Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Decade 4

As the months unfolded, it became clear that the Parole Board was using any possible excuse not to progressively move people, solely as a reaction to the Rice fiasco. For over a year almost no one here was moved to Open. The Parole Board national figures for that period reveal that there was a huge drop in the number of Lifers being progressed by the Parole Board. The nature of these lifers had not changed; they were the same people they always were. But a scared Parole Board just refused to do their professional duty and opted for inaction rather than risk another media mauling.

The Board wanted me to have a full psychological assessment, including a test for psychopathy and gave me a two year knockback. Who was to pay for this? The Governor here was pulling his hair out. The Parole Board chose potential psychopathy as their main reason to screw over many who appeared in front of them in that period, leaving the Governor to foot the bill for the assessments.

That didn't excuse the nick from lying. One of the Lifer Unit staff looked me straight in the eye and swore I was top of the list and they had the money to do the assessment. Neither was true, wasting another year of my life. In the end, legal aid paid for it and I faced my last parole board with two psychologists’ reports and one from a forensic psychiatrist. That's about £5,000 to you, the taxpayer, just to persuade a fresh parole panel that their predecessors were full of crap.

Meanwhile, I had a couple of years to fill. Most of it was spent wafting around the Education Department, in a semi-detached sort of way. At one stage I was so bored that I produced a thoroughly scurrilous samizdat newsletter, the Shepton Informer, that I managed to write, print and circulate under the eyes of staff. I gather that senior management were a tad miffed but a lot of my peers were amused, so I hit both of my main targets.
Along the way, negotiations were begun to gain permission to begin my research degree. This had been on hold since I arrived at Open in 2005. This was a two stage process, whereby I had to find a university who would supervise me and then persuade prison management that they should allow it. It was a long process, some two years; before it was agreed by all that I could begin in late 2008.

At one point I did find myself in the workshop, packing various nuts and bolts for an outside company. My views on this type of slave labour are laid out at My tenure was brief, my departure following a suggestion that prisoners should place little notes in the product packets that read, "packed by rapists and murderers at Shepton Mallet prison". After all, shouldn't the consumer have full information before making a decision to purchase...?

Again, this upset a section of management.  This workshop is a large employer here and a source of a useful income to the Governor. If the outside contractor was publicly connected to slave labour it may take fright and send the work to Chinese prisons instead. That was the end of my career as a nuts and screws packer but I'm sure the world will struggle onwards.


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