Sitting here feeling like a piece of shit. Why?
I wasn’t out last night, hadn’t been out all week actually, in fact I’d spent most of the day hoovering and cleaning my house and me Dad’s, sorting out a few issues about next weeks event and reading ‘IN IT’ by Jonathan Robinson. Great read so far by the way and very similar to my own whit and observations. So, I’m about to head off to the old pit and my email ping’s on the phone and it’s a petition from change. org (see link).
After reading it I sign it and of course my ole memory banks start to work and I realise. I remember that young fella – or do I. The reason I question myself is that after a while in there these young men were like clones. Same hair cuts, same builds, same attitudes and nearly all progressed to big jail after Hydebank young offenders centre.
What really got me going was the picture taken from inside the cell. God!! I remember staring at that ‘Fire Safety’ sheet beside the door for four years. However, for the life of me, now, I can’t recall a single word on it. The feeling of claustrophobia after the bunks were installed in Halward to reduce overcrowding in Maghaberry. And, the fear of doubling up after spending four years in single cell occupancy. It’s quite difficult to explain why the tears are running down my cheeks as I look at this picture. What I do remember is my mate telling me that his missus’s son had just got knicked for posting a picture of himself on Facebook from inside his cell. I do remember laughing, shaking my head and saying “What a dick. These young fella’s don’t have one clue of life on this planet.”
All I see is a wee dickhead. And I mean that in the nicest of Belfast endearments. In fact we were all once dickheads and I still consider myself to be one on numerous occasions. The thing is it’s never evil. Being a dickhead is part of learning of growing. Sure, people get hurt along the way and things can get out of hand resulting in gaol but in my experience when you sit down and talk to these young lads they are simply lost wee boys who have no clue about life.
It’s about time we started to face up to the fact that what we do to our prisoners harms us all in the long run. Who we elect as Politicians also affects this in a big way. I listened to Stephen Nolan yesterday during my cleaning and they were arguing about the Footballer who raped a young women. Rape now! Not being a dickhead. Nolan mentioned something along the lines of now that the fella was rehabilitated in prison does he not have the right to get on with his life. I’m not saying Nolan is wrong at all. In fact he’s right. However, I have to ask what and who in their right minds can think that there is such a thing as ‘Rehabilitation’ in today’s prisons? I mean seriously, the ‘Re’ word does not even exist. It’s fantasy “a word politicians use” our old friend Red in The Shawshank.
As a society we are being conned every single day. We are being lied to by people we have not elected because most of us cannot decide on which lie teller is better than the other. In fact, we are so blind we can’t even get it when it’s being admitted in front of our very eyes. For the those of you watching “I’m a Celebrity…” will know that Edwina Curry is now in the camp and only last night divulged something along the lines of the best trait any politician had was making an untruth sound like the truth and convince others likewise.
This makes me feel physically sick. That prick Cameron felt physically sick at the thought of me having a vote. Well now I’ve fucking got one and I will certainly be using it. This then, leads to the petition to David Ford. It’s a start and something I mean to develop. This is not just about one young man’s tragic death but of a failing. A failing of us. I’ve been speaking to officials for a few years now and they are in trouble. There is an ethos inside the institution of prison, the civil service and the government that must maintain the status quo. And I’m fekin sick of it. Criminal Justice and controlling marginalised communities is a multi-billion pound industry. “You can’t beat the machine” when are we going to realise “we are the fucking machine!”
It may be time for me and a few others to explain that ‘today’, when you leave prison, you are issued with an electoral card. It is a legitimate form of ‘photographic’ ID accepted by banks etc; all legal all above board. A piece of plastic with your name on it registering you as a citizen of this country. It doesn’t say ‘Ex – Prisoner, Offender, Jailbird, Scum, Unemployable etc etc’ it simply says, on the front, with your name and pic “Electoral Identity Card” and on the back it says “This card is the property of the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland”, and in the small print “This card is proof of the individual’s date of birth and that he/she was on the Electoral Register at the date of issue. This is your get out of jail (not yet free as your on probation) card.
Hugh McCabe has one, his mother has one, his friends have one, his mother’s friends and family have one. Do you see where I’m heading. No votes in prison my arse! And of course this is not just about votes and politicians it’s about blame. In relation to Re-Integration after prison takes time and effort, support from family, friends and community. I’ve been out seventeen months, spent most of my time in University and with the complete support of family and friends, yet I still struggle. I study this business of prisons and criminology and know more than most yet I still struggle. What chance do guys and girls like Hugh have?
The truth is ‘NONE’, like it or not we are responsible for the people around us. We seem to have forgotten this somewhere. Well folks ‘I’ and others like me certainly have not, nor will I/we ever forget. Next Thursday in Belfast we will be holding an event for people who have been inside the criminal justice system, a chance to hear your voice .
I know Hugh’s will be heard because he will be represented by someone close to him. Our next step is to hold a similar event for families of people who have been in the criminal justice system, then young people, then???? Oh, and by the way. They all have “Electoral Identity Cards” too. Does anyone other than me want to pick up on this. Just remember one doesn’t need permission from authority to hold an event but wouldn’t it be nice, round about election time, to remember who it was that supported it?
This will probably get me hung but I don’t care. Pauline Campbell of the Howard League for Penal Reform was the first person I knew who killed herself when ‘I’ was in prison, Hugh McCabe is the latest but I bet you he won’t be the last.
So, what hell are we going to do about it?
If anyone who has been to prison male or female wants to come this event please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org