Day 10 PM – A 2 or 3 Star Hotel?

25 Feb

I pull away from looking out the window, reminding myself of the guilt I should feel for leaving a ‘chum’ outside, isolated and vulnerable. I’ve said it before, the yard is soul-less, sad and unforgiving; it’s somewhere to keep moving, not stand out and understandably sometimes avoided. In every corner, a gang of hardened criminals lurch, representing every major ethnic group in the UK. The smell of cannabis lingers in the air from every hidden recess, packages are passed between inmates either side of the yard’s mesh fence; this cold grey reality is the nearest many men here will see outside for a decade. Lacking inspiration and hope, self-preservation is key, rehabilitation is far from many’s thoughts.

Prison is a hugely bi-polar experience. It helps those that know how to be helped and are willing. For those lacking positive role models in life or the education to rationale their circumstance, prison IS little more than a conveyor belt.

I always heard before I came to prison, that these places were like a 2 or 3 star hotel. This is the rhetoric pushed by the tabloids and perhaps most forcibly, the Daily Mail. They never refer to prison as a 1 star hotel that isn’t in the least bit shocking, but it’s always a conservative boast, something believable to the uninformed observer. Yes, a 2 or 3 star hotel sounds like a reasonably decent place to be, far better than the conditions in many care homes and not so extravagant a pile of rubbish as a suggestion, of HMP being 5 star establishments. So while I’m here I felt I should take the time to conduct a facility inventory and determine the true rating of Wandsworth Prison.

I write home to get a copy of the star classification breakdown, I’ll keep you posted.

Banker-come-Barber

Sat in my cell watching ‘Wimbledon’, I get a knock on the door (That’s a first), it’s Tony the wing’s barber managing to get my cell unlocked to give me a trim. Nice one! A day earlier than expected, I’d finished my letter writing for the day, so it was nice to get some company given Anthony wasn’t back.

The biscuits aren’t mine just yet.

Tony is the first multi-millionaire retired investment banker I’ve had trim my hair. He’s here like many others on remand awaiting trial. In his case, 15 months away – his assets have been frozen and his wife and kids kicked out of their homes overseas. The government there, taking a risk averse approach to alleged criminality, he is being punished before guilt has been proved. Due to the means at his disposal, boats etc, he is deemed a flight risk and is being held in custody despite a clean criminal history. His lad’s school fees are being stopped, adding to the weight of the world on his shoulder. He is  a man desperate to maintain the glue that holds the family together and the pressure upon him without conviction must be huge. He has already been inside for 12 months.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Proceeds of Crime Act, mean such draconian measures are not only allowable they are incredibly common place. I don’t expect readers to believe me or truly care if they do, but I know the control measures put in place on suspect’s life before plea and trial, make you consider pleading to guilt when innocent. If I had felt I got a good deal in my case I wouldn’t be harping on about this now.

Plea bargain deals are being struck more and more as defendants reject sitting for years in Category A or B prisons simply to clear a name already ruined or considered guilty by their peers. Fraud trials can take 3, 4 or 5 years from the day of arrest to the moment in court. In this time a defendant could plead guilty, take the early plea sentence reduction and return to some semblance of normality before a trial ever was.  Remember the phrase:

“There’s no smoke without fire”?

Forget about evidence, clichés are all that matter to defame the innocent’s character and a retraction in a newspaper is always smaller than the arrest headline. Chip wrapping by then.

Regardless of my barber’s future status, the legal situation stays the same.

Back to the haircut – I’m pleased with the outcome.

The cell door closes behind him and I stare at my bourbons for a while, I’ve got some time alone to myself….

 

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