Thursday, April 28, 2011

Scandal and Incompetence.

This is the story of Dave and his laptop, the allegation that he was illegally accessing the net from his cell, and the sheer incompetence of the response from both the prison and the Ombudsman’s office. Along the way, illegality by prison staff is uncovered - read on.

Dave was one of the handful of prisoners here who had a laptop in his cell. These were carefully security checked, modem physically removed, security seals applied, etc. Obviously, access to the net was neither permitted nor facilitated.

To came about that, on the basis on ''intelligence'' the prison’s Security Department believed that Dave had managed to access the ‘net, and they removed his laptop for examination.  It was sealed in a nice shiny evidence bag, tagged, registered and numbered.
No sooner did it arrive in the Security office, these evidentiary procedures were rendered void. On no fewer than 9 separate occasions, prison staff used this laptop to load commercial DVD’s, and on 5 of these occasions the DVD'S were illegal pirate copies.

The number of staff with keys to the Security office is extremely limited. I have the precise times and dates that these DVD'S were being loaded onto the laptop. Reconciling this data with the staff duty roster, I assume that the culprit could be easily identified.

Breaking into sealed evidence, destroying the Chain of Custody, and abusing the laptop by watching DVD's, even pirate ones, is hardly eyebrow raising to those familiar with prisons. Much more significant is that these DVD'S were being smuggled into the prison by staff within the Security Department. Smuggling items into prison is a very serious criminal offence, and great efforts are expended to prevent prisoners and their visitors smuggling contraband.

These efforts are, of course, spearheaded by the Security Department. The very department whose staff are happily smuggling pirate films into the prison to watch on a seized laptop. Having been seized, and when not being used by staff to watch films, Dave's laptop was ''examined'' for evidence that it had been connected to the net. Whilst refusing to say so in writing, in conversation it was said that this ''examination'' was conducted by Leaf, a computer company usually employed to look after the computers in the Education Department.
This was a mistake. As any first step in examining the hard-drive. It is this clone competent computer examiner knows, the PC is to make a clone of the hard-drive. It is this clone which is then probed for evidence, leaving the original drive and data unchanged and undamaged.
The company employed by the prison did none of this. They assaulted Dave's laptop with a vigour only exceeded by their incompetence. ''Since seizure, the computer has been used extensively and undergone massive and irreparable damage to the computer evidence”.  These bumblers altered no fewer than 53,000 files, including creating 1,202 new files.
On the basis of this shoddy examination, the head of the Security Department, CD Hunt, told
Dave that there was sufficient evidence to believe that he had accessed the net, and that his laptop was therefore confiscated. Hunt, though, refused to disclose the ''examiners report'' and I'm disinclined to accept the words of a man in charge of a Department whose underlings are engaged in a smuggling racket. So was Dave.
Dave complains. A lot. Dave began his appeal against this allegation and loss of his laptop. Three stages within the prison - each with no success - and then to the office of the Prison’s Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman declined to examine the laptop. Dave asked that they check the Event Log, Internet Explorer History, and Directory files. These would clearly show whether the laptop had accessed the net.
Despite such steps being both basic and extremely' simple, the Ombudsman refused to take this course and failed to uphold Dave's complaint. Being a persistent devil when he has been wronged, Dave then commissioned his own examination of his laptop, by an accredited specialist computer forensics company used by the police and other agencies. That is, a genuine computer firm who knew what they were doing.
At any time during this process, either the prison or the Ombudsman could have adopted the same course. They chose not to, leaving Dave in the position of having to organise the proper examination.
The quoted evidence above, and the details of Security abuse of this evidence, is revealed in the new, expert, report. Prepared in the form of a Witness Statement, ready for submission to any Court, the Report summary is crystal clear: ''It is my opinion that this computer has not been connected to the internet whilst in use at HMP Shepton Mallet. I base this opinion on the following evidence:

1. The Internet Browser history has not been deleted, but contains no internet history (http), only 'file' history.
2. The Windows Registry does not contain details of IP addresses lease times.
3. There is no evidence of connection to a mobile phone or 3G Dongle of any sort.
4. The Windows Events Log shows no IP address histories

I spare you the pages of detailed compuspeak that underlies this conclusion, but it is conclusive. According to this specialist computer forensics examination, Dave had not been on the 'net. The initial ''examination'' had damaged the computer. And staff were loading illegal DVD'S onto the laptop.



  1. For someone in prison as long as you claim to be how do you know about history files, IP addresses and 3g Dongles? I smell a rat and speaking from someone who has just been released... you are a rat.

  2. There is such aggression and brutality in the prison system, my heart goes out to yous. The skills you guys have and have to develop while you are inside just to survive is amazing.

    I am gobsmacked at this latest post, its just incredible, I am wishing Dave all the best with this.

    It is beyond me thats for sure, I admire you guys, all the best.

  3. Anonymous, just from reading the post, Ben knows about history files, 3G dongles etc because he has read the report from the computer analysis firm that Dave commissioned to examine his laptop. It really is that simple.

  4. @Anonymous 9.09pm
    I expect Ben knows about many things that weren't invented Thirty-Two years ago. You sound like a disgruntled screw!?

  5. Laptops for prisoners, what next plasma TV with SKY?

  6. Anon. 12:17am wrote:

    "...what next plasma TV with SKY"

    What other forms of torture do you suggest?

    Accepting any gifts from the regime, even in the form of 'privileges', allows that system direct access to your mental state. And one must ask if it serves anybody well, for the system to have mental control of prisoners?

    In my view, it should be sufficient to isolate those people from the community, whose laws they have transgressed; any more than that, is simply spite.

    We must stop regarding prisoners in a sentimental fashion; and by the same token, we should stop regarding them as our moral play things.

    Laws should not be more or less strict, they should be absolutely purposeful, or not at all; and that goes for the creation and maintenance of criminals.

  7. Well said JimmyGiro. There is always a danger of making prisoners the scapegoats for all the ills of society by imposing further punishment on top of their loss of liberty.

  8. Out of interest, what basis (presuming one was provided) did the prison service say there was for assuming he had accessed the net? Jealous neighbor who claimed to see him accessing or some posting on the net that was attributed to Dave?

  9. Loss of liberty aren't enough for these people, they must have revenge!!!.

    I hope Dave gets his day in Court, and the prison staff compliant in this are caught and sacked.


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