Thursday, December 17, 2009

Charity Work

All prisons contain groups of prisoners who give their time and effort to raise money for various charities. Producing goods for auction, fun runs, you name it we do it. As I write there is a notice outside the wing office asking for donations to the breast cancer campaign, tastefully illustrated with two pink balloons.
I tend not to join in these efforts. It doesn't sit well with me that groups out in society, a society that loudly rejects us, are quite happy to scrounge a chunk of our paltry wage. You can't hate us and ask for a favour.
My cynicism initially sprang from a contribution I made decades ago so that a screw's daughter could go to the US for specialist treatment. Most of the wing contributed. Afterwards a notice was put up, thanking STAFF for their contributions.


  1. While I can appreciate your point and feel for you. The people you are refusing to help are not the ones responsible for your situation.

    Society may have hurt you, but striking out at others who are vulnerable will not make things better.

    I'm not saying you should feel like you have to give if you don't want to, just that that reason is a poor one.

  2. Good point, cogently made, Wigarse. But I think we mustn’t underestimate the effect of social exile on the psyche. When you take away the right of a group of people to lead autonomous lives and to vote, you create, in effect, a despised sub-species. It’s as if Donne had written “send not to know for whom the bell tolls, because it’s not tolling for you lot, got that?” I think Ben’s anger is understandable. Whether it does him any good is another matter entirely. I suspect, though, that he might be more responsive in the case of a needy individual—that his problem is not with people but with society.

  3. Not sure where i sit with this one, my sister used to work for a 3rd world charity, in the usa, and was so dissalusioned with it, she left, they would go to the four seasons hotel ro lunch, to discuss world poverty. Having said that, when i was in jail 2 "pressure groups" supported me, with cash and anything else (with-in reason) i needed. And very greatful i was too. I was an animal rights prisoner, and went out with a hell of a lot more money than i went in with. Also got loads of mail, and visits too.

  4. Well I think the screw was a **** for doing that to you all, and I can see your p.o.v Ben, but I also think it's good to 'heap burning coals on their head' so to speak and know for the good of your own soul that YOU did something good for another human being who, as Wigarse says is not responsible for your situation. Also bear in mind that the people you're trying to raise money for are very often innocent children or animals who have no axe to grind with you.

    Just out of curiosity, does 'good behaviour' encompass charity work done during a person's sentence?

  5. I think you are all right in this matter - but I can sympathise with Ben - society is all negative to offenders egged on by the media. I am always pointing out to anyone who will listen that nobody is all bad - that includes prisoners, in fact I have met some really good prisoners (ex prisoners) who will do anything for others.

  6. As far as I am concerned charitable giving is utterly, totally personal, do or don't as you wish. If prisoners want to, wonderful for everyone concerned, but it does seem a little like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Raising actual cash is only one of a number of ways of giving, one favoured by a lot of busy people but perhaps the least direct. Alternative ways of giving of one's time have, I think, been addressed in this blog. And while I am not arguing for everyone to stop giving (far from it) this sort of situation surely illustrates the limitations of charity, which should, I feel, be trailblazing assistance into dark, neglected corners, whereupon government, society and that banker whining about getting taxed on his bonus should then pick up the baton. Now, where's that one-way ticket to some Scandinavian high tax, high equality utopia...


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