WOW Factor Not The X Factor.

Sitting here wrapped in multiple garments waiting for the Dad to pick me up and take me down the garage to get coal. My gas ran out last night during X-Factor but a hot water bottle and three duvets allowed me to sleep well, stay warm until I got up this morning. Maybe if I could type faster would it warm me up quicker? Within the hour I’ll be back to normal and finishing this little lot off.

On, the cold front and who deserves what I’ve heard the usual haranguing by media politicians or is politician media of why we should invest in prisoners when old people can’t afford heating and hospitals… I’m not going to dwell but a question along those lines was posited to me last week. My response “What age do you think a criminal is and how long do you think it takes post release for an ex-prisoner to become a burden on the health and benefits system because they are virtually unemployable?” I’m back on benefits again and as per usual my father steps in with added luxuries such as coal.
“I thought four bags last you two weeks” he said.
“They did last year Dad, but that was when I was in the library and not coming home until the evenings. Now I’m at home most days all day” I replied.
“Oh aye, right enough. Don’t worry I’ll keep you warm son you need your heat” he added with a grin.

So, we still look after each other in our own way and as always my personal experience allows me to reflect on current criminological literature. Where would I be without the support of family and friends. Is this the ‘responsibilisation’ Thatcher was on about where the onus of care is placed back upon the community to look after it’s weak and vulnerable (and or marginalised) without any financial support from government. How does this tie in with desistance and re-settlement.

I just want to say one thing about community. A 91 year old female pensioner had her home robbed and ransacked last weekend in Lisburn – £4,500 was stolen; the money for her funeral. Within two days a collection was organised, the stolen amount achieved by the local community and I made my own small donation. That’s right, I’m part of the community too and so is every person who has been to prison but we are left to fend for ourselves for fear of ridicule and stigma attached to our wrongdoings – I’ve already mentioned un-employability.

This crime is also horrific and committed by people I came across every day when inside. When I discussed this with one of my previous colleagues they commented on breaking the culprits arms and legs. I thought what gives you the right to pass judgement. Do we ever stop to think what we’re saying sometimes. The crime – horrific and abhorrent does it allow for ABH, GBH, Attempted Murder or community action outside of the law. Do wee commit crime to vilify outrage? Apart from my part in community togetherness I’d love to be able to sit down with the perpetrators and show them the error of their ways without ending up in jail again myself.

The last couple of weeks have been another one of those “WOW” factor jobbies.
On Thursday 27th of November myself and Ruari Santiago McBride pulled off the one day event that had been suggested by the DOJ. That’s right the one they couldn’t afford. We went ahead without them and managed to facilitate Convict Criminology in America and Canada via a Skype session (Jeff Ross and Mike Lenza), in Belfast, British Convict Criminology (Andy Aresti, Sacha Darke, Rod Earle and Bill Davies), Positive Prisons Positive Futures (Pete White – Scotland), seven people who had been to prison in Northern Ireland, Pat (from NIACRO) and my dear friend Shadd Maruna who just happened to be in town that day (Honest). I’d like to thank our American contingent as we didn’t realise it was ‘Thanksgiving’ and these kind and generous men gave up time with their families to be with us. What did surprise me though was that Pat from NIACRO was able to come but not one from the biggest agency in Northern Ireland, apart from probation, who work with people who have been to prison.

I was a bit disappointed with the ex prisoner turnout, but in the end when you included the Convict Criminology boys it ended up working to our benefit as the event became more personal, stories and experiences shared more meaningful. One guy even came because he’d read my blog!!! Everyone left with a great sense of purpose and the obligatory post mortem in Belfast bars has allowed me and a few others to take stock of where this might lead. Watch this space as something will be developing over the coming months and years.

This Tuesday I delivered an hour long talk to students at Queens. It was on ‘desistance’ and ‘re-integration’. Eighty students listening to little ole me. The silence in the room when I spoke and the frantic scribbling on note pads filled me with more joy than I can possibly describe. I also found out that I’m allegedly pretty informative. Therefore, as I am now Michael Irwin BA, MSSc I’m now available for lectures, talks, symposiums, after dinner gatherings, at a University near you and will only charge the going rate.

On Thursday I attended and event in NIACRO that allowed us. The participants of the ‘Built to Contain’ radio play to discuss the making of it with the writers and criminal justice figures – . Oh, I hadn’t been invited to this NIACRO event per se, but did attend with my friends who told me the event was on. When the people who participated were asked to come up, my name wasn’t called out. I sat in the audience and it was only when the writer said “where’s Michael why’s he not up here.” Then looking at me he says “come on get your ass up here. You can’t hide back there.” There were giggles and laughter but my ole paranoia never leaves me and it was noticeable that this is the third time I’ve been involved with something but when it comes to the event at the end my name invite goes astray.

Oh yeagh, that’s right, I graduated on Friday the 12th of December with a Master of Social Science in Criminology. This time my Dad and Mum were in attendance and words simply fail me as to the emotions churning around in this aul napper. Obviously I went out over the weekend and got the obligatory pats on the back from friends and strangers. R0015079 R0015078

So, it’s Monday morning as I sit and reflect with the fire roaring by my side. I’ve got two of my academic driving licences – BA and MSSc – next stop PhD? I’m really proud of me and how I’ve made it this far despite the efforts of certain interventions from the great and the not so good. My letters after my name and my lived experience give me epistemological privilege in the world of criminology and I’m determined to use the next twenty years of my life upsetting the apple-cart.

What do you think?


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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