Thursday, January 12, 2012
Those who have a passing familiarity with my career may recall that this is my second attempt to scale the
summit of open prison.
The first attempt, Leyhill in 2004, was characterised by the words spoken to me by the lifer manager - "We don't care". This led to a year of utter misery and frustration for me, leading to a further 6 years of imprisonment. The whole ethos of that prison was rooted in negativity, suspicion and endless restrictions. Lifers lived in daily fear of being "lifted", waking up to face a set of handcuffs and a taxi back to closed prison. The expulsion rate at Leyhill remains legendary, as does the pervasive management attitude of thinking of any and every reason to deny a man access to the community.
Despite this heavy baggage haunting my memory, I left the Reception building here with a heavy load of box files and an open and positive frame of mind. Speaking to other Lifers I noted an absence of the fear and misery that pervades Leyhill. They assured me that the lifer management here were efficient and took a far less oppressive role in our lives.
After three weeks I was called-up for an induction talk with a lifer manager. Where Leyhill presented a brick wall, this man offered me an open door. In confirming that my timetable of activities began with me out in the community in January, leading to my possible release in May, I was struck dumb by the positive attitude underlying this vista. Rather than having to fight for anything, it seems that all of this is there for me to lose.
This is such a refreshing attitude. While this place may be far from home, cold and a bit of a dive, when it comes to the essential point of open prison - resettlement into the community - I get the feeling that I've landed on my feet.
Labels: HMP Leyhill