Prison Does Not Define Me.

Can’t believe I forgot about my ten month anniversary on Saturday. Why did this happen? Not sure, but it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve stumbled upon something called speech recognition on my computer (Cheers Jed). As per usual I’m up to my neck in essay writing and playing catch-up with university life. The reason being I’m getting on with real life. Was lucky enough to meet up with a few ex colleagues from Magilligan last Thursday and we all agreed that we seem to be very busy doing nothing and as a result get nothing done. So, if one takes a step back to analyse this statement from a ‘phenomenological perspective’ namely my lived experience it doesn’t take a trained psychologist to figure out that ‘adjusting’ (boy do I really dislike that word) is minefield of negotiation that one never had before. I’m taking it easy and have been for a while now and this has allowed my head to work itself out a bit. I’m now more or less caught up with readings and writing ready to start my final semester at Uni. What dawned on me was that I was trying too hard, to fit in to be part of a society and friendship group that hadn’t exactly disowned me but rather had moved on without me.

However, there have been several things that happened in order for me to regain a bit of mojo. My mojo, has been on the down side for while now, but and there’s always a but, I feel it coming back. The spark I developed inside when I was inside has started to bounce around in my stomach again. I realised how great it is to be doing a Master’s but there’s no point shouting about it unless I actually achieved it. I also faced my first major rejection in the world of academia, but when I was discussing the phrase ‘exceptional circumstances’ with my friend (who’s going to America) I suddenly realised that what I’ve already accomplished is nothing short of a miracle. On the way home I popped into ‘No Alibi’s’ book store in Botanic to cash in my book voucher for the lecture I did the other week at Ulster University and got chatting to the owners. I briefly hinted about my circumstances and as a result I didn’t leave with any books but with a number for an agent and publishing house! “Right” I said, “time to put this bloody book to bed.” Once home I got stuck in to an overdue essay and hopefully nailed it. I then started typing up my book. I’m in my last twenty days (last fortnight now) and got so engrossed in it that I forgot that I was writing about his time last year. Then it hit me. It’s been a year since and I was writing about incidents and events of a time that is not of now. My typing is slow and it is emotionally draining when one continually reminds one’s self of the crap that one actually went through. The sights the sounds the smells the hurt the evil the anger the hatred the evilness of power. Did, I mention Evil?

“Need some help here” I thought and put a Facebook request out for anybody who could type and I’d offered sexual favours, peeling of grapes and small cash incentives; stuff like that. I got two offers and one of my old friends turned up here on Good Friday afternoon, sat and typed (and laughed) as I dictated from the comfort of the sofa. This man had given up the first couple of hours of the bank holiday to help me out. It made me smile beyond compare. We also discussed the death of our dear friend back in 2000 and it moved me how intense he felt about this. I got it, I get it and I feel it too but we are still here and this person who died would not be allowing either of us to feel sorry or sad for one cotton pickin moment. The same day I have a wee chat with the Brother and he reminds me that I had a life before prison and that I am having one, now, after it.

The closer I get to the end of my writing about my prison experience the closer I get to moving on. Prison is a part of me, it allowed me to develop as me, I’ll not say it was a friend. Friends come and help you type not try to stop you from doing it. Here’s a wee example of what I’m writing about. I was allowed to study in a study room I had fought for on a different wing by one governor but because I’m allowed to walk to the other wing in the evenings certain staff members got it stopped

“Persecution Complex”
1. A group of repressed feelings
unfair or cruel way over which lead to abnormal or
a period of time.

2. Persistently harass someone.

I was accused of having this by the head of our education department. Now that I have calmed down and looked it up I’ve found he’s correct! It’s funny how authority/policy makers defend itself. There’s an old adage which clearly states “the best form of defence is attack.” The authority which controls me is trying to help me only there is a small section of this same authority which is resisting change.

I feel as if I am a pawn in a bigger game of chess or cat and mouse; whatever way one looks at this situation the realisation is that I haven’t got a leg to stand on. I don’t want to ‘make do’ but I don’t have choice at the minute. Fight or flight? I choose flight; I have been fighting but now I see the futility of it all. My fellow associates in England have the same problems as I; only some are getting it worse.

The Cantle report 2001 highlights the divisions in basic societal functions and there is little or no difference when one observes the micro society within the institution of prison. The ethos of the NIPS is “Magilligan prison ‘our ethos’, environment influences people but people change people that is what we do.”

My argument is that authority can never achieve its ethos or mission statement because the institution of prison is designed in such a way that prisoners lead parallel lives from the staff and civilian workers (education) also the institution of prison leads a parallel life with the society it is supposed to mirror. Allport P161 suggest that “the paradox of contact […] is that our interactions with others may increase or reduce our prejudice towards them.” When observing race relations Dixon p.162 states “living in diverse environment, it seems, does not itself guarantee that one will embrace diversity.” Pettigrew p.162 suggest “ the positive contact effects were attributed to a somewhat vague process of education, based on the idea that interaction overcomes ignorance and allows us to discover our similarities to others.”

This is a fantastic notion and is relative to the current buzz speak in today’s political climate especially in relation to criminal justice and restorative practices. However this ‘rehabilitation revolution’ is only achievable if the threat of education is kept to a minimum. What I mean by this is that prisoners who aspire to higher education are encouraged and supported by authority; re-invention via re-education but the problem arises when the normal staff see this education as threat and success as a threat to the day to day running of the establishment.

You will have to get the book to read more. I’m nearly done with prison now. It’s been a constant companion for nearly seven years. It’s starting to slip, and as a result my mojo is starting to come back. There is no such thing as “picking up where you left off” after a lengthy time inside. There are only friends, there is only history, it is all only temporary. Friends and friendship is for a different time and a different day.


I’m off to argue with voice recognition software as it doesn’t yet know how to handle a Belfast accent.



About micsirwin

I'm a Postgraduate student at Queens studying Criminology, writer, poet and lover of integrity, dignity, respect and morality
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One Response to Prison Does Not Define Me.

  1. micsirwin says:

    Reblogged this on micsirwin and commented:

    Prison is about moving on but also remembering.


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