Tag Archives: CFD

Cage Fighter Caged in a different life could be in London 2012 Rowing Team

31 May

I stay up late the previous night watching Scorcese’s Departed. Quality movie, but it leaves me sleepy the following morning. I go to bed pretty early these days, its the best way to get the day done. In the gym the next morning is a Cage Fighter and convicted drug trafficked Ken. A mammoth of  a fella and despite his warrior like appearance is very down to earth, respectful and approachable too. A former professional fighter, we strike up conversation over last night’s boxing. He hasn’t been here long and as I sit down to knock out a sedate 10km on the rowing machine, he plonks himself down next to me and obliterates the prison 1 minute distance test. I can only compare his output as an angry speedboat disrupting a leisurely Sunday afternoon’s canal barging. He takes a look at the other times on the different time trial leaderboards and comments casually:

“I’ll get a little fitter and I’ll see if I can beat those.”

Time proved his statement. He ends up holding the 2000m record. Watching the split times he produces in his rowing, they are phenomenal. The man is built for power and perhaps if life had thrown him a different hand, or had he been brought up in a more Tory environment, he could have been competing at an elite level with an oar in his hand.

Instead his life is shaded by organised crime and being paid to punch and kick.

Tall, broad and thickset, it’s funny how many would-be gold medal winners pass life by, completely ignorant to the sporting prowess they possess. I say ignorant, perhaps ‘unknowing’ is a more accurate description. Ignorant would be unfair. Ken, as a I shall call him should be sat in a boat on the Thames come July 2012. He will watch from Prison instead – sliding doors.

George has acquired some washing lines and erected a spider web around our ceiling. It is now our primary means of laundry. I admire his handiwork and listen to my Spurs beat Liverpool. Clarence, spends the day with his earplugs in, so he can enjoy Match of the Day in blissful ignorance. I know the score, I know he owes me biscuits, I see him before the highlights show and hold a straight face. Bless him, he is still confident of winning.

…………………………..

Day 99 arrives and is notable for the fact that it is day 99. More books arrive from R, I’ve got enough now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get through all I have even with more time whacked onto my sentence.

Day 100 arrives and I feast on a little banquet of treats I purchased knowing this moment was coming. Diet Coke, wine gums, dates and OLIVES. The latter item, I had repeatedly flirted with buying but was put off as it seems a little OTT, ostentatious. But readers, NOW is definitely the time for Olives. As prison milestones go, 100 days is pretty big for me. In two weeks, I am at my halfway point and two after that I can apply for my first home leave.

I settle down for the evening, armed to the teeth with artificial sweeteners.

…………………………..

My 94 year old nan visits me today, the screws even hold doors open for her. That is the first time I’ve seen civility from them here. They may not show a lot of courtesy here, but they did today when it mattered. That ticked the box for me. Touched.

With my Nan came my parents, always a pleasure and these days I feel infinitely closer to them than I have ever been. I am the first to admit that this bad hand I’ve been dealt with is a blessing in disguise.

A new fella in the billet Ben strikes up a conversation. Just arrived here from a closed nick in Kent, he is on a 7 stretch. First impressions are that he has OCD but a good humour too. His cellmate is old enough to be his Dad, they make for an odd couple but it’s nice to get chatting to some new faces.

An ex screw is protesting out the front of the prison today over unfair dismissal or some nonsense due to a stress related injury. The gates are locked up and the local media are alerted. Inmates watch on vaguely interested but with a distinct lack of sympathy.

The World’s Stock Markets are again facing certain doom, I however am tackling a tougher issue. How to eat a bowl of custard with only a fork. I’ve forgotten my spoon for dinner and can’t remove the warm custard from the canteen. A few years ago, the wider financial market news would have etched a pain look upon my face as I would stare at the data screens and eek out an opportunity in a turbulent day of trading. How my life has changed immeasurably, how such stresses have ebbed and how much more content I’ve become.

Two mammoth swans arrive here at Ford, the seagulls seem a bit put out. Prisoners come out in droves to feed them. Lot of nature lovers here.

 

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Why Prison Doesn’t Work

8 Apr

It becomes very apparent to those who wish to observe, prison fails for a number of reasons, but it must not be ignored the fact that fitting square pegs in round holes is not an appropriate way to manage personnel.

I mean, there is a problem with the calibre of people working in certain departments of the prison service.

There’s good, really good and there’s bad; there’s very bad indeed. This is a service with very little margin for error but insists on not enforcing change on it’s stakeholders in a way that can be seen in other industries.

Here are some examples to ponder in determining if there is something wrong with the current crop of Prison Staff.

a.

Ford has a limited education and training budget and therefore has a limited range of City and Guild courses to offer as the costs mount up. It’s taken a prisoner today to advise management to focus on Government sponsored NVQ schemes instead. This means the costs of exam and training registration could be saved and with NVQ being the commercially required standard for many skilled professions; it would be both positive financially and positive too in terms of re-training unskilled inmates with real skills. This would mean more learning opportunities and more real reasons to change one’s life from petty crime.

Level 1 courses in any profession is not going to make a prisoner more appealing to an employer. I speak as someone who while enjoying his Level 1 City and Guilds woodwork course, is not under any illusions that it could land me a job on the outside.

Why does it require prisoners to tell Governor’s things they should be only too aware of? To many who have spent long years within the HMP system, this is no surprise. To me a civvy, who took an ethics-free sabbatical to come here; I’m nonplussed.

Here’s another:

b.

Ford Prison’s paper contract sees them pay £9 per Ream of A4 paper. (This is 500 sheets) The service agreement with a private business, means Ford can only expect 50% of their paper in white. Pop down to Tesco’s and see how much it is there. Who has agreed this contract? This is bad business and is only one small item, likely littered amongst many tens of thousands of terribly negotiated poorly researched Procurement (Buying) decisions the prisons make. If your job is to land the best possible deal, then this contract screams out: ‘My Friend Sells Paper’.

The alternative is equally as worrying:

“You can’t trust the staff to not get ripped off buying paper, how are they going to manage Criminals?!”

…and another example

c.

If the prison chooses to flout European Law, or International for that matter; it can pay a fine and be done with it. If a Doctor mistreats or abuses his position, he can face a prison sentence. The same is rarely said for the repeat offenders public sector bureaucracy working within the hierarchy of HMPS.

Ford pays a fine annually due to the high-barbed fences that surround its prison. An open prison, I might add. It is not open through prisoner pressure, it’s open because it needs to be, to serve the purpose it does for returning offenders to society.

…and another

d.

The boss of Wandsworth Prison was caught last year shifting out 5 of his most troublesome inmates to a Pentonville for the duration of an Inspection, in order that he earns himself a glowing report and a reason to push for his next promotion or pay-rise. He is met with a sharp rebuke for what is a deception: his jobs remains safe. While in prison I have met a man sentenced for a term, for lying on his CV and ‘defrauding’ his employers as to his true professional qualifications. I wonder what he would think to hear of his Captor while in Wandsworth? It doesn’t exactly make you wish to conform now does it?

 

For the young, troubled, angry young man who enters the system, quick to argue, sometimes irrationally – setting bad examples asks for bad results.

So let’s go back to the question:

“What can Ford Prison do to cut re-offending rates?”

Maybe the question should read:

“Does Ford Prison and it’s management, have the ability to cut re-offending rates?”