Saturday, August 3, 2013
Prison Diaries - Fact or Fake?
The closed world that is prison cries out to be dragged into the light of public consideration. There is an endless list of reasons for this, all of which lay behind my decision to begin blogging several years ago. Top of my personal list of reasons is that power exercised in secret always risks becoming abusive; and that knowledge of prison could only improve the pathetic quality of public and political debate.
It is sad, then, that no blogger has taken my place in the year since I was released. Not that it is an easy path to take – it is a continual battle, even though legal, and the number of vocal, campaigning prisoners is always a very limited pool. It was with some pleasure that someone on Twitter - @Prison_Diaries – began to tweet, seemingly from the depths of the High Security Estate.
Obviously there were doubters. This involved an illegal mobile phone, and accessing social networks, even second hand, is against prison rules. Added to the difficulty of perpetually hiding a phone, it is no surprise that some thought that this was a fake account. If you like that sort of thing, The Queen has an excellent one.
As the days passed, I decided to pose a challenge – to take and post a particular picture that I thought would be very hard for someone not in prison to take. Prison Diaries came through. Alas, someone promptly faked a similar photo to make the point that the proof wasn't in. Ho hum. But on the basis of Prison Diaries efforts, I gave him my conditional support as being genuine.
Not that I was sanguine. All too often PD seemed to give away personal information that I would never do in his position, to the extent that I felt the need to warn him more than once. Without even re-reading his tweets I can recall that he is serving Life with a 24 tariff, has served between 3 and 4 years, his crime is a gun-murder, and he works on the wing servery. With just that information any decent Security Department should be able to uncover him in hours.
That they haven't found PD has been a source of increasing discomfort for me. I know that I had a mobile for four years, but I wasn't in High Security and had a very sophisticated system to keep myself safe. Even so, I would never have dreampt of tweeting. The Prison Service hated my legal blog, you can only imagine their response to illegal tweeting – every effort would be expended to shut it down, out of sheer embarrassment.
I must admit to losing interest in Prison Diaries. It was slightly entertaining, but lacked any depth of meaning or thought and so I wandered off. Only to have my attention grabbed yesterday by the accusation that Prison Diaries had been detected tweeting from an Ipad. Hiding a mobile is one thing; an IPad is another. The alternative explanation, that a screw brought in an Ipad for personal use and allowed PD to use it briefly, is one I cannot believe for a single moment. Staff are utterly forbidden from bringing such items into prison, may be randomly searched on entry, and to then allow a prisoner to use it.... That's not just the job and pension down the drain, it's criminal prosecution. I've known some dumbass screws, but even they would balk at such stupidity.
Prison Diaries has yet to deny the IPad claim, which is disappointing. The best he has come up with is to say that he has a corrupt relationship with staff which gives him forewarning of any action to find the phone (or Ipad). And this is another claim I cannot accept. It relies on public ignorance of prison life but to someone with my history, it doesn't stand up for a moment. It is absurd.
Mobiles are found in essentially two ways. The first is randomly; by a random search by wing staff, or by wing staff getting a reading on their mobile detectors and kicking the door in. Secondly, it can be found by way of a targeted search, following intelligence such as another con grassing, information revealed through tweets, or staff detecting it on their equipment.
Only one of these avenues of finding a mobile is even theoretically amenable to interference by corrupt staff. The random wing searches etc are not. Unless one has every member of staff in their pocket. The second, through targeted intelligence, is amenable if one happens to have the Security Manager in your pocket. In a High Security prison. It has never happened, and I know a lot of heavyweight criminals who would love to throw millions at that manager.
My doubts about Prison Diaries, then, are solidifying. I would love an explanation as to how he accessed an IPad. Of how he evades phone detectors and searches. And how he has the Security Department of a High Security prison on its knees.
Until then.... Prison Diaries has clearly spent time behind bars. But I doubt he is who he claims to be now. Sorry dude.