of Guantanamo Bay"[1]. The law lords later ruled that such imprisonment was discriminatory and against the Human Rights Act[2]
It is often used for the detainment of prisoners for terrorist related offences. In September 2006 the number of such prisoners was 51.’’

When we went there in 1991 it was not long open, remember it as a very creepy unpleasant place with no where which was not observed.

Their flag ship was the course they offered prisoners who were considered ready for release.

These prisoners were given a cleaning course and given assistance to set up their own cleaning firms when they were released from prison.

A whole wing was dedicated to this and there were huge rooms with a variety of floors for them to learn to clean.

The lucky prisoners were not so impressed and there were few who thought this scheme would work and would keep them from reoffending long term.

Who is going to-employ ex prisoners as cleaners and who is going to give a cleaning contract to a business run by ex cons.

Which bank is going to give them a loan to set up their company.

Think the answer is no on all counts and I wouldn’t be surprised if this scheme did not get abandoned quickly once they realised it looked good on paper but did not have legs to go anywhere.

A usual with these sorts of brilliant ideas it is at the cost of the prisoner’s futures.

Before I visited the prisons I was already against incarceration as the answer and after visiting and then taking a getting a B.A and an M.A in Criminology at Middlesex University I became convinced that incarceration was not the answer.

In all the prisons we went to there was little to nothing for people to do, educational classes that were available were very limited and most were getting cut.

Recreational classes were all gone and the only thing most could do was go to the gym and turn themselves into bigger and fitter prisoners and eventually ex prisoners out on the streets pumped up and ready to fight.

There is no possibility to change their lives without educational classes, which most never had when they were school age, and recreational activities to re-socialise them.

Without the opportunity to see and understand the implications of what they have done and have the opportunity of acquiring new skills to make a new life most if not all will reoffend and be back behind the prison gates which are like a revolving door.

As a society we can not just warehouse people on the scale we are now, have heard that some States in America face bankruptcy because they have so many people in prison.

People are our biggest resource and we should be able in 2009 to devise a system that does not throw people away but gives them the opportunity to reinvent themselves and contribute to the community.

Glad I wrote this as it helped me to cope with the heat, at 2 pm there was a tropical down pour and an hour later the sun came out again and just like in the tropics it is super hot again can hardly wait for my shower and clean clothes.


Libby said...

this is so interesting, herrad! you're right, there are lots of states over here going broke because of the prisons, & i agree that there should be something else to do with people, but what?? if you can come up with an answer, you'll be rich! lol!

Joan said...

That was very interesting thank you for sharing. Belmarsh Prison also houses famous people sometimes.Have you heard of the author Jeffrey Archer he was in there for fraud a few years back. Much cooler here now afer some rain showers. Hope it is cooler now for you as it is evening. Take care Love Joan.

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

While I agree that just housing prisoners, without education, just perpetuates the problem, I think we need to start at the familial level, and early. Before they even enter the system. Head Start, a pre-school program has been very successful in helping at-risk children here in the US. I would like to see more of this type of program, including grades K-12, for families and teens.

Kelli said...

Hi Herrad. Very interesting post. So glad it helped you cope with the heat. I hope you get a break from the heat soon.

Blinders Off said...

I noticed how prisons have become a big business. There are more prisons being built than there are schools...something is definitely wrong with that picture.

Here is an interesting piece I read titled "Building Schools instead of Prisons."

I hope the heat lets up soon in your neck of the woods. We just experience a heatwave a week ago and the summer is just starting.

awb said...

When I was working, one of the more respected judges came out with statistics for how many people were in prison stemming from minor drug use. They laughed him right out of office, too bad, it was a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Hi Herrad!!! I'm sorry I was m.i.a. for a few days! The usual struggle to find my structure and keep to a proper's bugging me a lot these days. I had a wee problem on Wednesday, I miss being in an English community. Richie left me such a nice comment. There was a neighbour who sold his house in May. He was a hard-lined Quebec separatist and openly despised English speaking people - he had a photo of a Canada flag with a big black X across it, hung in his front window. Everyone was glad when he moved away, mainly because he would destroy people's property when he drank and pick fights with everyone, he even tried to pick a fight with the police one day and went to jail for he came back on Wednesday, I guess he forgot something in his old shed. I was walking the dogs and saw him trying to break the door open (the new home owner wasn't there). I was staring at him, I guess I was trying to decide if I should say something or just walk away...he saw me and started calling me names. "F-ing English b****, why don't you shove your Canada flag up your ***"....and it went on until I wasn't in ear shot anymore. Usually that kind of thing doesn't bother me, I'm used to it. I called the police when I got home, and left it at that. But, because this all happened on Canada Day, it really upset me and not being able to go to a Canada Day celebration added to it, and made me miserable! Made me rethink my decision to perhaps stay here another year...anyway, I'm okay today, but that may explain my absense (in a long way, lol!) I do have the gift of gab!!!

Anyway, I do hope your heat wave doesn't last too much longer! We finally had some violent thunderstorms yesterday and it's cooled down to a mere 17C as our high today, I'm tempted to put on the fireplace!!! Are you an ice cream fan? I'm thinking of walking over to the ice cream shop today, even though it's cold out, I have a wee craving!!!

Take care, talk to you soon!