Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Unusual Offer

It was a meeting described to me as looking like a conversation between a Mafia don and his mistress... that's my panama hat again!

Last Friday afternoon, sunny, warm, and sitting out around the pond in the yard. Sorry, "community garden". Why aren't we working? As a cost cutting measure last year, the "core regime" across the prison estate abandoned Friday afternoons, leaving us banged up or on association.

Leaving the Admin block, the manager took a diagonal path across the yard and approached my gaggle of mates. "Can I have a word?" We adjourned to a picnic table. I was conscious of a yard full of eyes watching us.

She made me an offer. That I do "in cell" education and get paid a tenner a week. But, unlike everyone else on in-cell ed, I have to be locked up all day. The No.l governor had already signed off on this deal.

We bantered over some details, such as access to the library, before we decided to resume in a few days time. I went back to my mates and we watched her walk away. "Definitely a thong", one groaned wistfully, "no VPL".

I bounced the offer off them and they were divided. A tenner was better than being unemployed, yet agreeing to being banged-up was a downer. None of us could unravel what was behind this turn of events.

And it is a strange and unexpected development. For two years I've been neglected, left behind my door, and any suggestion that I be employed on in-cell education flatly refused. Why, then, was this offer made? What prompted it? And why now?

Three weeks ago I applied to attend education on a very part-time basis. The application has sat in their office since then, being treated like Kryptonite. That education management don't want me in the department could be an impetus to make this new offer, essentially a bribe to keep me away. But do they dislike me that much? Possibly... Or it could be some external impetus that has freed up management thinking, maybe my university, maybe the visitor with powerful friends I've received of late. Or did I sting them with something I've written here?

This mystery will probably never be solved. Management are like the iceberg, most of their activity occurs beneath the surface and indiscernible. But without knowing the reasons for this offer, I cannot judge my bargaining power.

It is a baffling offer. Paying me to study in my cell does have the advantage of seeing me get a few shekels, and its a deal only those too infirm to attend the education department are normally permitted. So this is movement indeed. And yet; everyone else on in-cell education is left unlocked all day. Why, then, the insistence that I be firmly sealed behind my door? And given the time of year, this would see me deprived of daylight until next spring.

Should I take this deal? And if I don't, will it be spun against me?


  1. Ben - it would be useful to know whether "in-cell education" means being able to study for your PhD, or rather having to follow some HMP service dictated course(s) like "Anger Management" or "How to overcome substance abuse"?

    What the hell is their rationale for keeping you banged up all day?

    If it was me, and if it was for the PhD I would go for it, but only after trying very hard to negotiate for the open door!

    Best of luck,

    Davina x

  2. Well I think there are a variety of tactics you could employ here.

    Firstly I would go to them and say you would be willing to have in - cell education for a tenner a week, ( better than being unemployed ) but that you need to have access to the outdoors and association for health and safety reasons.

    Seems good progress that you have got something that you can negotiate with them with, a bit of bargaining power. Good luck


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