2007 articles

Pericard: My prison hell
The shocking warning that ALL today's players must heed

David Anderson 09/10/2007
select for full story Stoke striker Vincent Pericard has lifted the lid on his prison hell - and revealed how he feared he would lose his mind.

Pericard was recently freed after spending five weeks in Exeter prison for lying about who was driving his car when he was caught speeding.

And he admits it was the toughest ordeal of his life.

The former Juventus man says he struggled to deal with life behind bars and the mind-numbing tedium of the daily routine.

"The greatest fear I had was for my sanity," said Pericard, 25. "I was afraid of losing my mind, going mad, becoming claustrophobic and not being able to express myself any more.

"I feared my head would explode. I could stand up to the regime physically - but mentally I needed to hold out.

"I got up at 7.30 for a breakfast that was the bare minimum - a bowl of milk and cereal that looked like plastic.

"We ate in our cells, where we'd be locked up until 11am, and then we'd go and get our lunch, which we'd once again eat behind closed cell doors. It was the same routine again with the evening meal.

"They gave us a wage of around £7 a week, and I'd use the money to top up my phone, or else buy clothes or extra food.

"If you stayed in bed all day you didn't have enough to eat."

The inmate in the cell next to Pericard's hung himself and the former French Under-21 international says his ordeal has left him traumatised.

"It was a totally different world, and one where nobody wants to end up," he told "It was a society of criminals with its own way of thinking, where all the laws and rules are different.

"I was in there with drug dealers, paedophiles, rapists, murderers and people who have attempted to kill. We had the lot.

"There are people in there who no longer form part of society, and I do not want to be like them.

"It is the toughest thing I have had to endure in my life."

select for full story Pericard has been released on licence and must wear an electronic tag as he attempts to revive his career at Stoke. He still feels hugely aggrieved that he was sent to jail for four months for perverting the course of justice.

"The judge who sentenced me was in a bad mood that day, and he wanted to make an example of a footballer," argued the forward, who hails from Cameroon. "When he passed sentence on me I didn't know how to react. The police put handcuffs on me straight away and led me to the cells - the shock lasted days.

"I learned in prison that your life can change in the blink of an eye. I'd been happy, with my friends and at liberty, but suddenly there was nothing - no contact, no phone calls.

"It has been a hard lesson for me. I will respect the law from now on, and advise others to do the same." Pericard claims he only survived thanks to the support of his old Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp and ex-Fratton Park team-mate Teddy Sheringham.

And he thanked Stoke for standing by him and offering him a second chance at the Britannia Stadium.

"That encouragement from Harry and Teddy helped me survive in prison, as did knowing I had the backing of my bosses at Stoke," he said. "Their support was massive because they could have easily cancelled my contract for gross misconduct and saved some money.

"Getting back into the team has given me my confidence back. Now every day is like Christmas.

"I'm so glad to be back among my friends and team-mates - and no longer among criminals."

09/10/2007                 view more news            view the topic            view article

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Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER
Published: 14 September 2007 select to view full story

Inside Holloway:
‘violent women inmates attack staff once a week’

Prison officers claim that gang culture among young offenders is fuelling disorder

PRISON officers at Holloway have revealed how they have to deal with increasingly aggress­­ive women inmates, in an exclusive interview with the Tribune this week.

Union officials are threatening more industrial action following the recent national one-day strike, the first in the prison service’s history.

In the interview, they criticised TV presenter Joan Bakewell, who has called for the majority of women prisoners to be released.

And on a lighter note, the officers admitted enjoying ITV’s Bad Girls, which they think occasionally presents an authentic message about life in a women’s prison.

The officers maintain that, with an average of one attack a week on staff at Holloway, many women today are becoming as aggressive as men and need to be locked up for society’s good.

Bill Banham, 55, local branch secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), believes that the inmates now in Holloway Prison reflect an increasingly violent society.

However, although he described conditions at the women’s prison as difficult, with one officer to 15 inmates, he praised the new governor, Sue Saunders, who was working well with the unions.

Last Thursday – the day of the interview – an officer was assaulted after trying to break up a fight between two prisoners. “One of the officers tried to intervene and unfortunately she got struck with a broom handle across her neck,” Mr Banham said.

The officer, who was not seriously hurt, was sent to Whittington Hospital in Archway for a check-up.

But Mr Banham said he did not expect the assault to be investigated by prison authorities.

“Police and nurses have a zero tolerance on assaults but we are treated like third-class citizens,” he said. “When a prison officer is attacked no one is interested.”

On the other hand, he added, when a prisoner alleges assault by an officer that is usually thoroughly investigated.

“That is entirely fair,” he said. “We don’t want officers attacking inmates. But it should work both ways.”

TV presenter Joan Bakewell caused a nationwide debate last year when she called for women’s prisons such as Holloway to be closed and the inmates freed.

She argued that the majority of women prisoners are not violent criminals but inside because of unfortunate domestic circumstances or drug abuse.

Mr Banham said: “Unfortunately, these days more and more, particularly young, women are quite capable of committing violent crimes.

“We’ve noticed that with our young offenders there is a gang culture and they are very prone to violence.

“Women generally are becoming more violent but in prison it becomes more pronounced. There are women who kill and they have to go somewhere.”

POA branch chairman Simon Peters, 33, said that the layout of the 150-year-old prison, partly rebuilt in 1976, makes it difficult to patrol.

“We don’t have CCTV,” he added. “The cost would be prohibitive, and there are so many nooks and crannies that it would make a system difficult to work.”

With an average salary of about £25,000 a year, the majority of officers cannot afford to live locally and have to commute long distances.

Mr Peters added: “It means we have a big recruitment problem.”

On average there is a suicide every two years in Holloway Prison.

Mr Peters said: “But we will have possibly two or three episodes of self-harm a day. We may lose one woman every two years but we have probably saved the lives of thousands over that period.”

Despite the problems, the officers are proud of Holloway’s many achieve­ments. “Many prisoners are able to kick drugs and learn to lead a more civilised life while inside,” Mr Peters said. “Our staff don’t just supervise prisoners, they invest time and energy in counselling, talking and encouraging those who want to lead a normal life.

“The tragedy is that when they return to society there is no support or care for ex-offenders. It is something that the probation service should provide, but they too are increasingly having their staff and funds reduced.”

14 September 2007                 view more news              view the article              view the thread


We need to return to an austere prison regime

Monday September 3,2007
By Leo McKinstry      Have your say(1)

The phrase “tough community penalty” is a contradiction in terms, for it is impossible to deal harshly with any offender while allowing him to remain free. I spoke recently to a magistrate who was trumpeting the toughness of some new programme for juvenile delinquents.

When I asked her what this meant in real terms, she told me that teenagers had to report three times a week to their supervisor at nine o’clock, then do some redecorating work on a community centre.

To call that a punishment is an abuse of the English language. Most working people have a far more exacting daily regime. When liberals claim that “prison doesn’t work”, I always want to reply, “How do you know? It hasn’t been tried.”

The British penal system, dominated by short sentences, automatic early release and a floodtide of drugs, is a world away from the austere jails that used to exist in this country to teach criminals a real lesson.

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Prison staff morale at ‘all-time low’

A SEND prisoner officer has criticised the conditions in which his colleagues must work and claimed that staff morale is at an all-time low.

select for FULL story Lak Dosanjh was one of the thousands of prison staff who forced lockdowns at dozens of correctional facilities such as Send and Coldingley in Bisley by taking strike action last Wednesday.

And although further peace talks between the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the Prison Officers’ Association are planned, more action has not been ruled out.

Mr Dosanjh has worked at Send prison for seven years and in that time he has been stabbed and seen a female colleague almost beaten to death by an inmate, he says.

He has hit out at the below-inflation pay rises and continual cutbacks, which he believes have pushed the service to breaking point.

He said: “We had to take this action as a last resort because of poor pay over the last decade. The prisons are full and staff levels are the same as they were 10 years ago.

“In Send we will have a new unit opening with 64 places, which will be live by November this year. However, we have been informed that we must lose some prison officers.

“The government has also informed us it has no new staff in the pipeline to allocate to Send. We are understaffed and overworked.”

Mr Dosanjh said staff are regularly asked to work 18-hour shifts with some even doing a full 24-hour stint to keep the prison running.

He added: “We are under extreme pressure and stress and morale is at an all-time low.

“It is frustrating when prisoners are getting PlayStations, DVDs, colour TVs and laptops in their rooms as well as plasmas in the gym and personal trainers. Especially when our soldiers, who are dying for this country, are not given the same resources.”

Attacks, it is claimed, are on the increase and the situation is not being helped by planned cost cutting exercises.

Mr Dosanjh said: “Our daily cell searches are to be reduced to once a week, drug testing must be cut back by 50% and voluntary drug tests must be abolished. This is extremely worrying as all these ingredients are a recipe for disaster.”

A spokesman for the prison service said that recommendations on staff levels at Send were still under review and that more staff would be available in future.

The prison has bid for 48 extra staff, including 21 officers, to cope with November’s expansion.

Dave Plummer, POA chairman at Coldingley, also led around 30 officers on strike last Wednesday morning.

He said: “We have been messed about year after year and when it was asked if we supported strike action, it was almost unanimously agreed. We have got to the stage where we have had enough.”

A national 24-hour strike began on Wednesday August 29 because a staggered 2.5% pay offer is to be awarded in two stages.

Mr Plummer said: “We had extremely good support from officers and the public, which has surprised me.

“Putting prisoners under lockdown in their cells causes its own problems and we didn’t have any argument with the prisoners. They were actually very supportive of the action we were taking.

“What the government does with its own money is its own business but if it keeps knocking us with below-inflation pay increases, people are going to get fed up.”

6/9/2007                view more news              view the article              view the strike thread

From The Times (letters)
September 4, 2007

Prison officers are underpaid and undervalued

Sir, I was heartened to read the comments of your correspondent Theodore Dalrymple regarding the Prison Service dispute (“Prison officers: our finest public servants”, Comment, August 31 ). So many writers just have no idea what goes on inside prisons.

I am a retired senior officer and worked in an establishment that held the very highest-risk inmates before being downgraded as a cost-cutting measure, despite never losing a prisoner since it opened in 1967.

I worked through the period when jails had to adapt to budgetary control from having virtually unlimited funds. Ever since then – the late 1980s – successive governments have used every trick in the book to get one over on much-maligned prison staff. Not for them the praise heaped on nurses, police, firemen who have to work through Christmas, for example.

Overtime was abolished to be replaced by “contract hours”. Then the Conservatives introduced the law preventing officers taking any form of industrial action; Jack Straw gave a pledge to repeal it, which he promptly reneged on after the 1997 election, instead promising to grab Prison Officers’ Association funds if officers took any form of action.

Work demands increased and manning levels reduced year on year, and then came time off in lieu, where demands for an officer to work, say, an extra summer Saturday were gratefully rewarded by time off on a rainy Monday in November.

After seeing years of successive Home Office hierarchies putting the boot into prison officers, it was music to my ears hearing the Home Office squealing after just a few hours when the roles were reversed.

I have the highest regard for Brian Caton, the POA general secretary, and wish him and his members every success.

PETER HALL Ryde, Isle of Wight

Sir, Her Majesty’s Prison Service has berated prison officers and their association at every given opportunity; it does not support staff either locally or nationally.

The reason the proposed strike was not publicised widely was that every government of this country always resorts to using the taxpayers’ money to persecute the POA through the courts, whether it is to stop industrial action, seize union funds or any other trade union-related action.

To date the HMPS public sector has returned two failing private prisons to the public sector but not lost a public prison to the private sector. This is because private-sector prisons are failing institutions that have even lower morale than ours, higher assaults and poorer working conditions. Public-sector prisons are safer for staff and prisoners, but they are still not safe enough, with assaults on staff rising daily.

HMPS is the only public sector service that is achieving its targets but each year it is expected to make further cuts because other parts of the public sector get it wrong. It gives prisoners free TV (no licence required), it provides them with free electricity, clean clothing and bedding, heating, etc, but when cuts are required, it is always prison officers who suffer.

Clapham, Bedford

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The Times
August 31, 2007
Prison officers: our finest public servants
Let’s have more prisons and longer sentences
Theodore Dalrymple
The 24-hour strike by prison officers has brought the condition of our prison system once more into focus. Prison is useless, say its critics, and even dangerous. We have far too many prisoners.

There is no doubt, either, that the prison officers do not enjoy high esteem among the intellectual middle classes (to say nothing of their reputation among the underclass). Certainly, they are a breed unto themselves, and they have their quirks. But having worked with them for many years, I came to have a very high regard for them. Of course, there is the odd bad one, as there is in any body of men, and a bad prison officer has more than average opportunities for sadism. But the fact that the bad ones stood out so clearly was a tribute to the general standard.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the prison officers were the only public servants left in Britain who had any real sense of public duty. Given the choice – not that I would want it – between a world run by the Prison Officers’ Association and one run by the Home Office, I would choose the former any day of the week. To begin with, the prison officers are much more intelligent than the Home Office.

The prison officers still have the esprit de corps that the Government has made it its business to destroy in the NHS, the police, the schools and the universities. I remember an officer, a very mild-mannered man, approaching retirement, who had had to intervene in a fight between two gangs in the prison and had got a black eye for his trouble, as well several other injuries. He came back to work the next day and he said to me: “I’ve been in the service 30 years, and I’ve only been assaulted three times. I don’t call that bad, do you?” I did not find this spirit to be untypical, but I didn’t find it very often elsewhere.

The overcrowded conditions to which our gallant prison officers have drawn our attention are the consequence of two factors: first, the failure to build the number of prisons appropriate to the number of criminals in society –– the numbers of prisoners have not risen nearly as fast as the numbers of crimes, so that crime is dealt with more and more leniently; and the viciously short sentences handed out by our courts (not the fault of the judges, incidentally, who are not free agents in this matter).

Short sentences mean a quick turnover of prisoners, and it is the coming and going of prisoners in prisons, with all the attendant bureaucracy, that raises so much tension.

The arguments against short sentences are many and decisive. They teach the prisoner nothing, while there is little doubt that long sentences reduce recidivism greatly. It is impossible to do anything for a prisoner if he is to be in prison for only three months (the average). An accumulation of short sentences means that the prisoner will spend almost as much of his life in prison as if he received a good long sentence in the first (or perhaps second) place, but they also fail to protect society.

Millions of crimes a year are committed by people already on probation or just released after short sentences, and such sentences let every victim know that the State does not take his victimisation seriously. They make burglary and other crime a rational choice, especially given the low rate of detection. (One burglary in every twelve reported ends in conviction, and one conviction in thirteen ends in a prison sentence, which means that burglars, on average, serve about one day per burglary in prison. Given the value of unskilled labour on the market, it is a very poor burglar who cannot steal more than one day’s wages from a house.)

Short sentences encourage the intimidation of witnesses: the most sinister sentence in English after “If I can’t have her, no one else will” is “Remember, I’ll be walking the same streets as you in six weeks”. No wonder so many criminal trials collapse for lack of evidence. And short sentences discourage the police, who labour mightily –– scores of forms to fill per arrest, just to begin with –– to produce the briefest of interludes in criminal careers.

In case this all sounds intolerably harsh, I would like to remind readers that, even in our times, the class of victims of crime is much larger than the class of perpetrators of crime. (In prison, criminals would confess to me what they had actually done, by comparison with what they had been charged with, and it was usually five to fifteen times as much, and sometimes more. They would smile at the happy recollection of what, for them, were the perfect crimes.)

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A prison employee was walking around the jail's perimeter when he was hit on the head by a pigeon, which then fell at his feet.

As he bent down to see if it was alive, a prison officer yelled: "Don't touch it. It's probably full of drugs."

He was right. The insides of the pigeon had been removed and its carcass stuffed with heroin before it was thrown over the prison wall.

This is just one, even though unusual, example of how illicit substances are finding their way into jails.

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About two-thirds of all crime is drug-related and, according to Home Office figures, 38 per cent of the 80,000 criminals currently detained are drug-dependent.

This is expected to rise to 50 per cent in the next few years.

Now, it seems, the Home Office is admitting defeat in the battle to get prisoners off drugs.

This autumn it is launching the Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS) which will revolutionise the way drug-dependent prisoners are treated.

Until now, as detailed in a 1990 Home Office report, the aim was to eradicate drugs in prison by tackling the supply and providing detox treatment.

"Attack on drug use would greatly reduce crime levels," it stated.

The new strategy has all the hallmarks of keeping addicts addicted.

West London's Wormwood Scrubs, with more than 1,000 male inmates, has been chosen for the initial trial.

Next month, instead of the current practice of trying to get heroin addicts off drugs, prisoners will be maintained at their current drug level.

Methadone will be used rather than heroin, but prisoners will go back into society in the same drug-addicted state as when they came in to jail.

To help launch the system, the NHS is giving the prison £500,000 - despite refusing to supply drugs costing £2.50 a day to slow down the degeneration of Alzheimer's sufferers.

It has also pledged at least a further £12 million.

IDTS has been promoted as a way of reducing the number of prisoners who die soon after their release.

Although prisoners take drugs in jail, it is rarely at their normal level and when they return to their former usage, their bodies cannot cope.

Home Office statistics showed that in 2001, one in ten of all deaths in this country from drug overdoses was a recently released prisoner.

So why are prisons moving away from being places of reform or correction to becoming safe houses for junkies?

One reason is the Human Rights Act, which makes it difficult to deal with drug-addicted prisoners.

They can no longer be forced to go through any detox process. Nor can prisoners be searched for drugs because the Human Rights Act protects them from internal examinations.

Everything available outside prison is also available inside.

Throwing packages over prison walls is just one, rather crude way of delivering drugs to inmates.

Partners, parents and grandparents will bring in drugs during visits and pass them over during an embrace.

Babies, nappies also make good hiding places for condoms filled with drugs.

All post is scanned, but drugs have been found in the satin bulge of a birthday card and even in hollowed-out oranges.

Illegal drugs are also brought in by staff.

"Drug barons will get their people to apply to become prison officers or take jobs in administration, education, catering and even the medical department so they have a direct source of supply," one prison governor explained.

A prison spokesman admitted: "I reckon we find only about ten per cent of the drugs that come into the prison."

The terrible reality is that most staff aren't too bothered about prisoners taking drugs.

One warder said: "Overcrowding means there are too many of them and too few of us. Taking drugs keeps them happy and reduces the chance of a riot."

But, of course, drugs cause terrible problems in jail.

Drug gangs develop and rule the lives of vulnerable prisoners.

In the past, gangs could be broken up by moving prisoners around, but now overcrowding makes that difficult

4th August 2007                 view the article in full

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More than 80,000 users within the criminal justice system, including courts, Prison and Probation services, police forces and other partner organisations, would share up-to-the-minute information on an offender such as his or her conviction records, addresses and problems.

It would allow prison and probation staff to know that a particular offender needed help with housing, or tackling drug or alcohol abuse, on leaving jail. The aim was to help to reduce their risk of reoffending by tracking them through the system and providing what ministers describe as “end-to-end offender management”.

But the project being introduced by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has faced growing delays and mounting financial costs. It has been introduced as a pilot in three jails in the Isle of Wight and a planned introduction to a further 30 prisons has been frozen.

The Isle of Wight trials were delayed by six months and the date of a full implementation slipped from the end of next year to 2009 as problems grew. There is now doubt if it will ever be available to any of the 43 local probation services in England and Wales, which have become increasingly frustrated at the delays in implementation.

The Ministry of Justice insisted that it remained committed to an “affordable programme”, which would allow probation officers access to the records of all offenders in custody and the community so that they could help to track and manage offenders from conviction, through sentence and on release.

Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: “The whole project appears to have been badly managed since its inception. The Ministry of Justice must come clean and tell the public how much money has been spent on this sytem and what the consequences are for assessment of offenders and public protection of any decision to go forward with a system with a reduced capacity.”

Charles Bushell, the general secretary of the Prison Governors’ Association, said: “This news is bitterly disappointing. Many of us who have been critical of the extravagant expenditure of the National Offender Management Service had seen C-NOMIS as the one real benefit on the otherwise bloated National Offender Management Service agenda. If C-NOMIS is now threatened we see no good reason to perservere with the conspicuous expenditure which NOMS represents.”

Mr Hanson said in a statement: “I have requested a rapid review of the C-NOMIS programme to be carried out with immediate effect. This review will consider the affordability of the overall programme and will report in the autumn with recommendations for a revised programme.”

9 August 2007                view more news          view the article

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Best inmate induction
By Julian Flanagan

Published: August 17 2007
The prisoner reception area of HMP Edinburgh has cream walls and a grey linoleum floor. Here, in rooms leading off a corridor to the inner prison door, prisoners are searched, processed and change into prison clothes.

Prison officer Stuart Wright, 44, stands in the corridor, thick-set and amiable, a faded Saltire tattoo on his wide right forearm, and on his immaculate black tie a red enamelled Butler Trust badge.

The trust was established in 1985, in memory of the reforming home secretary “Rab” Butler (1957-62) to promote positive regimes in UK prisons. Its annual awards mark exceptional work by prison staff and volunteers. The badge is Wright’s third award, and his second for the new inmate induction course he has run at Edinburgh since 2003.

Wright is helped by “peer supporters”, or long-term inmates such as Jack Walker. A 58-year-old with swept-back hair and a cultured, confident manner, Walker “meets and greets” prisoners.

“We were the first establishment in Scotland to have a peer supporter in reception,” says Wright, speaking in an office off the corridor. “There’d never been an individual who pulls you aside, goes: ‘Look, it’s not all bad.’?”

“If you have a group of YOs [young offenders] coming through, trying to control them can be quite difficult,” says Walker. “They’ve been in court all day so they are bored, hyper. They want to prove they are number-one guys. You’ve got to somehow get their attention. And the ones holding back, you’ve got to look out for them.”

Nodding towards the quietly whistling Walker, Wright says, “They’re more inclined to listen to these guys because they are fellow prisoners.”

The five-day course itself starts on Monday mornings. Different intakes have different temperaments. “I don’t know what I’m going into,” says Wright. “But I have the peer supporters with me. I’ll give the [new inmates] a run-down of the programme. Cup of tea, bit of banter, then get down to the work.” That includes presentations on the prison’s approach to bullying, racism and skills training, but the course also tries to make arrivals reassess their lives.

“I’ll say to individuals,” says Wright: “ ‘Why do you take drugs?’ ‘I’m bored.’ ‘Why’re you bored?’ ‘Cause I don’t work.’ ‘Why don’t you work?’ ‘Got no skills.’ ‘OK, if we can furnish you with skills, when you go into the big wide world, you’re more employable, you get a job, you’re not going to be bored.’”

“We’re saying to them,” says Walker: “?‘If you don’t help yourself, where are you going to be? You’ll be back in here.’?”

We head for the course, walking between modern, three-storey “halls” (cell wings) with pitched roofs like giant semis. The empty Pentland Hills shine beyond razor-wired fences.

Outside the course room, a poster shows a clock inscribed with “Doing time? Time for a change?” Inside, walls are covered in noticeboards (“The Journey”, “Weekly News”), posters (“Bullies Come In All Colours”) and encouragement (“Unlock A Positive Future”). The sun shines in through white, angled floor-to-ceiling bars. Fourteen young inmates in prison sweatshirts and polo shirts sit or lounge around a horseshoe of tables.

Wright sits to one side. Prison officer Anne Gibb sits at the front, across from Charlie Woolard, a tall, thin, young peer supporter. Gibb, blonde and in her early 40s, talks about alcohol, how it can mess up lives, the programmes that can help. She asks how many have drink problems. Half a dozen arms creep up. Gibb is friendly but firm, stirring day-dreamers with “hello-oh?”

As Wright had said, the inmates listen up when Walker gives his presentation, with managerial ease, on punishment. He gets them to talk about tagging and bail. Walker asks: “Should the victim of an offence be offered the opportunity of confronting the offender?” There is a guilty, thoughtful pause, broken by an inmate’s joke: “What, for a fight?” countered by Wright’s: “Behave yourself.”

Afterwards, new inmates give me their views on the course: “It reminds you what is available”; “better than the last one I was at [at another prison]”; “you’ll at least have a head-start when you walk out of here.” A lean, black-haired inmate dissents: “It can work for some people, say they’ve got the motive, they’ve got roots. Nothing would work for me.”

Wright, fatherly, pulls his chair next to him and says: “The problem is, the gentleman concerned is good enough but needs support.” Wright looks at him. “We’ve got to keep chipping away. He’s just a young man.” The prisoner shrugs, nods. Another adds: “It’s not going to do harm, is it?”

The course over for the day, I talk to Charlie Woolard and another peer supporter, Gordon Krol. Krol, 45, is stocky, with watchful eyes, shaven head and thick, strong hands. “I do the anti-bullying presentation. A lot of kids come in here petrified, but you can relax them, make sure they know the situation. When I’ve done the presentation, you see a big change in the guys’ faces.”

Peer supporters’ work goes beyond the course. “We pick up on guys who are very depressed in the hall,” says Krol. “We have a blather with them. If they’re suicidal, they’re not going to say it to the officers. But we will.”

It is rewarding work. “It makes me feel I’m doing some good here,” says Woolard. “I’m the same as them; I’m a prisoner but if someone needs help, I’ll try and sort it out.”

Wright is not naive. He says: “You get people who want to be peer supporters but they have an ulterior motive. If people want to do it, I’ll follow them for about a month, let them settle in, see what they’ve been up to.”

It was peer supporters who nominated Wright for the recent award. But perhaps his most impressive testament is this: since the course started, five peer supporters, including Walker, have turned down places at open prisons. They stayed on, to help the new arrivals.

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 “  On another occasion, I was on the upper walkway with a colleague called Higgy, who was also, shall we say, of a comfortable size, when a prisoner shouted to me: “Mr Kelly, you fat bastard”. We both stopped in our tracks and Higgy turned to me and said: “Mr Kelly, did you hear what that prisoner has just called you?” “Yes, I did,” I responded. With that, the prisoner retorted: “You are a fat bastard as well Higgins”. So I turned to my colleague and said: “Mr Higgins, did you hear that?” “Yes” he responded. “And did you hear the lack of respect” I asked? “Yes”, he said, “the con clearly has more respect for you as he called you Mr Kelly and simply referred to me as Higgins”.  ”  

Is this the first prison ship?
select for full story By HARRY MACADAM
Published: 28 Oct 2006
THIS is the ship which could ease Britain’s prison overcrowding crisis. The vast hulk has been rusting in Barrow docks for the last eight years.

But last week the Home Office finally bowed to The Sun’s prison ship campaign, accepting that floating jails could help solve the problem of overflowing cells.

Now the 400-foot Bibby Renaissance has become the frontrunner in the race to become Britain’s next sea-prison. We say next because, embarrassingly, the Government’s hunt for new prison ships began just months after Britain’s last floating jail, HMP Weare ? was SCRAPPED.

The owners of the Bibby Renaissance ? Liverpool-based Bibby Line ? have put in a bid to have one of their so-called “floatels” adopted as a prison ship.

The 15-year-old Renaissance is typical of the type. The six-storey barge would have room for up to 800 cons after being refitted for use as secure accommodation.

The empty ship offers dramatic evidence which rubbishes Home Office claims that there is a lack of suitable ships to use as prisons.

28 Oct 2006                view more news          view the topic

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