Tag Archives: poetry

Kweku Adoboli / UBS/ The week review

23 Nov

UBS weak link Kweku Adoboli, saw himself star down the barrel of a 7 stretch this week in a dock once graced by I, at Southwark Crown Court.

Having already served over  a year of his sentence, he must now while away another 2 and a half years, although come the summer he will be allowed to begin home and town leaves. Quite how devious or truly criminal he is, is a topic that has been left in the calm, hysteria free hands of the  The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Mail.

For many outside of the City of London, this was one of a number of obvious calamities still being committed by the arrogant swaggering bowler hat types.

Is Kweku really a criminal in the true caricature style we associate them with? His swag bag seemed a little empty for a man who is accused of a £1.4 billion fraud; for this isn’t a fraud with the intention to steal £1.4 billion, merely corporate financial manslaughter, where a sledgehammer was being used to crack nuts. What does 7 years buy you in other walks of life?

7 years is the average total sentence of Rapists in the UK.

7 years allows you to kill a man driving dangerously with intent.

7 years allows you to stab a man in the neck with a bottle for GBH.

Kweku will serve 7 years for doing his job badly in an environment where blind eyes were turned when the money came in.

Perhaps those blind eyes should too be punished, for creating the conditions and culture where deceit, and smokes and mirrors are employed.

As is likely, UBS will see no more criminal imprisonments amongst their staff. They will pay large fines and duck down below the parapet again for a number of years, before the next cataclysmic economic asteroid rocks the financial capitals of the World; where they hope their mistakes are the least and they can join the queue without making regulatory eye contact.

In the meantime Kweku will don the green trousers of a prison orderly, tamed –  for now.

I walk the streets of London once again, but these days my attire is a little more blue collar. My hands have paint and the callouses upon my palms are no more a Cityboy’s than they are a writer’s. Time moves every bit as fast once more, I wish I had some time to stop and reflect upon my life. A one year sabbatical seems a nice idea again 🙂

 

Advertisements

A day after delight

3 Jun

I spend awhile this morning in the drop in centre, my office since I transferred to the Diversity team helping ex servicemen utilise the charitable provisions in place for them. I talk to the senior officer Sheridan about my life thus far. He is a sound guy and a man I won’t call a screw. I have more in common with him that 50% plus of the prisoners here. He is respectful and takes the time to listen. Possibly for him hearing a frank tale of an inmate’s journey helps him understand those his job involves managing. An informed Prison Officer is undoubtedly better equipped to do his job.

In the Billet, days away from his Christmas home leave, in fact days away from his first trip outside in 3 years, a young lad Jamie we’ve befriended has been contacted by outside probation and told that due to the emotional nature of Christmastime and the fact that his probation office will be closed – it’s not wise for him to be allowed home. This is spite of him being given the green light weeks ago, raising his hopes and making plans at home. Mum was happy, the brothers too, their boy Jamie was coming home for Turkey.

Now, he’s devastated. But… his attitude in response to it all speaks volumes about his character and how he has matured. Having friends who won’t see outside for a decade  makes him philosophical about his situation. To an outside observer however, it’s obvious, moments like this can have a hugely negative impact on the long term rehabilitation process. You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest this creates a contempt toward the ‘Superiors’ negligence. This arbitrary approach, a top down attitude really has no place in the Prison and Probation Service. It ignores the individuality of every situation – one size does not fit all.

Back to Jamie, he will not know be rewarded for his hard work. I buy some extra mince pies instead to put a smile on his face come the 25th of December.

I count down the days until the 18th, my pretend Chrimbo, 4 days away until I can sleep in my own bed and be fawned over by the women in my life.

 

Part 2 – His and Her’s Tale. His Tale

1 Jun

His Tale:

51/2 months down, more than 6 since I’ve seen her last. I wake up nervous, my stomach filled with butterflies, today is the day I’ve dreamed of.

I keep myself occupied with a visit to the gym, setting  a new 30 minute distance row PB, 7631m. I see myself making improvements in personal fitness, it means my time here is not entirely a waste.

I have little appetite as my mind is focused on a date with destiny. I wonder where she will be sat, will she find it okay? What will she be wearing? What will we talk about? Will she cry? Will I cry?

So many thoughts drift, well, race across my mind as the minutes tick by.

I kill the hour before the visit deciding what to wear, showering and making sure I look as good as a man can whilst being in prison. I fear she will see something less than she has in me, in visiting me today. For the first time, a sense of shame crosses me as I think about my whereabouts. She is this travelled, articulate, intelligent and unique creature. Special in so many ways. I am a prisoner, stripped of liberty and often times dignity.

She tasted foods until recently from the magical east and the Orient; I queue up for mine with a plastic bowl. I know my worries are likely ill-founded, R would love me still even if I wore orange overalls today. It’s her best quality of all. She makes Mase feel young and wanted; she get’s my humour and inspires creativity within me, when other’s have only stifled it. My feet are shuffling and my knees are bouncing. I can;t take my mind off my anxieties: “Why am I so nervous?” I tell a friend who knows about my visit.

“MASON” is called out by a screw on duty, I scamper off to the visit’s hall so I am as near to the front as possible. I don’t want to lose a minute with this girl who waits for me.

As I walk through the door to the side of the hall, I am patted down by a guard and then look ahead of me.

Slightly to my side, my eyes lock on to the most beautiful sight, I can’t believe what I can see. It has been so long and yet I see nothing but the very best of that person I said goodbye to at the airport all those months ago. More beautiful than ever, tanned, lithe and running toward me at a concerning pace. She flies into my arms and wraps herself around me. It is all I can do to keep myself on my feet. In that moment of power blessed with her affection, she crashed into me and holds me close; as I hold her the same.

I feel like I’ve been set free.

I could be acquitted.

I could have been found not guilty.

I feel every emotion that equates to happiness. Today is marked down as one of the happiest days of my life.

When you have nothing but emotion, no material obstructions and no insincerity, you can find  a piece of true beauty, true euphoria that even drugs cannot deliver. In losing my freedom, I have tasted what it is to truly feel liberty. You may never envy my location, my whereabouts, my happenings and my failings but I will never envy your lives if I could go a lifetime without an experience that I shared with her today.

I spend the next two hours, nervous, giggling and an inch from the prettiest nose on earth. Tomorrow she comes again, I’ll sleep like a child waiting for Santa.

Hump Day

12 May

It’s mid week, it’s hump day. The week is halfway done and my duties today involve handing out 20 or so movement slips (Not bowel function related) to those required in the education department. The rest of the morning is spent observing Ricky (Ex-Gangmember now education assistant) in his daily tasks. This ultimately means shadowing the habits of a human sloth. Perhaps a slow-worm would be a more accurate description.

I’m advised again to try to grab a sneaky SPL while I’m waiting until I am officially allowed day leaves. My acting isn’t up to much and I don’t fancy fretting over a nicking. I can wait.

I have a visit today from my Aunt, Uncle and cousin. I welcome the chance for intellectual debate and I know my Uncle is keen on the rumblings from the Eurozone. I get the impression he enjoys finding out about life this side of the parapet and he has a number of questions it seems are pre-prepared. I hear later that my Aunt would have enjoyed to get a word in too. Bless them all for making the long trip to see me. I hope I can return the gesture sometime in the not too distant future.

Unlike my last visit, I manage to avoid being strip searched afterwards. There are few more effective ways to kill your mood after a lovely visit, than stripping down to your birthday suit and doing an unflattering pirouette.

I get my gym kit ready for my Wednesday session and notice a Gym Screw who gives us extended sessions is on duty. George and I use this time to row and chat about home.

DUVET NEWS: The property office have slipped into my trap. They reply to my App with an answer that makes no mention of a block on inbound bedding. Checkmate. If there had been a new ruling blocking bedding being sent in, this would have been a very reasonable opportunity to note it. It just reinforces my suspicion that the level of understanding on prison rules amongst staff is so patchy, indifferent and inconsistent – what is said wrong is likely right and what is said right is possibly not. Either way, I’m getting me a duvet 🙂

In other news, the Ford Prisoner Cricket Team loses to an external team of solicitors in a narrow run match. To an outside observer, it must look almost civilised here!

I pick up a spare menu card earlier in the day and send it home. I’ll publish it shortly. What would you eat on it?

 

Por tu amor, haria cualquier cosa!

11 May

I’m down today.

I can be positive to my heart’s content, but there will be times when I’m reminded I am still many months from any real freedom. I make some bits and pieces in the carpentry workshop for George’s furniture and then proceed to slice open two deep clean wounds with a freshly sharpened chisel.

When you see veins, you know you’ve gone too far.

I see veins

I’ve gone too far.

I bleed like a stuck pig and spend the rest of the morning with my hand clenched around an evermore reddening tissue. I learn 10 new words in my spanish studies. A phrase I pick up seems useful for any budding Casanovas:

Por tu amor, haria cualquier cosa

For your love, I would do anything

………………………………………………….

I admite to myself today a truth: writing a daily diary makes two things happen. It allows me to document every day here, a minor social commentary on a piece of life few ever experience; but it also allows me to be reminded of having to spend many more days here. The activity of writing eats up time but thinking about time served is an unwelcome commentary to my thoughts.

But I can’t stop writing this diary. What have I begun?

🙂

Two lads are called out for ‘Random’ drug testing. One of those was smoking something very odour rich at the weekend. It’s unlikely he will last the week. He could follow in the footsteps of the 14 who just escaped this weekend. Absconding as it’s known is surprisingly common. Inmates go out on town leaves, get drunk, fear landing in hot water on their return, so instead leap into a vat of boiling water and just do a runner. A convicted murderer joined the fun this weekend.

Prison is full of rumours, people with few things better to do than make up stories promoting their own false sense of importance. The mill has been working away, today’s news is that ‘Methadonians’ will be allowed into the prison from September. This will likely bring it’s own problems, with a good many suggesting we will not only need a key to our cells but also a key to the billets. It’s not a popular rumour but as time will show, it is only that.

It’s a sad truth that addiction on the world outside is a major cause of crime; the same can be said on the inside. Thieves aren’t popular, nor is the prospect of an arrival of more.

I retire to bed at the end of a drab day.

 

How to drag out a job

3 May

Torrential rain blankets Ford, so much, that it takes a great deal of my will-power to extricate myself from the warm confines of my billet and brave the squall above. Being late for a working session can generally see you placed on report, I don’t really care right now; it’s pretty nasty.

All inmates are kitted with oversize green ponchos to colour co-ordinate with pretty much every item in our possession. Trousers, blankets, sheets, pillow cases, pillows, gillets, towels… Mostly the ponchos just drain the run-off water down the front and back of inmate’s trousers. It leaves you with sodden legs and excessive rain eventually permeates the poncho too. Me and a course mate, Gary (Not his real name – in for GBH on a bent copper) have spent the first hour of the working day sat squarely in front of a heater to dry off and warm up. This is productive.

The remainder of the morning involves me watching my pal Tim hammer a piece of copper pipe into a handle for a wooden carry box he’s made and screwing in 3 cupboard handles onto a kitchen unit. This is as poor a showing of effort as it sounds. Each handle requires 1 screw. That’s 3 screws that were turned into place for an entire morning. The handles were made by an expert carpenter we have on the course at the moment, a magic touch however was a selection of hidden messages on the underside. Written by inmates for screws.

Given my prison wage of 45pence per half day, I still think screwing in place 3 door knobs across the entire morning, is value for money for taxpayers. How much could you get a chippie to do in your house for 45p?

One day, many decades from now, some one may strip out that kitchen and in dismantling the units, may come across these messages and chuckle. I love social commentary; it’s like a message on a wall written under wallpaper you see when decorating a house. The message, might be one of happiness or angst written generations ago but interesting regardless.

Long Lunch

The first thursday of every month is a Governor’s meeting. This means inmates remain in their billets for longer over lunch. This is fine for us, it gives us a chance to catch up on our sleep or for me: write. The bell finally chimes just after 3, giving us a nice 4 hour lunch. Tomorrow’s a half day and this afternoon I have no intention of going back to my classes just to sit on my hands. I head across to the education department to sit at a desk and practice my Spanish.

After dinner, Spence, myself and a friend Baz, knock out an 8km jog. Baz is a marathon fan and while he looks like any ordinary man approaching his middle ages, he is surprisingly fit and pushes us 20somethings. On our return, Spence being in the building game too, puts on Cowboy Builders (a cell favourite) as we sit down to be shocked at the standard of work of the Charlatans covered. I kill some time, as a I wait for the phone to be free, then speak to my mother to find out the news I’ve waited for, for a couple of years now.

I’ve got my passport back!

Happy Days

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?”

Russian Roulette

25 Mar

Getting a new cell mate is a ‘Russian Roulette’. I’ve said this before; spin the chamber and see what comes out. My new cellmate is a Russian with only days to go. I don’t have anything to chat about, so I break the ice by laying my small green prison towel on the floor. Getting onto my knees and lowering my head to pray. The look on his face was a picture, I translate the international language of facial expressions easily. I smile, I’m not sure if he’s got my joke or if he thinks it’s a nervous smile by an unfamiliar cellmate with alternative religious habits to his own. An uneasy awkward silence descends upon an already awkward situation. The Russian heads outside of the billet for a roll-up. I cringe.

The cell unlike Wandsworth has no desk, so I am forced to use a prison pillow as a writing surface and sit hunched over on my bed scribbling my correspondences. I’m surprised by this absence of work-station, surely it is something they encourage in prisons?

I use the evening to make some calls out, let loved ones know that I’m now at Ford, I’m now very ready to have a visitor and I speak excitedly home about the improvements in my life I can see:

– I can use the phone when I wish*

*Caveat: When a long termer who has accumulated hundreds of pounds on their phone account isn’t on the phone to his mum

– I can pop out of my cell whenever I like to make toast

– I can run around the compound to jog of an evening

– Outside of the core working day, I can don my own clothes

– I can look forward to a melted cheese baguette every day instead of those ghastly warm meals I got accustomed to before. However did I cope? 🙂

– I’ll get the weekends off unlike Wandsworth.

– There is no gym, old inmates burnt it to the ground.

I have my heart set on moving to Hollesey Bay up the coast from Essex, a little pre-sentence research saw it provides a good deal more in the way of prisoner re-training than Ford. This includes plumbing, electrical and languages. Ford focuses primarily on literacy and numeracy. I’m some way past this, there isn’t really much in the way of rehabilitative offerings here for myself. Still, I’m sure there will be some other equally dubious investment sales opportunities I could always go into on my release*. Something the FSA will ignore until it’s done untold damage to private investors; at which point they can slam the stable door.

*For those unable to interpret dry wit, this is it. It’s important I make this clear.

Hollesey Bay will however remain a pipe dream, until I put a formal application in to the Governor. In it, indicating why given HMPS makes a song and dance of its track record in ‘Maintaining Family Ties’, being moved even further from Essex is a contradictory move. Buses don’t go too often between the two prisons and I hear sometimes prison to prison moves between D Cat establishments allow an inmate to make his own way there. That would be nice, a road trip with the family and a chance to visit some of my favourite road side services. I am informed that I can expect to wait between 8 and 10 weeks before such a transfer request is considered, I resign myself to the here and now.

The sunny daytime has made way for a damp evening. I put on my trainers and run for 6 km. The compound has a 1km circumference, I lap it 6 times. It clears my head, a cold shower and my first roll call (More on this tomorrow) gets me a little more settled. I write a to-do list of things to research now I’m here:

– Unused visit allocations

– Arranging visits

– Transferring canteen funds

– Application to move

disoriented yes, but enjoying the distinctly more peaceful surroundings I have landed in. Temporary or Permanent, time will tell.

 

Country Tracks

23 Mar

A long tiresome journey, memorable for new vistas and a desire to vomit. Travel sickness has never been far away in my life.

As a kid my mother used to give us these travel sickness tablets, ‘Joy-Rides’ they were called. Sounds like ecstacy, the taste was anything but. In fact, I remember my anxiety forming on those mornings before travel, because of these tablets. The taste was awful, bitter, it set a pretty poor tone for the next few hours. God forbid you were in my way.

As we pull into my new home, it requires a sharp left turn into what looks like an old military base, being thrown into the cupboard door wakes others from their slumber. The reason why Ford struck me as a military base, is because it was. (Ex RAF and former Naval School)

That’s where the connection begins and ends. This place lacks order from the top down, riots only months before and the Governor has been named as a catalyst in a suicide inquest at a former nick. Inmates walk by, on what I assume is the start of their afternoon working day. They cross a public road to a second compound the other side. We are unloaded outside a reception hut and led into a back room before the drawn out reception process is put into (in)action once more.

6 1/2 Hours Later

Still sat in the waiting area trying to work out whether I’ll go for the Smoker’s Induction Pack or the Non-Smoker’s pack. You’re charged for the receipt of the item and in it contains a handful of items that you may want while you wait for Canteen delivery. With little but squash, polos and chewy bars, I’m not impressed by non-smoker’s pack. I request tobacco in the hope I’ll be able to use it as currency in the meantime.

Our bags in our possession we plonk them on trailer and wheel the items up to portakabin 200 yards away. Sheltered from the rain, we are given our ID cards and sign some paperwork. It’s here I have my first real conversation with a screw since coming to prison. One by one we head into an office and are asked a few questions by a man in a uniform different to mine. It dawned on me at this point, quite how little interaction there is between the Prison Service and inmates. Do they have a clue what really goes on in their workplaces?

New Pad

The cells are double rooms, or should I say; twin – in an old army style billet accomodation. Spartan, dirty and bunked with a smoker, I’ve no idea where the mail box, phone or showers are. I sit on my new bed and think about the guys I said goodbye to today. I wish I was back at Wandsworth. I know this feelings will subside but for now i’m not happy. I’ve heard this happens a lot to those moved to open conditions. There is a sense of protection one feels in a closed establishment. Taken down to dinner in the Dining Hall, I am very well aware how few prison guards are on duty and quite how many prisoners are walking about unhindered. Ford holds 510 on average, at the evening meal time, I see at least 300 of them.

I’m still in prison and anxiety builds. Suffocating with having to process this crowded new environment. The last time I was in such a busy environment inside, I had witnessed some severe gang violence. D Cats are not known for this type of event, but new in such a place, the heart rules the head.

Irrational, chips and a burger placate me.

 

 

Quoting another Inmate : Welcome to HMP Ford

22 Mar

Short Article for ‘UK Holiday Breaks’ Magazine 

With the UK holiday season still some months off, we thought our readers might be interested in a new destination which provides a real alternative holiday break at a very reasonable cost and can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Holidays should always equate to relaxation, indulgence, indolence whilst also having the ability to re-charge the personal batteries! It is important therefore that your holiday choice ticks all the boxes and Ford Resort does just that.

Situated in West Sussex and a stone’s throw from the beach and sea, the resort enjoys a mild year round climate.

From the moment you arrive at the florally adorned reception, you appreciate the friendly staff who are there to do everything for you. They initially take care of your luggage and provide you with a specially designed cool, chic clothes for your stay at Ford. Escorting you to your room, you will be delighted to find you will be sharing with someone usually of a different age, different religious persuasion and probably different nationality. Wow! A new enlightened experience ensuring you start your holidays by dismissing boring old English prejudices about ‘foreigners’… and privacy.

The bathroom facilities are deliberately not en-suite thereby enabling the room sizes to be designed with a new intimacy. The clever overall layout of the rooms in ‘mini-clusters’ ensures you are able to enjoy the rapacious holiday mood created by rapper Jay Z, whilst also listening to three or four TV channels, ensuring you keep abreast of the ‘soaps’. What a great idea that is!

The leisure facilities deliberately exclude a swimming pool to avoid aggressive ‘towel-bagging’ but the gardens are extensive and varied . The resort has also attracted a raft of varied and friendly sea gulls and a colourful selection of budgerigars (STOP PRESS – Now Dead) and a special breed of myopic rabbits; all appropriate to increase the naturalistic nature of your holiday.

The range of activities and sports is extensive and includes football, cricket, volleyball and jogging. There is also a full manned magnificent Gymnasium. (Editor Update: Burnt down) Management have deliberately not built spa facilities inline with their ‘leisure philosophy’ in which they do not agree with any form of self-indulgence!

An unusual feature of this low-cost break is the opportunity for guests to undertake charity work such as poppy-making for the Royal British Legion, flower propagation and old-fashioned crafts such as carpentry and painting. The facilities also include an extensive library with many ‘large print’ titles for the older guests.

The resort is priced on a full board basis although guests are allowed to order their own food from the Resort Shop, cleverly called ‘The Canteen’. The restaurant facility is huge and the choice of food – if not always the taste – is varied. Vegan, halal and special needs are all available. Breakfast is continental and can be had in the room but a full English Breakfast – low-fat, naturally – is available at weekends.

Our researchers could not recommend highly enough the experience at Ford Resort. They all found it energising and recommended you choose the extended stay option. The owners of Ford Resorts boldly claim: A stay at Ford will change your life forever!

Forget Malmaison, this is the real ‘bad house’!

SP 2011 – Ford Prison. 

ME

I’ve got my own take on this place but this had to be published first.

A grandfather to some, a lovely fella inside, he has a cracking wit and penned this in a writing class, we attended together. As for me, I’m on the motorway, staring out at scenes of freedom, fields, countryside, sunshine and a million journeys that take a million people in every direction but mine. I’m in the white van bombing down the M27, with the blacked out windows. Give me a wave sometime, distract me from Nausea.

Travel sickness with my knees in tight, recycled air and an empty tummy.

I don’t do mayo and the crisps,  long ago polished off. I’d love a bag of buttons, coke zero and the internet. Funny what we miss…