Some people advise me that I need to reign it in a bit. Tow the line, play the game, in it to win it and to try to steer away from sharing my experiences with authority as they are not interested and more importantly it makes certain folk cringe. Well, folks I’m terribly sorry to disappoint. I’m just about to put my size nines right back in it. A wee plug for Jonathan Robinson there.
Do you remember your first love? The girl or boy who turned you stomach inside out, legs to jelly, made you ache from head to toe, cost you sleep, contributed to uncontrollable weight loss and all the lovely things that go with being a teenager in love. I made contact with mine yesterday (via Facebook and email) at the end of a Restorative Justice Conference in Belfast which highlighted family values, communication, Humanity and trust as key factors in establishing deterrents from getting into crime and for those on the road to desistance (Fergus and Allan plug).
I’ve travelled to many places and been in many relations a few have been heavy and serious but nothing has ever come close to what I feel for one EC (name rescinded for fear of immediate withdrawal of communication reasons!) I’ll not bore you with the gory details or personal information of the other party but what I will say is that my world has become a better place knowing EC has a beautiful family and I know her husband from my youth. A good guy. So, for years I’d been wondering whatever happened to EC and if she ever thought about me in the same way I did. I even mentioned EC in my book. This excerpt is from my transfer back to Northern Ireland in 2009. The year being important :
We arrive at Manchester airport and park up outside the airport police station. Tommy and Davey are dead on, apologising for having to keep the cuffs on, but it would be more than their job if they took them off.
I said ‘look I’m the one who put myself in this position lads so it’s my fault not yours.’
After all they’re only following procedure although I do feel double cuffing is a completely unnecessary and inhumane way of treating an individual in todays society. Where in the hell am I going to run too? The world is not big enough anymore. All I want to do is get home see my mum and dad, do my time and get the fuck out of dodge. I don’t need to be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life. Lets face it they will catch you. As I’ve said before the whole notion of escape is something for the TV and movies in real life, for most it’s a no brainer.
The cop on duty was in plain clothes and was dead on. We all sat in an interview room with biscuits and piping hot coffee. It warmed me through. It was soon time to head to the aircraft. No checking in for me. We drove out to the rear of the aircraft and there was a set of portable steps laid on special for me. Davey told me not to feel embarrassed I’d be the first one on and the last one off. I had my coat draped over the cuffs, but it didn’t take away my vulnerability. Didn’t feel much like a ‘Rock Star’ at this particular moment in time. The plane filled up and Davey told me that as soon as the wheels left the ground he would disconnect himself, but as soon as we touched down he’d have to hook me up again.
When the stewardess came round with the trolley I spared her the cliché of saying ’don’t suppose you could stick a large one in that?’ My can of Pepsi on its own tasted absolutely magnificent. I prefer Pepsi to Coke and I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since I’ve had a can. The stewardess never made any comment about my cuffs although I could tell she was aware of the situation. Was in the window seat and managed to shut myself off for a while. I thought to myself ‘oh my god what a horrible way to come home.’ Although when I tried to remember I couldn’t recall a flight where I didn’t have a hangover or wasn’t half shot. We crossed over the tip of the Isle of Man bang on schedule and the East coast of Northern Ireland soon loomed into view.
Davey asked me if I was OK as I’d been a bit quiet. I told him it felt weird. Mixed emotions happy, frightened and sad all in the one go. I had to take a moment as I became overwhelmed by the whole situation. It soon passed and I dutifully watched the coast go by as we passed Ballywalter on the left hand side, where my mum lived. Wonder if she could here her son coming home. I’d sent her a letter explaining what was going on. My heart skipped a few beats and again I had to gather my composure.
‘Oh shit,’ I thought. Hope the whole day isn’t going to be like this. Millisle passed slowly by, triggered a thousand images of caravans, hamburgers, football on the beach, swimming and [EC]. My one teenage true love. Would marry her tomorrow.
I’m smiling now thinking about her and the head games we used to play. If only life could be more simple, when you’re young. My mum met her at a band parade in Lisburn many years later; when I was living in London. She told my mum I was the best boyfriend she ever had, but didn’t know it at the time. Me too, but what are you gonna do. Life goes on with little pangs of regret that have become easier to suppress over the years. Bloody hell, twenty nine years ago. Can remember some of it, but not all. Maybe its nostalgia, I think not. I used to ache when I saw her. Really ache. Big hugs [E]; you’ll always be part of my, by now, fragmented and fractured heart.
I never new of the Prisoner Location Service. What a wonderful concept fantastic initiative. Well done MOJ :
“Prisoner location service
If you wish to trace someone who you believe is in prison custody but do not know his or her exact whereabouts the Prisoner Location Service can help you.
The following information must be included with the enquiry:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your full address including postcode
- Reason for enquiry
- Full name of the person you want to contact
- Any other name/s by which they may have been known
- His/her date of birth
If you want to contact the Prisoner Location Service please write to them at the address or email below.
Prisoner Location Service
PO Box 2152
Fax: 0121 626 3474
If the person is in custody, your details will be passed to them and he or she will be asked to give consent for the disclosure of their whereabouts.
All replies and disclosures of information will be in accordance with departmental rules and data protection legislation.”
Now, just before I finish up i must explain that when i was convicted in November 2007 it was in Croydon Court under English Law, in and English Court and my transfer to NI was a ‘Restricted Transfer’ which meant that I was only a guest at HMP Northern Ireland and If I broke any Prison Rule or law i could be sent back to finish my sentence in the jurisdiction I was convicted in. At approx £40,000 less per year, but I digress. In my second week at Maghabery I was able to get ‘All’ of my books and education stuff from reception. There was quite a lot and this caused a bit of work for the security team but we got through it. When I returned to my cell and lunch time bang up I discovered a very thick bag full of files and paperwork sitting on top of one of the brown paper bags. You can imagine my surprise when I explored the content and found that it was my complete prison file from England. I spent lunchtime rescinding my file via Maghabery sewage system. Removing every negative comment and the fact that I’d been on ‘High Risk’ for 18months. I was frightened to go to the loo for a few days as there was quite a lot that went down the kazy. The most secure ‘A’ cat prison in the UK (apart from Belmarsh) gave me my file. After unlock i had quiet word with the SO and told him I had something I shouldn’t. His head turned purple with rage and i got my transfer to Magilligan the following week.
This is part of a letter I received from EC yesterday:
“I emailed this to the prisoner location services on 25th June 2010:
My name is ******* formerly ************** and I have been trying for some time to make contact with a friend called Michael Irwin. We were close friends as teenagers and I am keen to make contact again. My date of birth is ********** and my address is as follows:
The reason that I am emailing is that I would very much like to have contact with Mickey, I have thought about him often and am concerned and hoping that he is fine. I am married with kids and am sure our lives are very different now, but if he wants to have contact I’d be so happy to stay in touch.
The person I hope to make contact with is called Michael Irwin known as ‘Mickey’, unfortunately I don’t know his date of birth but he is around 43 years old and I believe he is incarcerated in a prison on the Isle of White.
I hope you can help in some way and if Mickey would rather not be in touch, please pass on a message that I’m thinking about him and I wish him a happy future ahead.
They wrote to me saying they had no record of a prisoner by that name.”
I’m not going to ruin this by lambasting the MOJ, NOMS and the Prison Service. I’ll let you make your own mind up. Although, I must ask the question “If I moved back to England would I have to declare my conviction on job applications as I don’t exist.” or “Did the MOJ lie to EC and breach it’s obligation to a concerned citizen.” I’ve had a few other fiends who told me they’ phoned prisons and wrote to the Prison Service. Even when I was in Northern Ireland.
As you know i’m all about sharing the live experience/phenomenology. I know what the official response will be but what this demonstrates is that prison and prisoners are not the problem we face in social, science, reform et al in creating awareness about what really goes on inside criminal justice. Rather lets have a look at the system itself and see what we can do to make it better. More about it’s own ethos and not about politicians. Give prison back to the people. Bring back hanging will certainly come up but we can work our way round that one. Anne Widdecombe told Francis Crooke on the One Show that there are too many prisoners in England & Wales to run individual restorative and intervention based programmes. There are 1,800 approx In Northern Ireland. This isn’t exactly rocket science is it? But then the people in charge sometimes visit a different planet.
EC shared my letter with husband and family. I share mine with my other family. My society. My peers my enemies and my friends. You lot. Please comment on this and if there are any film makers out there. Time for a bit of prison romance movie making. I watched ‘Starred Up’ on Thursday Night. The opening scenes are completely factually incorrect but the movie made some good points.