Thursday, 26 May 2016

Prison Essays (7): Illiteracy

Well over half the population in England and Wales are illiterate. That statistic alone paints a story of the current state of modern Britain. It suggests certain people are thrown into jail, and they are the most disadvantaged and oppressed in society. For those people who have not been taught basic reading and writing skills for whatever reason, are denied attending education classes of any sort, their working lives are limited and many will find it difficult to find work of any kind, it is therefore logical to deduce from this that some people will inevitably end up behind bars. The more poor and uneducated a person is  the more chance there is of finding themselves in prison. When they are released, the same circle they are ensnared in continues, and so such people will spend most of their lives in prison.
For those that are unable to read the more real is the threat of abuse and bullying. This happens everywhere while these oppressed, bewildered and tortured are sent to prison. This comes in the form of other prisoners, officers, and they are often manipulated and  deceived by the police in the process of being interviewed by them, betrayed by their solicitors and barristers and so on.  But all this has not happened by chance, this war against unpeople has been raging for many years, and now it is deemed acceptable by working adults in prisons. But it does appear, on the face of it at least, the government is doing something to tackle this problem.  For illiterate men and women, they have the opportunity to read in prison.  This is done through what is known as Toe by Toe. Toe by Toe is an ingenious way that teaches people to read. The Shannon trust, founded in 1997 by  farmer, Christopher Morgan.  In the early 1990s he was corresponding with a prisoner, Tom Shannon, the trust is named after him.  There, Morgan learned about the appalling illiteracy rates in prison, and people must be eternally grateful for his services.  Toe by Toe mentors are not professional teachers who teach prisoners how to read, but by unpaid prisoners. So much for the government helping these people.  
The government prattle on about getting people back into work but people with little or no formal education that is when the crime of poverty materialises.  This is when men and women steal, rob, mug, sell illegal substances and so forth. They are using their skills,  because often it is the only skills they have. The weak and disadvantaged will always be brutalised and marginalised in a capitalist society, because capitalism is synonymous with greed, avarice and plutocracy. The persecution of these people is perfectly simple. But something much worse is hiding. It is because of their vulnerability they are quite likely to be sent to prison for committing no crime and thus rendering them innocent victims.  
When over half the prison population is unable to read and write that shows how rapacious class war has become. There is no democracy in a society where there is no freedom of opportunity. Weakness will always be targeted in prison, so far example they will sign important documents they are unable to read, they will ask fellow prisoners to receive their meals, have visits and send out mail.  Some prisoners will use methods of blackmail to enact this service. They, also, are unable to attend education, as education in prison is for people that are literate to some degree at least.  So it is left to the unpaid Toe by Toe mentors.
But it need not be this way and we know it.  It is a pathetic state of affairs but we now live in a fiscal-fascist world, only the people that have the nefarious desire to make money and outlandish profits will receive state protection and the rest of society are left to fend for themselves. It is a sick and perverse ideology, but it is an ideology that sets the global framework, and that framework is called the free market.  
Only in a globally fascist-designed economic system, i.e the free market would you get such victims rotting in prison for the biggest crime of all: being poor. Yet who must be culpable? These working class societies, or rather concentration camp environments, are designed, not an act of god or made up of some random accident.  It is through successive governments that have persecuted the poor and have had a hugely successful clandestine war against them and the result is seeing these people in excessively high numbers coming into the British punitive system.  Being poor is a crime in itself, but to attempt to better yourself that is rather unacceptable; the only way for these people to create a better life for themselves is to commit crimes.  
The prison industrial prison complex is the most barbaric of all institutions.  It is largely the weak and persecuted that find themselves there. It is akin to T.S Eliot’s Waste Land. These people, we are led to believe, are expendable. Not being able to read in contemporary Britain is itself a disability. What a tragedy and scandal it is that somebody is unable to read a newspaper, the works of classic authors, their local history, the tombstones of their parents, the ingredients on packaged food and so on.  This is overlooked by almost everybody, as people have other interests and agendas. It is all rather deplorable.
But many see illiteracy as only being a problem in the developing world. We have seen this is false. Perhaps one could argue certain sections of British society are subject to third-world conditions; this is plausible. What people fail to recognise is that in every country in the world a two-tier “justice” system exists. That is those that have state protection seldom find themselves in prison and those that do not have this protection do find themselves incarcerated and in many instances they have done no wrong.
 See my previous blogs for my other prison essays. My next prison essay will be posted shortly
31st January, 2014

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Prison Essays (6): Mental Health

Britain is one of those benevolent countries which likes to lock people up who are mentally disturbed. It is estimated in Britain that around eighty percent of the prison population have mental health issues. Nevertheless, this savage incarceration of unwell men, women, and even children should come as no surprise to many of us. It is a nation that is obsessed with locking people up and shouting infantile platitudes such as “justice”. In fact, there is no justice where this matter is concerned. For the authorities presiding over criminal law and over people with mental illnesses, their incarceration should be held in no great esteem. To put the mentally ill in prison is itself a criminal act, but few seem to share this view.

There is a spectre haunting Britain. It is a morbid disease which seeks to lock up a large number of people for long periods - and this - to foolish and unwise people is “justice”, “right” and “fair.” If the “crime” is committed the “offender” must go to prison, so we are told. This person can be a child, suffering from psychosis, no matter what the condition is of the individual, they must go to prison and rejoice in the misery in which they are subject to. The state, that pernicious, nefarious autocratic authority which talks puerile idiocies at every opportunity, ought not to preside over such things. They prefer to rub the sore when they should bring the plaster, thus endangering every woman, man and child in the community. Indeed those that believe in punishment ought not to be taken seriously.

If we were to take Hannah Arendt’s advice and execute all the brutes Britain would be without judges, the House of Commons would be without members of Parliament, police stations would be empty, prisons would be without officers and governors and so on. Let us, for example take a man who has the thinking capacity of an eight-year-old child who has violently attacked a child. If that individual is placed in prison then the state to which he belongs are responsible for putting children in prison, and it is also the case that such a person would fail to grasp the reasons for being incarcerated in the first place. This is not punishment but obscene mental retardation. Because, upon release, there is nothing to stop him from repeating his wild act because he has not been taught that it is wrong. There is little morality in such affairs, and those who refrain from speaking out about such abysmal practices are just as immoral.

I would now like to pose a polemical argument. All punitive institutions ought to be dismantled, and more humanitarian and caring practices ought to be erected. If a “crime” is committed by someone who is considered to be suffering from a mental sickness, first it is important to determine and understand why this person did such a thing. Throwing an individual into jail will be severely detrimental to the individual involved, as well as to others. It is best to cure the illness within their mind, and relinquish their demons. However, evidently, we do not live in a caring society, and such protestations are in vain. If a more sane society was created it would put an end to governments everywhere, but that is impossible.

There appears, quite marginally, to be some concern from people in different parts of this corrosive society, but this gentle empathy does indeed have its limits. This stops short at the prison gates, and those hapless victims suffering a sickness of the mind, are left alone in this dark, dank, cold and devastating world. It is a little peculiar even by the governments’ standards by incarcerating these people because it does little to serve their interests and ventures. Throwing people in prison is not just a matter of barbarian practices by the criminal class; it goes much further than that. Presently Britain houses more prisoners than any other European counterpart. This is because these people languishing in these institutions are acting as financial profit for the state and private power, but those that do not have the ability to work that is something else.

Those that are incapable of working in prison still serve the state’s interest just by being in prison. Many of us are so ridiculous that an abnormally large number of us believe prisons to be places of rehabilitation. This “rehabilitation” is a profiteering practice for the government and the like. Crime does pay but not for the “offender” or “”victim” but to a more insidious throng. Why does the crypto-fascist government take immense pleasure in locking up such people? This is a question which is not too difficult to answer.

A new sort of society has been created before our very eyes, it is, what we may call a dystopian nightmare envisioned by vicious plutocrats. This new society is, in essence, social Darwinism, aimed at benefitting those who are wealthy enough to pay their taxes in millions, as for the rest of society they are marginalised without knowing it. The state gains nothing in helping those with mental health conditions; it does not benefit the government, therefore they are an unnecessary burden and the lower element. That is why they are shoved in prison and offered no help before getting there, and nothing while they are there and even after they leave. Nevertheless, the treatment of people suffering from mental illness is seldom discussed in polite society. Prison works, so said the former Home Secretary, Michael Howard. Prison does not work; it did not work then, it does not work now and it never shall in the future, certainly not in this society. Michael Howard was fond of locking people up with all kinds of mental problems, yet, so it appears, his conscience was never pricked. In fact, mental health is ridiculed in the television system, on reality shows of various sorts they act as entertainment programmes, tormenting and ridiculing people with clear disabilities of the mind, and the viewers laugh as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Contrastingly, those with physical disabilities on these same abominable television programmes are met with sympathy and often admiration. Such polarity is striking.

The same happens in punitive institutions. Those suffering from mental health problems are often met with mockery and brutality, not only from the prisoners but from the prison officers as well. For them it is prison of the very worst kind.

26th January 2014.
For my other prison essays see previous posts. The next essay on prisons will be posted shortly.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Prison Essays (5) Education in Prisons

“The world exists for the education of each man”, so wrote Ralph waldo Emerson. Now in the 21st century we can perhaps add women to that quote. The business of education in prisons is a rather different affair. It is a rare thing in prisons throughout England and Wales where education pays the same wages as work; it pays less, not more. The emphasis in these institutions is on work and it sad to say it always will be. But the brute says why complain? Inhabitants in these places get access to good facilities, to libraries, books and so on. Indeed it is interesting if we go back in history less than ten years after the death of Emerson himself, and he died in the 1880s. In 1892, alexander Berkman, the anarchist, was incarcerated and spent fourteen hard long years in one of America’s harshest prisons for shooting a repugnant fellow, Henry Clay Frick.

Berkman documented his struggles by writing a book based on his experiences called “the diary of an anarchist”, in it he describes the hideous conditions he was subjected to; in fact the conditions were so horrific that he expected to leave prison in a bodybag. During his time there, he was able, so he writes in his book, to read books in this prison. So this whole idea that British prisons are so advanced that you are given the chance to read books is false. These facilities have existed in gulag prisons for decades. But education in prisons abroad, including the United States puts the Prisons in England and Wales to shame.

So much emphasis is put on education in prisons, that, in some prisons the only study that exists is in a noisy environment on the wing, teaching maths and English that is taught to primary school children. Even when other prisons have better facilities, for example university equivalent degrees, Open University courses, doctorates and so on, the prisoner struggles to see people from the education department. Everything in prison is more strenuous that it need be and this is no exception. If the prisoner wishes to better themselves as human beings, as a humanitarian, as a valued member of the world they often desire to enter the classroom. To do this is not as simple as one may think.

Firstly the prisoner must put an application form into the education department. This can take weeks and weeks. When they do finally see someone another difficulty arises, often the prisoner has to pay for the education themselves, and for the majority this is money they do not have. Funding can be made available from various organisations and clearly this takes time, sometimes many months. Many give up the chance because they find it tiresome and frustrating. It is also the case prison officers, as they like to call themselves, are often negative when it comes to education and prisoners. They are uneducated so why on earth, so they think, should prisoners do anything that encourages them to develop an independent mind? This is a direct threat to authority and power. So they are very hostile to the very idea which makes it so much difficult for the prisoner

Even throughout all this hardship if the prisoner gets to study the subject they desire, it still has its disadvantages. In further education, or higher education, in colleges and universities, students attend many sessions a week. Such practices are not so common in punitive institutions. This retards the process of the students despite the best efforts of the educational staff in these prisons. Those who argue against education in prisons throughout the country ought to be ashamed of themselves. How dare they better themselves think the officers in these jails, how dare they try to attempt to better their own lives.

It is clear those in power wish to give a first class education to the privileged classes while the rest of the country receives a third-world education at best, and the hardships they reduce education to in prisons is an absolute abomination. Funds have been slashed, prisoners wishing to study in prison have limited options in what they may study. Short-term prisoners are even prevented from studying short courses even in prison; all they offer them is english and maths for children. This is education to end all education.

But consider the following: the colossal majority of those languishing in prisons throughout England and Wales are extremely uneducated and often uncultivated. If there was a chance to find the magic den; of Prospero’s new-found hidden world that will rid every individual of every poor man’s crimes, well it would be a struggle to even achieve this. There is great humanity to be found in literature of different varieties, music art and so on. It not only allows the prisoner to show empathy but for the rest of their lives they can develop their compassion in this cruel and dark world. For those whose release from prison is imminent and have no home to go to, and their friends and families have deserted them for a variety of reasons, what then? They have little to look forward to. That is why education is imperative to these unfortunate people. Such education helps to transform people’s lives.

There are an array of wonderful organisations which exist in British prisons and all of them are independent from the government. They offer prison support in these vile institutions which darken their lives, however this support is minimal as the government seeks to undermine all aspects of education in prison. Yet people resigned to these prisons have great spirit and resolve. What the authorities draw inimical attention to is the unity and organisation shown by the condemned “offenders”

The sort of menial work prisoners are subject to in prison does great harm to the human spirit. The labours are so repetitive that it has one regressing to mental retardation. This gives prisoners that experience they so desperately need, so we are told, and other idiocies. Everything is intended to turn the prisoner into an indoctrinated robot, where every movement is controlled from elsewhere.

The best education offered in prisons is seen on the library bookshelf. Another word for this is self-education or rather two words if we allow ourselves to be over methodical. While prisoners languish in their cells they can read the beautiful poetry of Keats to bloody terror of Poe. This is education of the most magnificent sort. Yet for those with reading problems, there are further dilemmas further afield which linger. But part of the prisoner’s journey is a literary one. If one, when he/she enters prison is illiterate and when they leave they are reading Balzac; what could be more remarkable than that? Considering the vast class war that has been fought against them, the prisoner can still seek their humanity through the liberal arts, now that is not only remarkable but awe-inspiring. 
19th-21st February, 2014
For my other prison essays see previous posts. My sixth prison essay will be posted shortly.


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Prison Essays (4): Work In Prisons

The issue of work in prisons and everything else which surrounds it is a polemical one. The wage is hardly an incentive for people to work. At the current wages and the prices of the various items prisoners can purchase, this amounts to rates of inflation not in their double figures but in their treble ones, and wages have remained more static than a Burkean view on change. Yet there is a great fraud protruding through society in the belief that work in prisons helps prisoners find work of some value; this is entirely false.

In most jails prisoners have the option of working in tailoring, laundries, print shops and cleaners on the wing. Perhaps the most impressive of these job titles is in the print shop workshop. There are usually two options in this work environment: work on a machine or don’t work on a machine. This sounds simple enough but it has implications. When you first enter these workshops you are not designated work on the machines (unless you are qualified or/and an experienced engineer). The two reasons are obvious. For those of us that are not engineers it takes months of training, but whilst that training that takes place, a place is reserved for you on the machine when a place becomes available. Even so, it is quite unlikely an employer will employ somebody in this capacity who has had minimal training, with no real qualifications in engineering, and the work experience whilst in prison would also be minimal. This is because prisoners are often moved from one prison to another fairly regularly, and in many prisons they do not have print shops, and even if they did, they, once entering a new establishment, would have to wait once again once a place becomes available.

As for workers, print shops who do not operate machines, that is something entirely different. This is what we may call “manual work”; in fact it is even more subordinate than that. It consists of perforating, sitting on a table, folding pieces of paper, perhaps cleaning a little and even getting permission to use the photocopier. These are not skills that need to be learned, it does not require specialist skills, and it makes the work for the prisoner useless and does no favours for them when they enter the job market when they leave prison,

Working in a tailors factory is just sheer mockery. Tailoring is hardly an ambition many of us dream about when we are in school or college. And perhaps the prison system is not being entirely truthful when it calls them “tailor’s workshops”, because it is hardly tailoring, and more sewing than anything else. All this amounts to is to relieve the prisoner of their boredom, get them out of their cells, sit at a table or wherever all day long, chatting, making drinks and so on while doing the occasional sewing. This, so we are told, is “monitoring prisoners to get them back to work”.

Working in the laundry workshop is quite different, yet at the same time very much the same. The difference lies in the contrasting work ethic. The similarities are negative rather than positive. Again, few of us when we are young dream about working in a laundry of any kind. There are no real skills learned here either. These industries are nothing more than factories and it exists to make profits for the prison industrial complex. There is little or indeed no intention to benefit the prisoner and the improvement of their lives through work experience in prisons.

The jobs on the wings in prisons amount to nothing. After all when a prospective employer asks in detail what work experience in cleaning they have, there is no doubt it will be self-evident the work of this nature took place in prison. But putting this aside, is cleaning an ambition many of us aspire to? Is this the limit? Are these the expectations that ought to be reached by thousands of prisoners? It is quite an abominable state of affairs. At the same time a propaganda battle is being fought. This propaganda is the falsified view that prisons help these prisoners in seeking employment.

A more cogent argument ought to be made here in dealing with this issue. Those unfortunate enough to find themselves languishing in prisons are just raw cattle in a meat-grinding machine. Their value lies in their work ethic, thus filling the pockets of wealthy industrialists, and this is the reason and only reason why they must work in these factories where they labour for the benefit of the prison industrial complex and not for themselves. what if they refuse work? Well that is another matter entirely but it ought to be discussed nonetheless.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), would be rather concerned about the current trend in prisons throughout England and Wales. The ILO documents and berates, when it chooses to, organisations which indulge in forced labour, well that is not far from what many prisons are doing. If a prisoner refuses to work once they have been convicted, what happens? They have all their privileges removed from them, and thus leaves them in a very dark place, alone and isolated. The prisoner who does this, there is a major concern. Disobedience or independence of any sort must be met with punishment straight away. The wealthy industrialist must not let his pockets run empty. Part of work in prison is a humiliation process, and they do nothing but repetitive work, hour after hour, day after day and week after week. The pay in prisons is a national disgrace. Soon enough the prisoner acts like a machine and thinks like one, only echoing platitudes these empty-headed fools in authority care little about. This is the “model prisoner”.

When the prisoner’s Offender Manager, an Orwellian name for probation officer, comes to see their “client”, the question which is always asked is “Do you have a job?” or “Do you work in prison?” When the “client” answers yes, that part of the conversation ends, and the probation officer, the most docile of all authoritative figures, ask no further questions on work. For example they do not ask questions like “What job is it?” “What is involved in the work?” “Is it valuable experience?” No, none of these questions are asked because they know the answer the the question before it has even been asked. And furthermore, they have little interest, as there is no box to tick.

If the criminal class really had an interest in the need for ex-prisoners not to “reoffend”, they would give them real and valuable jobs while in prison. As we have seen this does not happen. The future is grim for these unfortunate people who have been thrown from pillar to post in the punitive system, outrageously, comically so, named the justice system. It is in the interest of the state for ex-prisoners to reoffend and fill up the jails so they can become raw material once again, and they are no doubt contributing to the disproportionate wealth these rancid industrialists seek to crave. For now profits, profits, profits appear to be the current ideology behind contemporary political leaders.

18-19th January, 2014

For my other prison essays see my previous posts. My next essay on prisons will be posted shortly.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Prison Essays (3) Prison Reform

Governments and the media like to use the term “reform” quite regularly, just to let the electorate know they are improving public services. We often hear, in Britain especially, “health care reforms”, “welfare reforms”, “policing reforms” and so on. It is, of course, patent nonsense. These words and other words are used in an entirely different context. For example take the phrase “in the national interest”, this, so it would seem appears to suggest, serves the interest of the public but this is untrue. The phrase serves the interests of wealthy business elites and satisfies private concentrated power, and there are other phrases that are repeated so often that the phrase and meaning comes to the forefront of our minds quite often. I will not continue in this fashion as this essay is about prison reform and it would be inappropriate to divert attention away from this very important issue.

The word “reform” according to the Collins English Dictionary, means “to improve (an existing institution, law, etc) by alteration or correction of abuses”. When the government, wealthy elites and media groups use this term it does not mean what the dictionary’s definition of the word is, on the contrary. The other definition of the word means to liquidate, annihilate, massacre, deconstruct, weaken, undermine, destroy and smash. This is the government’s idea of “reform”. This very issue is not only relevant at the present time, it will just be as relevant in a year’s time, five-years time, ten-years, thirty-years even, perhaps longer: that is the subject of prison reform.

Prisons were grotesquely “reformed” after the Strangeways riots in 1990 and unfortunately prisoners have benefitted from having televisions in their cells thus becoming pacified. Today, having a television in prison is seen as a luxury; it should not be. Draconian prison sentences were being handed out, as they still are for people who escape from the barbarian establishments or who attempt to escape, there were other “reforms” also. But we have reached another generation where a great number of people believe in “tough justice”.

This “tough justice” seems to suggest “punishment”. One would infer from this that it leaves no room for “rehabilitation”, the two words are oxymorons, certainly in this sense. Yet the very idea of punishment is an Anglo-American affair. That is what “prison-reform” is, in the government’s eyes, to punish more harshly than is necessary, in fact it is not necessary to punish anybody at all. “The worst crime”, write George Bernard Shaw, “is poverty”, and he is correct. There are not so many Roman Catholic priests, Cardinals and Bishops in prisons for rampant child abuse, neither do you get other members of the criminal class in prison. These consist of members of parliament, the monarchy, the police, the military, judges, business leaders and so forth. It is my estimation that well over ninety percent of the prison population are victims of persistent government criminalisation of classes, societies, and communities. People are not born evil, or bad, it is due to the nature of the environment to which they belong.

A government Minister will always commit crimes because it is part of their evolutionary history. But for them it is not a crime. It is, shall we say, the situation with Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov commits a murder because he feels he has the superiority to do so. So the people who wish to “reform” prisons are the worst animals out of all of us. Only in an Kafkaesque world of hell would such people be permitted to make “reforms”.

So this trend in Britain is what Ministers and the media alike like to call “tough justice”, to use the word justice in this context is quite perverse and few people in the media or otherwise seem indifferent in explaining the definition of the word “justice”. All justice amounts to is stern incarceration of the most barbaric kind, without this incarceration, justice has not been served. It is not enough to incarcerate but that incarceration must be “tough”. This means more draconian “prison reform” or as Ministers like to say “robust reforms”. These “reforms” amount to giving people longer prison sentences, longer periods on licence, less prison wages, less food, the removal of all “privileges” and so on.

But these liberal “reforms” have to be moderate, even though they are unjustly harsh by european standards because there is a protection (of a kind) from the Geneva Convention of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Union, fortunately, Britain is in Europe. That automatically instills certain rights, principles and so on. It would be quite absurd to compare prison conditions in Europe to those in South America, South-East Asia, Africa and the Middle-East. People of all kinds do this to justify the conditions in prisons in which they propagate. It would be more appropriate to compare prison conditions in Europe, and in doing so would highlight the grotesque conditions and grievances in jails in Britain, which is why it is seldom done.

But why do it in the first place? It is fair to say throughout history the state has always discriminated against particular sections of society. They do it for different reasons of course but it is clear why this is done today. It has nothing to do with principles or deep-seated beliefs the criminal class peddle. It has everything to do with an insatiable love for power, because, based on people’s own prejudices, they vote. The current trend is to implement “reforms” in the form of “tough justice”. The more Orwellian prison laws become the more electable the ruling party become. It is largely engineered through the capitalist press-thus uttering the absurd fictitious fallacy that we have a “free press”.

Why is it though this “tough on justice” must be uttered as well as other diabolical platitudes? There is, in people’s minds, a perverse, irrational belief that the more hideous a prison is, the less chance there is of the prisoner committing more crimes, that is utterly irrational and the Norwegian model of short prison sentences and strenuous emphasis on rehabilitation has shown as much. British politics as a whole has a one policy ideology and bears the hallmark of a totalitarian state. Every major party in the country believes in this nonsense rhetoric of “tough justice”, and no other alternative is offered.

It is already clear the difference between the European prison conditions and Briton’s is akin to comparing the living conditions in the third world to the advanced industrial societies. These “reforms” in London have led to the biggest prison population in the continent, more lifers, a seven-year reign of terror which saw the introduction of the IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) system, the creation of hundreds of new offences, including thoughtcrime, and the shocking revelation that the prison industrial complex will only get worse, much worse. The outcome will be predictable.

11-18th January, 2014
For my previous prison essays check out my recent posts. Part four will be posted soon