Tag Archives: women prisoners

Professional Betrayals towards Women in Prison

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woman_in_cage

 

Whilst rustling through my surprisingly extensive collection of blogs looking for a particular prison story, I came across this. It’s the blog I wrote and posted immediately before my heart-attack (same day) and in scanning through it’s contents for the telling-tale I was after, my eye fell upon these words..

 

You may not know this, but research into women offenders ‘in their own right’ is relatively new. For years, all research on offenders was based upon male offending. The researchers were just beginning to take notice of us women when I was in prison in 2008/9 and they found they had to go back to the drawing board.

 

And therein lies another whole story that it is time to bring out into daylight for ethical supervision.

 

We hear a lot of propaganda  from Criminal Justice professionals about their ‘dedication’. For some, this is undoubtedly true but we – us criminals down here – don’t get much of a voice about how that dedication works.

 

Let’s have a look at the psychologist’s take on women prisoners – the majority are designed for men. I’ve taken part in any number of surveys and research studies during my time as a prisoner but no-one ever came back and told me what they found. Some ‘choice’ questionnaires were so obviously designed for the male psyche, I doubt if they got any worthwhile information at all. But there was one I took part in. I’m sure the woman in question will deny it because she’s bound by her ethics to maintain my confidentiality. That word, ‘confidentiality’ is not designed to protect me – not one bit of it – it’s there to protect her. Let’s see what happens to your, the reader’s, sense of personal ethics as my tale unfolds.

 

This particular piece of research was done on the High-Security wing at HMP Low Newton. This wing was also home to the Primrose Unit – a Rampton Hospital out-reach for prisoners with serious mental health problems. As far as I know, it was the first of its kind which, in itself, would have produced lots of research material too. This particular project was sold to me – I forget by whom – as one of the first real studies into women’s criminality and mental health. I didn’t quite fit the criteria but, because I was considered something of a rare bird, I was asked if I minded being thrown to the researcher (metaphorically speaking). I didn’t mind at all. There was a very great deal wrong with the way my peers were being treated. If there was a psychologist around willing to listen, I was more than willing to talk and I did.

 

The research was, I found, much more conversational and we covered a very great deal of professional ground. My background as both psychotherapist and shaman meant we had considerable common-ground. But our reasons for being there were very different. On my part, I shared so much of myself because I wanted to show that I knew what I was talking about. In fact, we shared many professional agreements and I came away hopeful that, somewhere, a psychologist would do the math and start producing ways of helping these women emerge from their prison experience. Most are not supposed to be there. I retained good memories of that experience but like all the other researchers before her, I never got to see the fruit of our joint efforts.

 

I can see why. When I did a quick google search, it produced this and this.

 

I wasn’t told the research I was being asked to participate in was a study in women’s psychopathy. I was told it was the among the first studies for targeting women prisoners. I helped because I genuinely thought the intention was to help my peers. Instead I find the researcher teaching her peers to fear and hate us – everything human has been stripped away from me. My name. My identity. My compassion and strength. My Honour and Dignity. I am labelled psychopath simply from having participated in the study. So where did my value, my individuality, my creativity go if all I am left with is the epithet ‘psychopath’.

 

All my skills, generosity, honesty, truthfulness and humanity were offered up to a ‘professional’ who purported to be genuinely interested in understanding women prisoners. Instead, I discover she went straight off and got her doctorate in selling the ‘professional’ idea of psychopathy which she obtained, under false pretences, from women who have been subject to the grossest forms of abuse already. We are all robbed of our identity but not so we can be seen on our terms and given the help we need. This research was done to the further the individual career-path of said researcher by giving her a title – she can call herself a  ‘Chartered’ Psychologist now – with a reputation for knowing about psychopaths. And the unidentified women who are the  source of all this wealth and success? Probably still where they are; cutting, ligaturing, going more insane as the cruelty of the Prison Service increases, even though we’ve known for over five years that eighty percent shouldn’t be there.

 

Either you are a professional who understands the proper healthy ethical standard or you don’t.

 

As a former qualified and acceditted Gestalt psychotherapist with twelve years London-based private practice, I see no ethics at all in the above arrangement. If that is what passes for ethical practice in psychology, the entire profession should be shut down. I’ve never seen anything more disgraceful in my life and no amount of apologising will do. It won’t cut it. This is the most appalling example of professional abuse and I cannot express my rage, I am so angry.

 

Just who the fuck do you people think you are!!!

 

How DARE you treat another human being that way. That researcher wasn’t alone. She has tutors and whatnot involved in what she was producing – it’s a conspiracy to rob abused women of any remaining compassion around.

 

When something is unethical, it is unholy.

 

May God forgive you because I’m not sure I can.

 

The Fruit of this Research are not true. They are not even true in Hell.

 

 

 

 

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A Shot At #Redemption: Letter to the German Peoples from a British woman

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A cross, left in Comines-Warneton (Saint-Yvon, Warneton) in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914. The text reads: 1914 - The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce - 1999 - 85 Years - Lest We Forget.

A cross, left in Comines-Warneton (Saint-Yvon, Warneton) in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914. The text reads: 1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years – Lest We Forget.

 

 

My very dear Friends-in-Darkness,

 

 

Sometimes people do things that make us cry.

 

I wanted to tell you that you made me cry when I read this report in the Guardian today. I wanted to thank you. I’ve found it very difficult to cry in the last few years. I also wanted to apologise for what the UK government has been doing to you. But most of all, I want to ask you for help.

 

There are those who seem to think that  Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s letters can be side-lined into insignificance but they don’t understand how important this is. I was born in 1950’s and grew up with the British triumphalism following the war. Dad’s Army; that kind of thing. We British have never allowed the German people off the hook for the Holocaust.  We are relentless, even now. I know. I’m British. I still do it too – even now, as I write this letter. And you have been on the sharp end of this for as long. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that we did it this way, hard as it has been for you. Please let me explain why before you get cross with me about saying that.

 

Everyone has a dark side. We are all capable of terrible deeds – including me. I have a criminal conviction for violence so serious my country will never forgive me.  I know what it is to stand in your shoes, especially when we are trying our best to redeem ourselves. I’m glad Britain and the world had learned enough, after World War I, not to use economic cruelty on you after World War II but we didn’t learn about our own dark side. Now it has erupted.

 

BNnuLRNCIAMcVT9I know you are angry about what the current UK government has done to you. Could I ask you to please start asking questions about what the UK Government is doing to its own people. This is my situation. Yesterday I read this. Many of our professionals are colluding with what is going on. Our access to law has already been removed in some cases and is being actively dismantled elsewhere.

 

If there is any people on this planet who understand what is going on here, from the inside rather than just the theory, it’s going to be you. If there’s any nation on this planet who understand the importance of compassion in politics, it’s you. If there is any country on this planet who understands the appalling consequences of Human Rights Abuses, it’s you. And if there is any Nation State who understands what is necessary to return a corrupt state into a flourishing democracy, it’s you. Would you be willing to help us, please, the way we helped you when you had this problem?

 

I want to use Law but I don’t know how. All I know is that the people of Great Britain are in very serious trouble and we can’t seem to deal with it by ourselves. We need help. I’m asking.

 

The reason most people don’t understand why this issue is so important is this. They have never committed a serious sin. We know its a serious sin when we find that there are lots of people around us who will never forgive what we did. It’s a hard and shaming place to be but we learn a lot. The dark side of humanity was also mapped by the German peoples too – Freud, Reich… – the Deep Soul Mines of Germany are rich in Wisdom. We know, inside, that our Sin is not all we are or all we can be and we work at it over time until that moment when we get that shot at Redemption.

 

I have yet to meet a repentant Sinner who refuses a shot at Redemption. That’s why it’s important.

 

Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as last time – invite the other Nations and Peoples in too. The one’s who seem to know what they are doing. I’m not sure that includes the USA or Canada anymore but does include Finland, Iceland and Equador.

 

Set the German example of our Bulldog Breed – ours has rabies 😦

 

Thank you for listening. Who knows, in writing this letter I might have a shot at Redemption too.

 

My very deep gratitude to Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger for her actions too. I’m so glad it was a woman who took action.

 

 

Dee

 

BNi7yGACEAArjF1

Idle No More UK

Idle No More UK

 

Cautious Optimism: “Women under a flag of Truce”

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A Woman

 

Every once in a while, life gives us something precious even though it might not appear that way at first.

 

A few days ago, I logged on to Twitter to discover a friend deep in a ‘heated’ exchange. My friend, like myself, was born into the Labour Party Tribe and I watched her struggling to communicate with an elected councillor from the Tory Party Tribe. As I have some experience of ‘doing business’ with elected Tory councillors, I joined in when my friend began to struggle and began my own exchange instead. This blog is one of the outcomes and, I’m hoping, will be one amongst many.

 

Party politics in the UK – and probably elsewhere – is a battle between the two major political tribes, Labour and Tory, which stem from two very different root systems. Loosely described, Tories traditionally represent successful individualism within society whereas Labour draws its power from the collective groups who are often employees of Tories if they are not working within what remains of our public services. Unless circumstance requires that members of the Labour and Tory tribes work together, the two often don’t have much contact with each other and this absence of relationship contributes much to the deepening divisions between the two. Please bear in mind that, presently, these are very real ideological battles and very real people are dying as a result.

 

What drew me to the struggling exchange between my friend and this Tory Councillor – Nadia Cenci – was her willingness to remain within the conversation. Here was a Tory genuinely engaging with people outside her own tribe. I have a great deal of respect for anyone willing to make such a move and did not want to see such a potentially valuable resource go to waste. What I wasn’t prepared to do was engage from within the traditional battle positions. I needed to find new ground where we could meet ‘under the flag of truce’. In the following days, Nadia and I negotiated ground where we could do this. For those who may be interested, the root of this truce is buried deep in good manners. Neither of us are going to have all the answers. Neither of us are perfect but both of us are deeply concerned with the ‘health’ of our respective communities and the very serious problems we, as a whole, are facing. As far as I can establish, we are both looking for genuine, workable solutions and are willing to learn from each other beyond the present frame of UK party politics.

 

The ground I use when I talk to Nadia belongs to women. The traditional politics of tribal power within the UK, regardless of allegiances, is male-oriented. In other words, it is designed primarily by and for men – of all political parties – which means that the needs and interests of women have been sorely neglected. As women, we are subject to the same kind of harassment and derision if we step outside the loosely defined ‘Rules of Acceptable Behaviour for Women in a Man’s World’ and we are going to face the same struggles to resolve the social problems now besetting us. This is common ground for any woman, in my experience, regardless of whatever might divide us in other ways. For my part, I know that I cannot creatively contribute to conflict resolution unless I feel safe enough and I bring this wisdom to our ‘kitchen table’. If I need to feel safe enough, then it is important to ensure that all those involved feel the same way too because, in my own mind, we are not likely to reveal the really important issues without it. And the really important issues? Amongst women, these are likely to dwell within our feelings because women draw on our knowledge of emotional intelligence in order to find resolutions.

 

To access the knowledge and wisdom of emotional intelligence requires safety and in human relationships, that is built upon mutual respect; the recognition that everyone brings something valuable to the discussion. At the beginning, when distrust is most likely to derail such truces, having good manners allows each individual to find their own safety in their own way. It reminds me of those first meetings with psychotherapy clients. Most people (who can afford therapy) only turn up in a therapeutic consulting room when everything else they have tried has failed to resolve their problems. A new client is frightened, confused, and desperate enough to choose to encounter a stranger who might be able to help them. One demand they place upon themselves is the expectation that they must trust the therapist from the very outset. Emotional intelligence says that they are asking too much of both themselves and the situation. Sometimes my clients would be able to articulate this ‘trust requirement’ and my response was to say this was not my expectation of them. Trust is earned, not given – what makes the real difference is a willingness to trust. In my experience, this awareness of earning trust, together with good manners and if appropriate, humour, are the basic tools to creative human interaction – bring them to a women’s truce and we may have a genuine opportunity to negotiate a big enough peace for everyone; women and men, children and elders.

 

Bear in mind that this blog is about creating boundaries of safety for two women of different tribes at war with each other. As one of the two, I believe it helps to be as clear as I can be about my own motivations and to ensure that, as a matter of mutual respect for the individual, Nadia feels safe enough to express her own self before we ever move off into exploring new directions. From my perspective, my new travelling companion has already surprised me and her willingness to explore our collective problems whilst remaining true to herself is a genuine delight. Without Nadia’s suggestion, this blog would not have been written – already we are creating new ways of interacting. This is mutual creativity where one inspires the other. Additionally, Nadia is as willing as I am to make this a public exploration via the social media as well as a personal relationship. This means we can invite other women to observe, to participate if they wish and to share their own wisdom, especially when we ourselves stumble or find ourselves caught in the leg-irons and traps of outdated thought-forms.

 

In a human world that places so much emphasis on death and destruction, that two women from warring tribes can come together and thrash out enough of an agreement to create a potential region of truce seems, to me, little short of a miracle. That Nadia is a woman who is open to the possibility of miracles suggests that, together, we might find more.

 

If that isn’t grounds for cautious optimism, then I don’t know what is.

Desistance, Resistance, Women and Fireworks

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Would be delighted to credit this beautiful artwork

 

Bonfire Night

 

 

My very dear Jules,

 

Warning: I really need to vent what’s inside. Blue-touch-paper is already lit, so stand well back from this firework 😉

 

Thank you so much for your intuition. I could do with a thoughtful woman’s response to this. Dusty provided the warrior-response by commenting that there was a lot of pain in the post which, through all the confusion and memories that were swirling through my psyche, I hadn’t actually felt – although I probably did at the time. That’s how trauma gets its hooks into me.

 

The problem I seem to be having is finding a way to comfortably bridge the abyss of understanding that seems to exist between the desistance Criminal Justice professionals I want to impress and me. Why do I want to do I want to impress them? Firstly, because they are impressive people themselves and they are unlikely to take any notice if I don’t! Secondly, because my ambition to return to paid self-employment has just come one step nearer. My work has attracted an admirer who might be willing to invest in me financially while I pursue the issue of women’s desistance. The impact of that possibility has turned up the pressure on my professionalism – which is great, in one way, and proving to be an absolute disaster in others.

 

In every tough experience I’ve ever come through, I’ve always had a ‘crack-up’ point and, interestingly, it’s never been the battles themselves but either some unexpected kindness or cruelty afterwards. With the latter, I’ve normally crumpled into overwhelming emotional pain much to the alarm of my better ‘handlers’ (the memory here comes from New Hall, where the officers tried to stop my tears by telling me how strong they thought I was – I am strong, but I’m not invulnerable). The melt-down I’m in now is the result of a long sequence of kindnesses that have supported my desistance ambitions. There’s my potential benefactor and her willingness to consider funding me. There are people like you and James and Dusty who, after I’ve made certain you all know the worst there is to know about me, have become friends of profound creativity. There are my longer term friends from the Guardian; all now in exile on Twitter. But the ‘big names’ of desistance, like No Offence and all these University professors are new to their ‘experience’ of me. They are the ones I am going to need if I am to really return to public service in my own way and here I am in a global public melt-down apparently confusing the hell out of them. Each time I open my mouth, all I seem to be doing is changing feet.

 

I feel very passionately about women’s desistance. I feel very passionately about how women prisoners are treated generally. This country has a whole bunch of women in prison – mainly for acquisitive crimes – who, according to Lady Jean Corston, shouldn’t be there – they don’t belong in prison. She said that in her Report  five years ago and, I understand, there has been a great deal of work done to divert women offenders from custodial sentences since then but nothing is being done for those already in the system.

 

The women’s estate is very much a poor relative within the Prison Service. We account for between 4-8 prisoners for every 100 incarcerated. The Criminal Justice system knows very little – apart from those officers who take the trouble to learn – about women. Corston described the system as designed by men for men, and she’s absolutely right. For a woman, this means ours is the experience of highly-controlling condemnatory paternalism coupled with an absolute refusal to engage on the emotional level or, sometimes, to even recognise its existence. Remember I am looking at this with a psychotherapist’s eye.

 

The women’s response is to self-harm, suicide or, in some way or another, go quietly insane. We lose our bearings emotionally and the punishment regimes can be continuous over long periods until whole wings are screaming, which means something has to be done to ease the pain and a woman dies. The levels of emotional pain these 4-8 women prisoners carry is enough to fill around 50% of the self-harm statistics for the entire 100 – that’s how bad it is. These figures rise and fall, but in no significant degree away from half the pain for the whole bally lot of them. There are those who understand how bad it is but I’m not certain these statistics quite sink in with the best of the criminal justice ‘family’.

 

Jean Corston’s Report wanted the women out of prison within ten years. We have five years left and we haven’t even looked at what to do for the women still imprisoned. It’s as if everyone has found something more important to do. That’s not to say that there aren’t more important things – there seem to be so many of them these days, I have to be very selective where I put my energy. But I do think we need more energy around Corston and women’s desistance because while everyone is faffing around elsewhere, 4-8 living breathing women are carrying the emotional burden for 100. As the justice system swings into attrition mode, this burden will increase as will the cutting, ligaturing and inevitable suicides. Women’s prisons – at their best – are relationship-heavy. The Prison Service is cutting staff across the board, so this reduces the capacity for relating between women prisoners and staff as well as placing an impossible burden on the good staff themselves. They are the ones who see our distress and it hurts them when they can’t help us because we are being systemically abused. These are the staff who arrive in the ‘nick-of-time’ to save a woman’s life and they are being set up to fail. Fail to implement Corston, and the suicidal women who succeeds in dying may have cause to be grateful because the alternative is no life worth living. It is an argument I had with all the prisons I was in and I knowingly put my health and life at risk in my refusal to accept what was on offer. The need to implement this empty-prison aspect of Corston is becoming more urgent every day – these women don’t belong in prison. So why are they still there and why are they now being subject to a heavier level of systemic judicial punishment through the criminal neglect of their needs purely on the grounds of gender? These women are already recognised as having a far higher chance of being victims of abuse than the general population – so these victims are now being further victimised by a system that doesn’t know how to relate to women and demonstrates no interest in learning.

 

You may not know this, but research into women offenders ‘in their own right’ is relatively new. For years, all research on offenders was based upon male offending. The researchers were just beginning to take notice of us women when I was in prison in 2008/9 and they found they had to go back to the drawing board. The reasons women offend are totally unrelated to anything men do – we have our own reasons. When women are imprisoned, families break down and children end up in care – men don’t seem to have that problem so much.  Issues around housing and work are harder for women offenders. As far as I can see, because the Criminal Justice system doesn’t know how to deal with women, they are doing what they usually do by putting their heads in the sand and hoping the problem will go away. They won’t take any real notice until the death toll gets embarrassing. Evidence? It’s what they did with the women’s wing at HMP Durham, eventually closing it down altogether but not before one last suicide. When the last lass died, the number of women being held in that prison was in single digits. That fucking regime couldn’t muster any compassion for a small handful of women when just ordinary compassion would simply be to treat women with the same level of consideration given to men. It illustrates just how bad it can get in prison on a very bad day.

 

I’m pushing women’s desistance because I think it would be a way to implement Corston. It could look out for the lasses on their terms and still meet reparative justice demands but it would have to be reparative on both sides. I have this fantasy of a women’s desistance project in my village. We have unused allotments, impoverished villagers and a global famine on the way. In my mind, I see women desisters earning their freedom by growing food; by ensuring there is a free breakfast club at the local school; by any number of other ways we could identify to contribute to the community – with the eventual aim of sending our ‘graduates’ out to teach other people how to do it, either as employees or paid consultants. Such a project would, by its very nature, be labour intensive but it would be a fixed term thing. Once the women are out of the system, there’d be no need for more unless the men steal our ideas because the methodology might work for them too. Before then, in my mind, desistance women would have taught themselves about social enterprises and creating their own work. Homes, work and a new social worth might go some considerable way to enabling these women to let go of their past.

 

The women emerging from these prisons have been living in emotional concentration/death camps – some have been in them all their lives. They are going to be disoriented and suffering from extreme emotional damage. I suppose that’s why I thought it so important to ‘do’ my melt-down in public – if people can begin to get a grasp of how I continue to be affected, then that might elicit some compassion for those women who have come through much, much worse. Example? How about Naz (eventually transferred to a psychiatric hospital (what was needed from the outset)) who performed her own mastectomies – not once but on several occasions? That was not her worst behaviour. When I talk about the women who cut, I’m talking about those whose arms, legs and probably elsewhere consist of scar tissue. There is no place on their arms where they haven’t cut. My sweetest friend, Melissa, has arms like that. The women’s obvious distress is so bad it disturbs the sleep of independent witnesses.

 

I wonder if part of the reason criminal justice finds this so hard to get to grips with are due the levels of professional complicity in not only creating but perpetuating this situation. They can’t say they don’t know anymore because Corston told them. She was shocked by what she saw five years ago. It seems some women’s prisons still refuse to learn today. As far as I am concerned, this report about New Hall suggests that they continue to use psychological torture on some women prisoners held within the Segregation Unit.

 

I wonder if they still fuck with our meds, like they used to. Or put newly remanded, first-time-in-prison, first night woman into solitary confinement at BASIC C&C and keep her on that regime for a month (without induction). I had to put in an app asking what it was I’d done wrong to be treated in such a way so that I could correct it, before I was brought up to STANDARD (the automatic entry point for all new prisoners). But that won’t show up on the prison’s computer in just the same way that my correct conviction didn’t either. New Hall transferred me to Durham with a record that claimed I’d been convicted for attempted murder. No – I was charged with attempted murder, based on fraudulent documents; I was convicted of wounding-with-intent after I successfully defended myself in court by demonstrating the documents were frauds. I had to write to Hull Crown Court and ask them to inform HMP Durham about the facts of my convictions because we can be certain that the prison would never have taken my word for it. They certainly thought I was lying about my psychotherapeutic past because they told my vulnerable young friend from New Hall solitary this after they’d ghosted me out. Fortunately, I had a good enough relationship with Toni to be able to laugh it off by saying that perhaps they could fill in this missing seventeen-year gap in my history where I’m convinced that’s what I was and can produce witnesses. Toni ended up cutting badly and now has a long history of suicide attempts including one very near miss indeed. It is profoundly unethical to lie to someone with existing mental health problems. Fortunately, Toni made it to hospital too – there are many who don’t.

 

Jules – is it alright for me to be blisteringly angry about all this? Or did I have it coming because I’m a criminal? This is the criminal justice mind-fuck. I know how I feel and I hear the other trotted out often enough even from the criminals in the men’s estate. But the biggest perpetrator of the “had-it-coming” mind-fuck, as far as I am concerned, is Probation.  This is where desistance becomes necessary on all sides. Whilst the Criminal Justice system fails to desist in its profoundly cruel and unjust treatment of women prisoners, nothing gets done to stop it. The system is so busy looking round pointing its fingers at us, it forgets three other fingers point straight back. But I’m not going to help matters if I join in the blame game too, even though the desire to deal with some of those bastards is, at times, overwhelming.

 

*SCREAMS*

HOW DARE YOU TREAT WOMEN – TO WHOM YOU OWE A DUTY OF CARE – IN THIS WAY!!!! HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU HAVE TO BE TOLD THAT WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS ABUSIVE AND CRUEL????

 

I’ve been a desister from the moment of my offence. If I can do it, so can they. We simply have to be professional about it. You’re a wise woman, Jules. How is a woman like me supposed to feel in the face of this stuff? How is she supposed to behave? And how am I doing in my ambition to be professional around women’s desistance?

 

And, just thank you, thank you, thank you for asking and, more especially, my friend.

 

All my love

 

Dee

 

#EtherSec #TangoDown The Guardian and how covert censorship works

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“The Guardian” newspaper is a part of my personal and social heritage as someone who was raised a socialist. It never really was a socialist paper – more soft liberal – but for the intelligentsia who couldn’t bring themselves to read “The Morning Star”, the Graundiad was a passable choice. Not anymore.

To read the Guardian now is to understand that there are some very fine journalists working there. They report stuff like this – in good detail and fine attention. I have no doubt that there are many good and fine people working for the paper too. I have no argument with them. My argument is with whoever is making the decisions that other staff have to carry out.

I have an ‘old’ account with the Grauniad (bearing in mind I have only been ‘back’ on the net for a year or so). Today I logged on to take part in this:-

My late father would have been tickled to bits with my score, especially if I could tell him that on some questions I guessed when I didn’t know. Even I was pleased with how I did and I am my worst critic. So the Guardian comment beneath my score prompted this reply:-

But there was something interesting I noticed. It prompted me to post a tweet to people I trusted. I’m very grateful for this reply:-

This is not the Guardian website I knew less than a year ago, let alone the paper my family paid good money for for over more than forty years.

There is a rule I need to apply to myself here – Do not criticise without proposing a solution. Because I prefer people to make up their own minds and use their own imagination, I make no proposals. I will simply share this because I have already acted.

On twitter, I’m called a global Citizen – I accept that responsibility. I am called a friend – I accept that privilege. I continue to call myself a shaman in the face of derision and oblivion curses because I’m still here after all their attempts to destroy me. And I’ve just been given a job by people who set very high standards. I am posting this for them only because I prefer to be elected rather than chosen. Otherwise , I am honoured and seek to comfirm my worth and their opinion. I know the importance of being valued (see last paragraph). You can find us here #ATL.

I never want to let down those who choose or trust me because that kind of respect is so hard-won and it comes only from those who work hard to be honest. We need to value each other for who we are, especially when we are different. The Guardian used to do that for everyone but it appears to have suffered a failure of courage – no comments on a Comment Cartoon anymore? Cartoonists getting too close to the bone to allow people to speak?

So I say this because I believe it falls under the law of “Fair comment”.

The Guardian newspaper is corrupt at the top but not neccessarily in the middle 😉

Sue me!

“Where the bodies are buried” – a prisoner’s tale

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One of the advantages of “coming out” as an ex-con are the stories that can be told. As a story-teller, I particularly love those I have been discouraged or silenced from repeating in the past.

There is one story that keeps tugging at me, asking to be told. It emerges into daylight on 21 March 2000 when a young man of 19, serving a 40-day sentence for handling stolen goods and within five hours of his release, is murdered by his racist pad-mate. The young man’s name was Zahid Mubarek.

Had it not been for the campaign for justice, led his family, I would not be able to tell my story… and this is why. The result of the Public Inquiry into the murder of Zahid Mubarek did something rather unusual. It named the Governor responsible for a wing that would pad-up a young Asian man with a known and violent racist. It’s about as critical as a public inquiry can get in the UK and it’s all checkable.

But my story is not about Zahid even though it begins and ends with him. It’s about what happened inbetween; a “What the Governor did next…” tale.

You see, somehow being in charge of a wing where a vulnerable prisoner is murdered in a way that could be forseen didn’t seem to present any kind of career problems for this man. By the time I met him, in 2003, he was a Dark Star in the pantheon of Prison Service Gods. He changed things. He made a difference!

He certainly made a difference when, after Feltham, he became the Governor-in-Charge of HMP Durham. Durham was a high-security prison which, contained within the men’s prison, held the highest-security wing for women in England & Wales. So this Prince-of-Darkness brings in the kind of changes he will build his reputation upon.

The Women’s Wing was small and had only one suicide in over a decade on its record. The wing was, by prisoner reports told to me, stable and as quiet as such places are capable of being. By the time it was finally shut down in 2005, the dead had risen to eight. As a former consultant, I might wonder at the aims and objectives of HMP-HQ if this particular style of prisoner management is considered laudable.

By the time I met this man, he had been promoted further; an Area Manager for the Womens’ Estate in the North of England. Women prisoners (8% of total population) accounted for 55% of ALL prisoner suicide and self-harm statistics at that time. The figures are not much better today.

He had one of the darkest souls I have ever met. The death toll left in his wake suggests I was seeing accurately and he offered no life I considered worthy of living.

He disappeared from the Prison public view after he was identified as a contributory factor in the death of Zahid Mubarek. But he won’t have disappeared. I wonder whose lives he is playing with now.

My story thanks you for listening and gives deepest thanks to the Mubarek family for their loss and their strength in making this Telling-Tale possible.