Monday, 9 November 2015

an Essay on Prisons

The sorts of people watching the Daily News utter all sorts of absurdities; such absurdities are normalised in modern societies.  They garrulously rejoice at the thief being sent to prison for a lengthy period, or the robber, murderer, rapist, and so forth, yet they are happy saying such things.  These individuals are politicised of course, and are not in the minority either, but such enquiries need not concern us here.  “Send them to prison”, remark some, “let them rot and throw away the key”, say others.  The uncouth bunch that say these things, are, themselves in a prison, yet do not know it.

I am referring to the English of course.  These professional lunatics in power ought to change the name of the “Ministry of justice” to “obsessed with punishment” department, it would be a fitting title.  It is not only they that obsess with sending people to jail, it is the entire nation.  There is no debate on this, none whatsoever.  The intelligible mind then must pose the question for others to consider: why do people not challenge the standard view?  The answer need not be complicated.  The junk box and the airwaves do the thinking for them.  For the television reduces your capacity to think, it is a mechanism which has had a tremendous amount of success.  The junk box demand we lock people up for sustained, prolonged periods, and we must not challenge that because we are enmeshed in a totalitarian society.

The question which has been posed to many, is does prison work?  There is a simple response to this. The answer is no.  But what do such people mean by “work”?  It seems clear what is meant.  That will prison, or rather, the prisoner’s time in prison, stop, or reduce what the state calls “reoffending”.  Sending people to prison does no such thing; it is not intended to either.  The intention is that insidious word which is often used, I am, of course referring to the word “punishment”.  Upon release, such people are to remain in bondage, the intention is to encourage them to commit more crimes. The fascist framework remains in place.  The ex-prisoner is subject to control, manipulation, and damnation for the remainder of their lives, while being subject to methods of totalitarianism, which people may or may not be concerned about. 

 But one may wonder what are these totalitarian measures forced upon these hapless victims who have had their freedom ripped from their souls, never to be returned.  Article 23 of the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states: “Everyone has the right to work”. Indeed. But the law changes once people have been to prison for whatever reason, and no matter how  miniscule and minute the “offences” are, no mercy is spared.  It would be helpful to give an example here: a young man steals a car with all the belongings in it, before leaving it battered and bruised.  The man is questioned by the police, charged and later convicted of the offence.  He is sentenced to twenty-six months imprisonment, of that, he will spend half the time in prison, the rest of the sentence will be served in the community.  Upon his release from prison he will be placed on “licence”.  On that licence, and indeed after it, he will be barred from working in the public sector, and a variety of other jobs, why is this?
The answer to this question is rather simple.  Upon release from prison, a fascist structure is put in place.  This fascist structure seeks to eliminate the “offender” from society totally; the aim is to isolate them, to control and manipulate them, and to lock them up again and again.  It is important to state what I mean briefly by a fascist structure.  Do I mean death squads in the streets like we saw in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s?  Certainly not.  How about torture camps, gas chambers and so on?  Not so either.  For that is not what fascism is.  It is, one could argue, a facet of fascism we have seen with regimes in the past, but it is not a clear and definitive example of fascism.  Fascism then is when a body of people seek to eliminate a group of people, a race a nationality or whatever.

A life sentence is imposed on every prisoner leaving these wretched prisons in England.  The life sentence starts when you depart from the prison gates.  The reasons for such behaviour by the state are outrageous even by their standards.  Two words are often bandied around by faithful enthusiasts.  Of course these two words are public protection, and the people who believe this patent nonsense need not be subject to a frontal lobe lobotomy. Journalists need not report it, because, just like scholars, academics and intellectuals, they are nothing more than servants of state power, in other words, they choose not to report such things to the wider public, and so the country becomes one of the least free in the world.  But, of course, this is seldom said.

Such a statement, ask some, is very polemical: that a life sentence is imposed on every prisoner.  Indeed it is, but unfortunately, it is true. Such behaviour by the state can never be justified in its attempts to force them, the ex prisoner, to disclose their criminal record.  Indeed, one could even say there is more chance of those poor victims being convicted for fraud rather than getting a job.  This is the state of affairs in Britain, and it doesn't end there either.  No, that is just the start.  It is the beginning of an Orwellian nightmare.  For whatever offence one is convicted of, the totalitarian measures are in place, that seriously handicaps people’s liberty.  If the offence is computer-related, the courts attempt in issuing partial internet bans, those convicted for offences related to children are banned from working with them, and so on, this final point is controversial, but let us consider it more rationally.

What is the purpose of serving time in prison?  We are given different accounts by different people of course, but there are often the two, which are the most common: punishment and rehabilitation.  I do not wish to discuss the so-called punishment aspect, because it is difficult to take any person seriously who believes in punishment of this kind.  This, inevitably leads to a more comical element of what the state likes to call rehabilitation, they only refer to the word in the Orwellian sense.  Let’s pretend, as they do, that they are not referring to it in the Orwellian sense.  A person is released from prison, during his/her licence period, they attend a course, and are “rehabilitated”, yet are still banned from working with children and from working in the public sector completely, why is this?

Well, Britain is a country based on fear, and the tabloid press fabricate the fiction that all children are in grave danger of being abducted off the streets, sexually assaulted and buried alive.  This is the stuff of fantasy.  But the “ex-offender” has been “rehabilitated”, but still has these totalitarian conditions placed upon them.  Take the following example: a man formerly worked with small children at a nursery.  During that time, he has been having a sexual relationship with a fifteen-year-old teenager, and is convicted of a “sex crime”, and sentenced to four years imprisonment, he serves two, and attends a course soon after his release from prison.  In the meantime he is banned from working with children for life, or take another example.  Four teenage boys have been upto no good, terrorising the local neighbourhood.  However, on this particular occasion, they choose the wrong person to victimise. The boys post fireworks through this person’s letterbox, moments later, the occupant of the property emerges, and in a rage, throws the boys to the ground, booting their legs. After this assault he is arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned. He is banned from working with children again. This includes all children, including infants.  Is this because the authorities believe he may take to throwing these infants to the ground, thus kicking them?  These, it must be admitted, are the laws in Britain, and we could go on, but this will not be necessary.

What of prisons themselves, what are they like?  People argue that they do not really care, because they get what they deserve and all that sort of nonsense.  Thus the English have a constant obsession with punishment.  This obsession with punishment is drilled into people’s heads, and they are offered no alternative.  There is a limitation of debate in these matters.  The idea of an alternative to prison or to punishment does not reach the media, and thus the public tend not to think about such things.  But, it is true, people are to enter prison for one reason: to give up their liberty.  There is to be no abuse beyond that, and those that argue for such further abuse should be ashamed of themselves.

 Reports from the media rage on about all sorts of falsities.  They do not shrink, either, from giving their warped views and opinions.  They call the prisoner a criminal, and they will always call them a criminal.  These wretches can not differentiate the difference between a criminal and a criminal act.  A criminal act does not automatically designate the perpetuator a criminal.  The nonsense they propagate is the following: the government of its day introduce laws, without any scrutiny, it must be added, and if you break these plastic laws, you are automatically a “criminal”, this is the way it is, so we are told.  Yet if these publications were more truthful they would be saying no such thing.  If they were candid about such matters they would be discussing how criminal these publications really are, how criminal the government is, the real function of financial institutions and so on, but we see no such thing in these newspapers. 

 So inside these prisons what do we see?  We see the rapacious destruction of the individual, families are torn apart, people’s souls are ripped out, their spirit destroyed, and in turn, are treated like savages.  They are given food, much of which is inedible, forced labour is practiced, refusal equals punishment, and this is justified on all levels.  In some prisons, where they house people convicted for murder, terrorism and the like, are mixed with remand prisoners.  Such abuses go on, and nobody cares to repeat such things.

 Yet that is not where the biggest abuse lies in British prisons.  The biggest evil, if I may be permitted to use that term, remains in the hands of the government, their members of parliament and ultimately, judges.  It is these bunch of rogues that makes life so miserable for much of society.  Under New Labour, for example. a new, obscure law was passed.  When men and women go to jail on remand, there is a three-letter word which is bandied around, of course, such prisoners do not know what this term means.  The term, a three-letter acronym, is IPP.  What is this, ask some.  Oh, It stands for Imprisonment for Public Protection, answer others.  The inevitable reply is, what is that?  IPPs can be defined as the following: an IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection), gave sentences to people considered dangerous have a minimum tariff slapped on them, in an effect a life sentence.  Sentences could have been imposed on any individual, and there was very little scrutiny.  So far example if a prisoner was given a two-year IPP, she/he could serve thirty years if the parole board are unhappy for him or indeed her, to be released, even when they are released, are subject to a life on licence, their lives are controlled by the probation service, and the police for the rest of their lives.  Such a thing remains illegal under European law, but no matter.  This is like another world, like a leviathan has opened their jaws and swallowed them up.  Once an IPP had been handed out, and an appeal rejected, there is no going back.  The rest of your life is a hellish Kafkaesque nightmare.  For those maintaining their innocence with such a sentence, it is far worse.  For as long as they maintain their innocence, they will never be released.  It is also a money-saving exercise for the courts, or more accurately, blackmail.  If a guilty plea is given, there is a likely chance a fixed-term sentence will be given, but if the case is taken to trial, an IPP will probably be given out.  It is also every prisoner’s worst nightmare.  Being subject to an IPP sentence is psychological torment. 

The prisoner’s life is mere lottery.  This is based on a number of factors (1), the competence of their legal team; (2), the court to which they are sentenced at and finally; (3), the judge sentencing them.  Let us look at the first point.

(1).  This, like many other things in Britain, comes down to money and little else.  Law companies incline to reserve the best barristers for the wealthiest clients.  For those seeking legal aid is just a lottery.  Having the misfortune of being placed on remand, a number of difficulties are attached to the prisoner.  One of them is choosing a legal team, as is often the case, if such people do not have one, they do not have the means of picking the right one to suit their needs, so they pick one, and hope for the best.  If they have an incompetent solicitor, and are sentenced to the maximum a magistrate can sentence you to, it is just twelve months, of which the prisoner will serve eight months at the most, but if the barrister is incompetent and languid in the client's case, the worse case scenario is an IPP sentence.  If, however, the barrister is the best money can buy, either (a), a light sentence will be imposed or (b), a not guilty verdict will be reached.

(2).  It matters a great deal which court the so-called offender is sentenced at, the difference is crucial, and many prisoners and ex-prisoners alike, I am sure, can testify to this.  For example, Bolton crown court in Greater Manchester is considered to be an unfortunate court to be sentenced at, contrastingly, at Manchester Crown Court at Minshull street, situated in the city centre, is seen to be more “liberal”, and dare we say, fair.  To compare these two courts then, there are tangible differences.  Bolton Crown Court is small, with a small number of judges, Minshull Street court is bigger with more judges,  What is the reason for this?  Well, the bigger the city (Bolton is not a city), more crimes are committed, more serious cases are seen in the Manchester court, and when lesser ones are committed, they tend not to over-sentence the defendants.  On the other hand, smaller courts like the one in Bolton, are not used to crimes of this magnitude, so they often over-sentence, and this is consistent throughout the country. 

(3).  This is where everything matters: the judge.  Judges have sentencing guidelines but are not required to follow them, and often do not.  A judge can even decide to ignore evidence, or lack of it and sentence people depending on the judge's prejudices.  They then issue court orders, these can last for life.  They can issue bans of all sorts.  They are rampant, tyrannical, and there is little to stop them.  They can also issue extended licences, so the defendant can be controlled, manipulated and coerced by the probation service, upon release from prison.  There is no end to the judge's power in these court rooms.

But one must pose the following question: what is the real goal of sending people to prison, or rather, what is the prime reason?  Is it to punish them?  No.  Is it to protect the public from these beasts? No.  Is it to turn the prisoner into a commodity, to make vast profits at the prisoner’s expense?  The average prisoner in the United Kingdom, gets, perhaps, the salary of sweatshop labour in Bangladesh, with a pittance of a wage.  The work, also, is enough to drive one insane.  Such prisoners are turned into zombies, and soon enough they will start to work without thinking about such things, because it has become their non-existence.  Few complain, and those that do, are disciplined, refuse work, and all privileges are removed.  Prisoners work so they can save so they can make contact with their family: making phone calls and buying stamps so they can write letters to their children. 

Yes, prison has everything to do with business interests and profits, and nothing to do with protecting the public.  Britain has a special affiliation with big business, and the history books show this quite clearly.  Take a single decade: the 1980s.  Margaret Thatcher was business friendly towards the racist fanatics in South Africa, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, General Suharto, who was responsible for genocide in East Timor and Papua New Guinea and mass murder in his own country, and all in the name of friendly trade agreements.  Prison is no different, but of course without the bloodshed.  No discussion on these issues are required.  Why should prisons even exist?  Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, did not think they should:

 Incarceration in a prison of necessity entirely destroys the energy of a man and annihilates his will.  In prison life there is no room for increasing one’s will; to possess one’s own will in prison means surely to get into trouble.  The will of the prisoner must be killed, and it is killed.  Still less room is there for exercising one’s natural sympathies, everything being done to prevent free contact with those, outside and within, with whom the prisoner may have feelings of sympathy.

 In another work, he wrote:

 Consider what corruption, what depravity of mind is kept up among men by the idea of obedience, the very essence of law; of chastisement; of authority having the right to punish, to judge irrespective of conscience and esteem of our friends; of the necessity for executioners, of jailors. and informers-in a word, by all the attributes of law and authority. 

 If this was written yesterday, would we notice the difference?  This is still the state of affairs in prisons.  Take courses in prisons as an example.  These courses, are designed, in Britain, to draw out dissidence or radical thought.  There is a course which has the name “thinking skills”.  For the IPP prisoner who is disobedient to the state apparatus. and to power in general, they will stay in prison until they learn to be more docile.  Putting these brainwashing courses aside, one must not be disobedient to the prison officers either, for the fear of such a merciless beating.  This sort of nonsense goes on and on. 

The figures of prison statistics are astonishing, and are criminal, if nothing else.  Take the issue of mental illness.  It is said that at any given time upto 80% of the prison population suffer from some form of mental illness.  A society which looks up so many mentally ill people is quite a hideous thing.  Because the whole population is obsessed with punishment, everything else is immaterial.  People must be locked up!  Then after people have been criminalised in prison, upon release they seek to rehabilitate them.  The fact so many people in prison have a mental illness is not hidden either. It is a fact well documented.  But why would that interest a nation that is so hell-bent on punishment?  Suffering from mental illness is a terrible thing, and no doubt sending such people to prison only exacerbates their problems.  On this issue, nothing is likely to change anytime soon.

 As for illiteracy rates in prison, well the statistics are even worse.  Around 60% of the population are unable to read or write to some degree.  So for the educated, well, they tend to stay out of prison, get good jobs and decent salaries, as for the unfortunate child who is born into the most miserable environment possible; prison life is not such a surprising outcome.  It is called class war, and it has been going on far as far as anybody can remember.  The impoverished child with the awful education they have received are destined for a life of impoverishment because of the actions of the government.  Whereas the more educated segments of society tend to stay out of prison.  They stay out of prison not because they are not criminals but  because they are levied special privileges. 

22nd June-3rd July, 2013

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