Review of Her Majesties Prison Service

You might be aware by now, my writing novelty factor (which I’m desperately milking to appear interesting and distinguished), is that I am an ex-convict. It’s nothing new really, but non-cons still seem to dig it regardless, and I’m not very remarkable otherwise. So here goes some more milking… and maybe the opportunity to alleviate my future self from the tiresome task of answering peoples relentless questions!

First, lets dispel this mighty persistent cliché about shower protocols. I’m a ‘butter fingers’, but I am (sorry to disappoint) still very much in possession of my anal virginity. Maybe I seemed a bit desperate, dropping the soap 5 times on every visit, or maybe it has something to do with my abnormal abundance of arse-hair. Either way, I remain wholly un-sodomized, but who knows what the future holds? It inevitably does happen; a good friend from inside was finishing an 8 year stretch across 10 prisons, and he only knew of one story. Bell marsh, the highest security prison in Europe, it didn’t happen in the showers.

Dostoevsky, a politically-subversive prison vet himself, once said… “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

I bear this in mind when I think of HMPS, because compared too the rest of the world’s prisons, they are great. By Fyodor’s criteria, we are a pretty civilized country; I made a constant point of reminding myself of my luck for being born here. We were fed 3 meals a day, had access to a library, healthcare, education, up to 4 visits a month, etcetera. In fact, you are probably no stranger to the disciplinarian perspective that U.K prisoners have it too good, and it’s like some sort of ‘holiday camp’ (bites tongue).

If you feel this way, just look at any country with harsher criminal punishments policies and their crime rates and re-offending rates. Most notably the self proclaimed “land of the free”, America, with their famous 3 strike policy and draconian drug laws that regularly see practically feral young teenagers banged up for life, simply for bowing to peer pressure from their only role models and slinging a few rocks of crack. America has only 5% of the world’s population, but it has a quarter of the world’s prisoners, (2+ million). It’s not a criminal justice system, it’s the slave trade re-invented, most prisons are privatized and many are forced to work for nothing in conditions that make Asian sweatshops look like a teddy bears picnic. Meanwhile morally destitute scumbag republican mephisto shitcunts annually earn billions off their shares, not only through slave labor, but through charging American tax payers to keep ‘criminals’ incarcerated.

So yeah, thank fuck I wasn’t born in America! I suspect by now, you may be able guess my answer to the next question. Does it work? And this is where I encounter a problem, because in my case, it seems to have done a lot of good for me: general focus, physical/mental health etc, much more than a few hundred hours of community service would have. However I suspect this maybe be true in insignificant amount cases. The reality is that in the U.K, many prisons re-offending rate is in excess of 70%, and that is only in the first year after release.

Ultimately though, I’ve never believed in the notion of free will, I feel it’s a conventional (but potentially necessary) delusion, instilled by paradoxical religious dogma, and does not translate into reality. Anyone who keeps tabs on neuroscience will know that everything seems to be confirming what wise men have speculated for millennia… human beings are deterministic creatures, not capable of making conscious choices. If true, then the whole notion of criminal justice is plain retarded, since people just aren’t responsible for their actions. I know this is a radical stance, feel free to let me know if you disagree.

I’m not saying this to try and justify my own law breaking. I never had any respect for drug laws, hence why I never abided by them. I am a libertarian. I fundamentally believe people have every right to exercise personal freedoms that don’t directly harm others. Furthermore I observe the ample evidence that suggests that the war on drugs not only grossly perpetuates any misery that can arise due to the inevitable presence of drugs in our society, but also stops us from maximizing their potential for good.

That’s a whole different tangent. I’ll get back to my experience of prison, and one of my biggest criticisms of HMP. I’ve read a fair few behavioral economics and pop thought books over the past few years, such as the very popular “Freakonomics” series (highly recommended). A word that comes up unfailingly is ‘incentives’, and how the incentive systems can largely be used to predict human behavior. Well, in my personal experience, the incentives system for U.K prisoners makes about as much sense as Simon Cowell’s new x-factor for D.J show.

For example, I’m a fan of solitude. I spent my first 6 weeks inside sharing a cell, any longer I would have gone so crazy I’d have been fit for a lobotomy. I’m a boarding misanthropic at the best of times, and even my best friends make me contemplate murder regularly. But I made the error of not being that vocal about this on admission. The first question they ask you is, “are you good to share a call”, people in the know, know to say “I’ll kill em”. I was astounded when prison staff said that no amount of good behavior can buy you a single cell, they are reserved for people who threat violence. So people abuse this crooked incentive policy, and it makes it harder for HMPS know which people are solemn in their threats. Eventually I found out that it was possible to get them for medical reasons, I literally begged the doctor for the sake of my sanity and she obliged. But my experience continued to show a consistent negligence for rewarding good behavior, I could elaborate, but I should move on.

Another big thing people want to know about is the social life. I’ve got to admit, subject to the same misconceptions as the masses; when I first found out I was going to prison, thoughts of the social aspects soiled me many nappies. But in all honesty, walking through prison wings you will often encounter more smiles then you will in any train station, high street etc. You know it’s potentially volatile, but trouble is easy to avoid. Conflicts happens when there is lack of room for ego resonating on the same frequency, same as the outside world. Also when people rack up big debt. I was fortunate, in that, somehow my middle class accent and extensive drug knowledge bought me instant likeability. That did me favors, but I’ve never adopted the lad/bravado culture that is ubiquitous in prison, my ego resonates elsewhere… I didn’t encounter trouble.

I am currently 22, and by my criteria; too young for procreation. It shocked me how tiny the minority this rendered me in was, of the many I’d spoken to about the subject I’d say about 1 out of 20 didn’t have kids. My longest running cell neighbor had 8, aged 26 (he’d lost custody of 5). Some 30 year old I met waxed about his 15 year love affair with his fiancé, I slipped the question… 10 kids, 4 of which were hers, he’d had ‘a couple of rough patches’, in which 6 new people were bought into this world! It’s no wonder why the prison population is rising fast when you contemplate this, criminals breed fast… I don’t suggest we should introduce conjugal visits at any point soon. What’s was weird to me, a guy from a place where family values are… valued, was how blahzay most of these fathers were about their status, I was going to say role, but that suggests occupancy.

Before I wrap this up, I’ll brush over one last point. One of the main objectives on HMPS is to reduce the likelihood of future crime, by rehabilitating people. Prison robs you of responsibility; the contrast to the outside world is profound. Release, and re-adjusting to the accountability that is laid on adult as a member of society is hard, depressing, and just plain fucking unrealistic for most cons.

I must end this by saying that; prison is, despite being almost superfluous in political sense, a fascinating experience. For those that seek intellectual growth, I think the experience is unparalleled. Yes you can go to a university and study amongst peers, but when you have nothing in common with the people around you, there are no distractions. Just a wonderful abundance of time you simply wont find anywhere else, in this sense prisoners have much more freedom then you or I do, people forget that geographical freedom is just one of many parameters of freedom. Having it restricted is a perfect opportunity to explore those freedoms rendered dormant by your role as a citizen, and that is why I (knowing full well that nobody will ever take this advice) do recommend prison.

Written By  Fail Burgers