Dangerous Minds

30 Apr

My afternoon is spent in the education department. A teeming mass of willing learners? A bank of absorbent minds, yes?

No.

4 inmates are currently sharing the ‘Learning Room’ with today. One is sound asleep, arms folded and head back snoring. One reads a book and the other two have created an excel spreadsheet detailing to the last second how much time they have left to serve. A breakdown by a range of time units seems to me a painful reminder of the days of your life you have sacrificed.

I am the one reading the book.

After a slow morning assisting in fitting kitchen units into the new Screw’s Mess; I decide to hunt out an orderly job as soon as possible. A bit of brown-nosing is done with the heads of several departments, namely the cleaning office and Education. Like everything in prison, I am told I’ll have to wait to hear back soon.

“Prepare to Wait.”

A line heard in the Army, never so true as in Prison.

The Labour Board is fast approaching me, I’m anxious not to end up on Contract Services. (Poppy Making or injection moulding)

Prison Education

In stark contrast to stories in the gutter press, prisons don’t all off er uniformly good education and rehabilitative programs. Ford recently received a scathing OFTSTED inspection report and prison’s failing to equip it’s inmates with life skills to work toward future employment can only expect high re-offending rates by doing nothing to break the cycle. Here at Ford, there are little more than 20 of 510 inmates in full time education. For white collar or professional criminals who have been banned from their previous employment as a part of their sentence; there is nothing to do in this place by way of re-training. Those triggers to commit financial crime will still exist on the day of release. I count myself as lucky; I have work and a pathway on the outside but many don’t.

I guess it’s like the Oxfam ‘Give a man the tools…’ advertising campaign. There are large percentages of inmates here with very little in the way of employable skills. On release, the only difference between them before and after their offences, is that they now have to declare their convictions for up to a decade. For those with sentences of over two and a half years, they will have to declare it for the rest of their life.

They become unemployable to the eyes of middle England…

… and when they realise this:

Their negativity shows. They become less likely to find work and having had no education, they reason that having seen they can handle prison, they may have to turn to crime again.

No one says this is the right attitude, it’s wrong, but every mind works differently and not every seed yields the same crop.

A child born into poverty, malnourished, beaten and neglected; is very likely to think differently to a suited intercity commuter, reading ‘Potter’ on his Kindle.

As for me, I’m anomalous, anonymous and neither. I like Tolkien and books made out of paper.

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2 Responses to “Dangerous Minds”

  1. Moving On May 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    I think one of the most significant barriers is not so much the lack of training (although that is a big issue), I think it’s the whole not being able to wipe the slate clean thing. I’m sure we all know that many employers (once they know you have a conviction, no matter how old it is) are likely to not offer a job, follow your every movement or generally not trust you. That can be a hard pill to swallow. I do think that if people could geneuinely have a second chance by having their slate wiped clean (depending on situation/offence etc), I think more people would be successful and manage to become reformed. It seems a tragedy for somebody to re-train, become reformed and then not get the chance to actually move on and be a productive member of society. I honeslty can’t blame those who become despondent and end up back inside. Unfortunately the general public is likely to understand this and so I can’t imagine the problem ever being solved!

    • Moving On May 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      That should say “Unfortunately the general public is NOT likely to understand this and so I can’t imagine the problem ever being solved!”

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