Friday, 10 June 2016

Prison Essays (9): Indeterminate Sentences

IPPs (Imprisonment For Public Protection) was introduced by a right wing Labour government and this new law was introduced for a variety of reasons. There are three reasons and I shall briefly discuss them all individually. (1). Control. Control in prison and most importantly outside of this establishment. People subject to an IPP sentence are placed on licence, once leaving prison, for at least ten years, and up to life. So, in effect a life sentence. So for the rest of these people’s lives they are subjected to a sort of mental terror, knowing that doing something wrong, especially in a bail hostel, face the prospect of spending many years in prison. So many aspects of their lives are dominated. They must ask if they want to work in a particular job, move into a flat, even form a relationship. This is, so we are told, a democracy and not totalitarian state.

(2). Induce the prisoner to admit “offences” they have not committed. This was savagely successful, and it had many sides to it. For example, people were utterly mortified at the prospect of being found guilty of anything. By pleading guilty there was less chance of receiving an IPP sentence and for the ones that did receive one it was a far more frightening prospect. For example they were, as they still are, forced to go on infantile courses and refusal would see them in prison for many more years, possibly for the rest of their lives. But it goes even further than this. These courses sought to change people's attitudes and tacitly encourage them to become more docile and favourable to authority, to reognise their incorrigible behaviour, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be removed entirely from society when they serve their life sentence, once they are out of prison. It is vicious brainwashing, and it goes much further than that. The sessions (they are group sessions), are filmed, their verbal introduction, views and thoughts on relevant topics, are noted down, this information is passed on to their probation officer and other agencies. Again, this, so we are told, is not a totalitarian state but a democracy.

(3). Deceive the public. With the IPP system now in place the government were able to make perverse claims, saying the most dangerous people are now in prison and will not be released until they reach certain conditions, these conditions is obedience to their tormentors. Many who were given this “death sentence”, as prisoners describe it, are not and never were the slightest bit dangerous. The judges were giving them out so frequently that the government had to vary the law, so fewer would receive the “death sentence”. All it required was an unfavourable report from their probation officer in their presentence report and that alone made the chance of receiving an IPP sentence more inevitable. One man, at the time he was sentenced, was still a “young offender”. According to his own barrister, was expecting, perhaps a suspended sentence; he spent some months on remand. His crime: he had a relationship with a thirteen-year-old child and this relationship included carrying out awful abuses such as holding hands with the boy and the occasional kiss on the cheeks. It should come as no great surprise that this young man had the mental capacity of a child, and no doubt thought and acted like one. When he was sentenced he received a three-and-half-year IPP. There are hundreds of more people, having committed small misdemeanours, who are in this same position.

In fact there are tens of reasons why the government introduced these barbaric IPP sentences. A more detailed essay could deal with these points and it is not difficult to understand why these harsh draconian policies are implemented. If that was not perverse enough there are another bunch of helpless prisoners who are subject to a sort of psychological terror and they are what we refer to as “lifers”, and most are set a “tariff”, that is that they must serve a number of years in prison before they are suitable for release, so in many ways similar to IPP sentences.

John Podmore is a former Governor, Chief Inspector of Prisons and author of Out of Sight Out of Mind, a book. In it he discusses Britain’s obsessive nature with handing out mandatory life sentences for convicted murderers. But it is not just for murder either but for many other “offences” considered to be less serious but this means nothing to the criminal classes and inevitably these unfortunate people who spend many years in prison will forever be in bondage to the state. Their release can only be made possible when they relinquish disobedience, independence and resistance to authorities. They must, in essence, think like their jailors, think like their leaders and think like a controlled machine, in other words not to think independently at all but do what they are told. Upon release from prison this hideous terror takes on the form of something far greater.

The state apparatus expects the prisoner to be “stable”, “stability here is the key word, stability is doublespeak to mean control. If we are not able to control individuals then they must perish in prison until they conform and obey. Any resistance to this is not tolerated by the criminal class but why would people outside the prison industrial complex care? These prisoners may have murdered, raped or tortured, so therefore why should such people deserve our sympathy, support or even acknowledgement of their existence? This is an interesting argument because the soldier kills, we are told for his country, the police shoot unarmed civilians and this is met with total impunity, the Social Services, Doctors and other professionals make decisions which amount to “gross negligence” and “manslaughter”, yet these professionals are seldom charged with these things, let alone spend years in jail. Members of Parliament are responsible for mass murder abroad, yet are free to continue their hideous practices. Major concentrated power commit heinous crimes: BP, Trafigura, Shell, Apple, Adidas, Nike, Gap and so on but they always get state protection, and in comparison, their crimes are too terrible to contemplate. In actual fact their crimes are more criminal than the entire prison population combined, but people tend not to treat them the same way as convicted prisoners.

1st-2nd February, 2014
For previous prison essays check recent posts. The last of my prison essays will be posted soon.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Prison Essays (8): Prison officers

Prison officers in England and Wales are central to a hideous, foul, punitive system which is corrupt, barbaric and clandestinely criminal. It is in these unnatural institutions where these brutes in authority create their own constitution and often subject prisoners to unjust punishment. The prisoner officer is the soldier fighting a war abroad; a police officer in the police cell; criminal gangs who inhabit pitiful slums.  All these commit crimes with impunity.  But more particularly, the prisoner officer  engaging in physical violence, verbal bullying and generally terrorising prisoners are more likely to escape without even a caution because the environment is their constitution and nobody is aware of such menacing practices.
This appears like a scandalous thing to say, and it would be if it was false.  Before being outraged by such remarks one must ponder the following: that prisoners, have every inch of their lives, during incarceration, of being dictated to, terrorised, manipulated, bullied by lunatics in uniform.  
But even if officers patrolling a particular prison were the most amicable and congenial people that ever mosied the earth, what then? No matter. The prison population would still be subject to harsh practices from the state. The benevolent officers would only “implement” such things and in not doing so they would not be doing their job at all, so the culpability is not theirs.  For example, if a prisoner decided to go on a strike of some kind, a hunger strike perhaps and persuaded others to follow the same course of action, and was discovered by these benign officers and duly reported, the prisoner would be charged with “starting a mutiny” and/or starting a riot, thus rendering many more years in prison for nothing more than organising, perhaps like trade unions would do and  indeed do.  This would be the equivalent of banning every trade union in the country and every protest group.  Quite unthinkable.
 For the prisoner who is subject to an indefinite sentence, this amounts to psychological torture or even warfare. The reason is rather simple. An indefinite sentence, of course, in prison terms, is when the prisoner does not know when they are going to be released, and they have to rely on their jailors to write pleasant reports, and not to make things hard or difficult for them.  So often these prisoners spend their whole time in jail, treading on eggshells, and ultimately are terrified when they come into contact with officers of any description.  What if the officer lies in writing up a report or many reports?  What then?  Bad reports translate into many years in prison, and this is the ultimate nightmare people face day-in, day-out.  It is worthy of an Edgar Allen Poe tale.
Prisons in Britain have strong parallels with U.S post-war hegemonic imperialism, in that it attempts to thwart independent actions, and in this case, thinking.  None of this is really permitted in prisons, and it attempts to take the individuality out of the prisoner and render them all Winston Smith's.  This amounts to gentle brainwashing and thought-control.  It is a system of vengeance, which in many cases breeds contempt, and is all rather hazardous.  
The prison officer has no independence of any sort; they are not free men and women, in fact they are far less freer than prisoners themselves, on this face of it this may appear foolish; but it is far from foolish. These officers who stroll around their constitution, jangling their keys, are in total bondage to the state, and their minds are totally disabled, disabled of any liberty, freedom and freethinking. They only echo idiocies that are lectured from the criminal class. They are in no danger of thinking anymore, because they are given orders and they obey these without questioning the abhorrent criminal system they are part of. It is fortunate for the current prison population that these people are not ordered to rape, torture and murder victims in prison.
Most prison officers discriminate against their victims and their bias is as clear as anything. Yet there are officers who possess favourable characteristics, and ought to be applauded. These are the types of jailors who are often male and over fifty. They regurgitate advice and philosophise on the future of the prisoner, and encourage them to lead a good life and induce them to be good citizens and improve their character, their lives and their future. These sorts of officers are perhaps the most important people these prisoners will ever meet on their miserable journey in prison.  They may tell the prisoner, man is not born evil, but that you make your own decisions and sometimes they are not the correct ones and ultimately leads him into all sorts of trouble. They do not judge or condemn but only wish them a good life and to prove to their community people have the ability to change.  These prison officers ought to be saluted as heroes.  It is the best advice a prisoner could ever receive.  
Some words ought to be said about the role of the Governor in prisons.  Governors in all prisons, head Governors, are living in a fantasy world.  They have little idea how prisons are run, and their job title, in my view is a crypt-criminal one, because the conditions of that prison is largely down to them and they have a totalitarian control over their vast constitution. These Governors have obscene authority and power over their dominions, as they would have it.  The Governor is not too dissimilar to an imperial Monarch.  They are seldom seen; when they are they are surrounded by their protectors and they implement measures which subject their population to unjust hardships.  In all, authority in prisons is not something to be proud of, it is rather a thing to be ashamed of.
31st January, 2014