Hurtling past Antrim on my way to the Hospital at Coleraine. This is the train I would have normally got back when I was returning from Home Leaves. It’s a pretty special feeling not having the knot of dread in one’s stomach. As i’ve mentioned before “who in their right minds volunteers to go to prison?” I’ve had to put the headphones on as there a couple of young students talking very intelectually but very loudly and extremely nonsenslically. Oh the innocence of youth. So Myles Kennedy is filling my head with ‘Rise today and change this world’ and blocking out the wisdom of teenagers.
There may be a time when I realise that I can’t change the world but for now i’m quite content to attempt to change a little bit of it. On twitter and the like there is much talk about reform and prison being ready to explode etc. I thougth this at the start of my sentence; that’s why I started writng about it. Waiting for the POP. To date it haasn’t done this and I seriously beleive that there are ministers and officaials who breathe a sigh of relief at the end of their working day. When one combines this with the state of our society one realises we are in a wee bit of trouble.
I wathced the Panorma programme the other evening about police resources in Sothampton being used up when dealing with people who have mental health issues and are forced to take them into custody for their own safety. I felt sorry for the police officers who are not trained in this. I’ve been a listener for a number of years and I can only imagine how difficult it can be for the officers who have to sit with soemone who is in a vulnerable place; only a couple of feet away. The image of the police officer sitting on a chair at the door of the cell is one that i saw repeatedly in the segragation units of our HMPs. I’m not going to have a go at officers as they simply are not equiped for these events yet officaildom and the public assume they are. I’ve spoken to many prison staff over the years who want to get on with what they’ve been trained for but as in the police station in Southampton they get tied up with vulnerable prisoners and because of the risk to them of culpable manslaughter they must follow a rigid set of policies that further destroy the mental capacity of those on the receiving and the integrity of the staff. Staff become used to what’s already in place and this becomes a breading ground for dehumanisation as they succumb to the box ticking exercise and it takes a speacial sort of person to rise a above this.
I’ve looked at the Scandanavian model of staff recruitment and traing so deligently brought to our attetnion by Erwin James whereby the money spent on educating staff at degree level in Psychology and Counselling etc. allows them to deliver a different type of duty of care. The prisoners never loose sight of the fact that they are in prison but they don’t leave with a fear and resentment of auhtority that was never there before. The duty of care delivered by priosn was once described to me as akin to that of a hospital. I’m not in a postiton to have a pop at hospitals as my one overnight stay had me loving it because i had a soft bed and lovely food! There are crminal justice models that work in the existing regimes of European prison regimes and in UK prisons. If it works why can’t it be delivered in each and every jail. It’s not rocket science after all but then i fail to see too many rocket scientist working in Crminal Justice. Is there not one Minister out there who can grow a set and start implementing “What Works.” Otherwise we will continue to climb aboard the Crazy Train.
Pleaase excuse the typing and spelling; Crazy Train is a wee bit bumpy.