Inspiration and motivation is a dish best served unexpected. One of my little mantra’s is “expectations reduce joy.” So when I tuned in to BBC3 Crime and Justice Series “Banged Up and Left To Fail” I didn’t fully appreciate what I was about to watch. I’ll get back to Natalie in a minute but first things first.
Love ‘N’ Prison Part II
I had in my head to write a full blown account of my hooking up with EC. Unfortunately for you lot I’ve decided that its not appropriate and some things should be kept between the relevant parties. What I will say is that “Time” is an amazing concept after a short discussion of how and why we ended up going our separate ways we picked up where we left off thirty years ago. Nattering and laughing and sharing family, heartache, disasters and laughing. Did I mention laughing already? I’ll avoid the cliché of “You got me at ‘Hello'” but EC got me at “Dear Mickey.” My world has just become a better place as my doubts and fears and assumptions of yesteryear have been confirmed and today – It doesn’t matter. It’s cool. I haven’t ended up a jibbering blubbering wreck that I used to be in this girls company but instead I feel… I dunno how to describe it…I just feel nice and have a quiet comfortable inner smile which obviously shines on the outside too. This amazing women has left me in even more awe of where she is in life and how the dreams she had as a teenager in relation to family have been achieved. My head spins at the very thought of it. Family, friendship, old and new reignited and shared with new and old.
And so to a young women called Natalie Atkinson on Twitter @Nat89atk please give her follow and retweet if you haven’t already done so. During the BBC3 programme I whooped and hollered at the telly – process normally reserved for the last ten minutes of a Chelsea match – as mutch of the stuff Natalie was discussing has happened to me and is indeed what I’ve been shouting about for the past six years. I even put a business plan together and sent it to the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Who sent it to a Civil Servant, who sent it to the Governor of Maghaberry, who sent it to the Governor of Magilligan, who gave it to the Governor in charge of operations, who came to the wing and gave it back to me and said rather flippantly “NIACRO do all that now stop annoying people.” I’m sorry but the Northern Ireland Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders (NIACRO) do not. They do some pretty wonderful and amazing stuff but they do not mentor and coach prisoners the whole way through their sentence on a one to one basis and then pick them up on the outside. with involvement the whole way through from all relevant stakeholders. Sefton, the young man with the anxiety attacks had me in tears. I felt every second of it. I seen him go white even though he is black at the thought of selecting food in a grocery store and this built into a near full blown episode as he tried to prepare a meal with Natalie. This was one of the most powerful images of the show and as Natalie got him by saying “well chop the onions yourself if you think they’re too big” (or words to that effect) was one of the most rewarding sentences I’ve heard for long time. Apart from “Dear Mickey.” Does the institution of prison fix? Does it protect? Sefton is only one of thousands who walk the streets of out towns and cities alongside ex-servicemen who have been conditioned and damaged by an institutional process of the Great British Institution of Empire.
There was a programme back in 2007 called “Banged Up” which piloted the idea of mentors and life coaches older cons with villany credentials who have successfully desisted hooking up with younger guys and becoming their guide of what to do and not to do. Like all good initiatives involving the institution of prison it peters out and is left on the garbage heap of “we tried that and didn’t work.” I’m sorry but these thing need proper investment from real people like Natalie, ‘myself’ and countless others who have walked the walk and came out the other side. The BBC news headline “From Criminal To Criminologist” blew me away – there are plenty of us out about by the way – as for once it didn’t involve trashing the person at the centre of the report; in this case Natalie. In this case the sensationalism is in the headline #criminaltocriminologist. I’ve just finished an essay for Phil Scraton on women in prison and it has coincided with me meeting up with EC, seeing Natalie, meeting Rod Earle and Andy Aresti, correspondence with Francis Crook, meeting Shaun Attwood, chatting with Shadd Maruna (when he’s in the country) remembering Pauline Campbell and her daughter Sarah who both committed suicide an by no means least, constant rock, Toni Wood. I sometimes get overwhelmed about why I’m so into this but all of this is only the icing on the cake when I compare it to delivering my first lecture at Jordanstown to 3rd Year Undergraduate’s. Young minds asking me questions. Intelligent minds realising the potential in the lived experience combined with academia. Young influencing old and old influencing new. This is not a Governmental, election grabbing headline, this is society, this is re-integration and rehabilitation in all of it’s glory yet it is only pursued with intensity by those of us who are up to our necks in it. I was chatting to friend yesterday in a volunteer second hand clothing shop and one of the young girls who was volunteering came out and asked her how to make a tin of condensed soup. I thought to myself “this kid hasn’t got a clue.” This is what our Criminal Justice System is full of. Kids who haven’t got a clue. From CRIMINAL TO CRIMINOLOGIST. I am. What about you?