Wednesday, February 8, 2012
A Successful Coup
It wasn't so much a struggle to wrest the editorial chair from the incumbent as an easy catch, as he got shot of it as fast as he could! And so now I find myself in the awkward position of having to deliver on the pitch I made for the job. Ho hum.
Prison magazines stand alone in being horribly complicated beasts. For all of the reforms of recent decades the reality is that only a minority of managers are remotely comfortable in allowing prisoners to have a genuine voice. And the result of this is that most prison magazines are utter tripe, a true waste of paper and effort. The more anodyne, the happier everyone seems to be.
Except the prisoners, who recognise rubbish when they see it. And so revamping a magazine is an uphill battle, requiring much effort to persuade managers that raising interesting or contentious issues is not the same as fomenting a riot and persuading prisoners that it is an enterprise worth becoming involved with.
When I edit a magazine I do so with one eye firmly on the inherent potential for development. It could act as a focus to develop those with an untapped potential to write, to design, to produce graphics, to organise and manage. It can be the basis for earning qualifications in everything from literacy through to NUJ membership. And, strategically, it can embed in the prison the idea that talking about difficult things is not necessarily an evil development.
When I last held this position, several years ago and before the blog, I saw the potential for a magazine as a bridge between the prison and the community. Why should prison magazines remain within the walls, why not engage the community? This led to my developing the idea and persuading the Millennium Commission to provide funding and I was made a Millennium Fellow for the effort.
Alas, circumstances intervened and I moved on and the idea died. But this did reveal that there is potential for a prison magazine to be more than a collection of stapled-together tat that pleases no-one. And it is with this potential in mind that I aimed for this position.
Of course, it was a great help that the education boss didn't know my name or have any idea of the baggage I tend to travel with!
And it strikes me that no UK prison magazine has ever been published onto the web. Mmm....
Labels: prison magazine