Monday, February 27, 2012
Perhaps oddly, the prison service frowns upon us hitch-hiking to get to distant places. Home leaves, etc, must rest upon proper travelling plans. As I am 3 hours away from home by car, making that trip is going to be my South Pole, my Everest. At least six changes in transport, juggling between buses and trains, and hoping not to miss a single connection. While the destination looms large in my hopes, the journey there is a pit to wade through on the way.
To add some verve to the process, I have to fill in a form for financial assistance for the journey. This form is helpfully headed, in bold, with an exhortation that we should try to manage our finances so that we can pay these transport costs ourselves. This is mendacious in the extreme. On a prison wage of a tenner a week, no matter how financially astute I may be I really can't fund a journey to points south of Bristol once a month - oh, and back! Even Robert Maxwell would struggle to make those figures add up. This is where paying prisoners pocket money for their labours comes back to bite the prison on the bum. Being lectured on financial probity in these circumstances is just insulting.
In a fit of largess I have offered to contribute a tenner but, that apart, I expect the prison to pay for my travelling costs. I know the country is broke, and the prison has yet another budget cut, but these activities out into the community are a pre-requisite for release. Am I wrong to expect the prison to facilitate them?