Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rooftop Sunbathing

What was lining up to be a dull, irritating day was brought alive by the appearance of a rooftop protester above my head.  Cue lots of staff activity, the deployment of negotiators and then the riot squad.

My keen eyes and ears absorbed everything.  Ringside seats to such events and the tactics employed by the Prison Service are uncommon events.

The man on the roof - let's call him George - was frustrated because despite banging on about his accommodation on release for 5 years, is still forced into being homeless when he is released next month.

It is uncontested that housing plays a huge role in the likelihood of re-offending, and his concerns should have been listened to and a solution found.  Instead, he was neglected and frustrated.  Up the wall he went, to try to get someone to listen to him.

The negotiators were bumbling, truly pathetic, and only served to pass the time until the riot squad were ready to force the issue.

Seven hours, dozens of staff, the prison shut down, and the need for specialist riot staff.

What a waste, when the issue could have been resolved in minutes.  The governor should have dragged George's offender supervisor below the eaves and asked him to explain the efforts made to house George on release.  And if the O.S had been negligent, begin dismissal proceedings against him.

But the prison service just isn't like that.  They can admit no wrong and so George will probably spend his last few weeks in chokey, before being decanted homeless to live on a street near you.

There are days when we should all feel ashamed of our criminal justice system...


  1. I agree, ashamed is right, especially when you read about the recent events at Feltham (YOI) and the damning report on HMP Wandsworth.

    Never mind though, i'm sure you will all be inundated with 'looters and rioters' soon.

    On a lighter note, Happy Birthday :-)

  2. Only some days? Read this:

    Wandsworth jail unsafe - report

    Three months without a shower! The only outside life that'll prepare him for is life as a homeless drug addict.

  3. Why can't he go to a hostel, and be re-housed from there?

    To be fair, it is hard for everyone out here too, to buy a very small house round here,i would need to earn the thick end of 60-70K to do so. The council/housing associations have long waiting lists, private rent is expensive.....and so it goes on.....

  4. Anonymous 7.29pm - there are nowhere near enough places in hostels, hence the number of homeless people forced to sleep rough.

  5. Point is, the prison it not doing its job properly. I once worked at Erlestoke and remember a prisoner in Education sitting in the corridor on the floor, with a cardboard notice saying "hungry and homeless". He said he was practising for the following week when he would be on the street, released with forty quid, a bus ticket, and his belongings in a bag with HMP Prison Service written on it. The admin lady, not employed by the prison service, contacted the Salvation Army and got him somewhere to stay. But the prison service should have done that!

  6. @anon 7.29

    Also note that Ben's post implies that this man a definite release date, no matter what action he takes. Given five years it should definitely be possible to find accommodation for that fixed date. Especially as if he has been in prison for five years and has no-one willing to take him in he probably has limited connection to any one area so is fairly flexible.

  7. I agree, tallguy, is there a godforsaken probation officer to answer is about the only useful thing they do, and they can't even do that properly??????

  8. Yes Mr/Mrs Probation officer out there, can you explain why my friend, offered a tiny, grotty but self-contained studio flat for the first time in years, a week after getting key still has to go back to sleep in an empty room in a shared house by 9pm each night because no-one has the wherewithall to get his tag box moved to his new home??? If anything would make him turn back to drugs through boredom and isolation it's this!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.