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Prisons and Drugs
May 27, 2016

Joined: May 14, 2014
Posts: 977
Prisons and Drugs

May 27, 2016

It' s amazing how much I am out of touch with the present, I always believed that the punishment of going down was meant to show the prisoners the error of their ways... silly me, I now know that the prisons are actually holiday centres for the criminal element of all societies.... Methinks I should throw a few bricks and loads of abuse and violence at the NORMAL people, so I can become a "prisoner". (all in the name of learning the truth, of course) No wonder the present setup is called the pleasure drome...

May 27, 2016

Joined: May 5, 2014
Posts: 556
Prisons and Drugs

May 27, 2016

I can honestly say that HMP Liverpool (Walton Jail) where I worked for 20 years was controlled by the staff, who ran the establishment strictly but fairly. The convicts knew where they stood, & if they crossed the line they knew what to expect, but again, any punishment meted out was done in a controlled manner. The inmates hardly ever complained, in fact we had a good rapport with them, although we, as staff, knew that with a minimum 1600 prisoners there at any one time, we HAD to control their movements & behaviour to ensure the safety & security of the prison - we'd all seen what happened at Strangeways. With regards rogue staff, again I can say with confidence that 98% of the guys I worked with would never have dreamed of taking in mobiles or drugs - there was the odd exception during those 20 years of my service, but they were rooted out by surveillance and regular routine searching of staff on entering / leaving the establishment, and sacked immediately before handing them over to the Police. Sadly, I know things have changed since my day (9 years retired now), almost certainly due to drastically reduced staffing levels, plus the "appeasement" attitude of successive Governor's who don't like to rock the boat. On top of that, the recruiting policy altered too - instead of  welcoming ex Forces guys into HMP, they preferred whizz kids with very little life experience who were easily manipulated by street wise convicts, possibly even blackmailed too, coercing them into bringing the "gear" inside. Guys like me were thought of as "too militaristic", enforcing discipline ( I insisted all inmates in my charge shaved otherwise I fined 'em), but although I was strict, I was fair too, and gained respect for my attitude to them. When I visit Liverpool these days I still occasionally encounter a former prisoner I knew - without exception they have always treated me with courtesy & respect, still referring to me as "Boss" !! It's not rocket science to solve the problems inside prisons these days - get sufficient & decent staff in post (plenty of ex Army guys to choose from), train them well, and give them the resources both technical & physical, (including German Shepherd dogs, sadly withdrawn by cost cutting in the early "noughties), to stop the trafficking, control the prison population and above all, get Governors (& the Home Office) to back the staff and stop kidding themselves that appeasement works. Whoever decreed that sending a man or woman to prison is NOT for punishment was wrong - it is insufficient to remove them from society temporarily, he /she needs  to know that it is an unpleasant experience and it should act as a real deterrent not to chance returning once released. To enable that to happen, HM Prison Service needs to go back to the basics, enforcing control & discipline through appropriate staffing levels of well trained and mature guys who have the backing of management, who will ensure sufficient resources to detect mobile phone usage and drug importation into each prison. With the drug and phone use problems sorted, jails will once again be a safer environment for both members of staff and inmates to co-exist. John (JKW)

May 27, 2016

Joined: May 8, 2014
Posts: 1204
Prisons and Drugs

May 27, 2016

Don't get me wrong guys but I thought that if you went to prison you were to punished depending on your crime ,you know murders,rapist ,terrorists etc in high security type jail,now I'm finding that this human rights act from Europe allows them their own mobile phone,tv,laptop etc . No can't be ,no strip searches or bare cells ,no search of everything coming and out of the building especially the staff and visitors eeeerrrrrmmmm . Okay living on the isle of Ireland were prison officers life span is numbered in years due to Neo-Repulicans ( so called ) and that's both sides of the border. John I relize you did duty at Walton and knowing the locals that wouldn't be pleasant and you'd be expected to live in the community so you could be targeted by gang members so intimidation could raise it ugly head ..Not withstanding those factors WHY could a secure system NOT be put into place stopping all these items being smuggled into the jail ??? If you remember our time at the Kesh ,only items in the inmates got was fruit ( booze) but they were compounds not individual cells , is it due to privatisation of prisons or lack of staff with back bone to do the job they're paid for . My own opinion is they are allowed a free range , let's put them in chains strip search 3 or 4 a day if it means more staff  DO IT,keep these cretins off the radar for their sentences ,make them never wanting to break the law ever again ,but then again like the guy who killed 60/70 odd people in Norway he sued the state as his "Human rights " we're infringed ,boo hooo as he was in solitary . I suppose that my thoughts are wishful dreaming as the human race is now ( maybe always) ME,ME  and if I can get one up on the establishment fuck 'em

May 28, 2016

Joined: May 12, 2014
Posts: 684
Prisons and Drugs

May 28, 2016

Talking about "KESH" I seem to recall the story of how the guards couldn't figure out why the inmates were getting drunk when rigid searches were being carried out, searches and procedures in the days when they were uninhibited by "uman rights" et al. Anyway, it turned out that the IRA had taken over a coca cola plant in or near Belfast during a night shift held the staff  hostage (or so the staff claimed) somehow interrupted the automatic filling process of the cans tipped vodka into the cans before they were sealed and Bob's yer Uncle! Visitors to Long Kesh inmates undergo thoroughy searches, "just bringing in a couple of sealed cans of coke fer me fellah officer" prison staff give the cans a shake to make sure there is only liquid in AND to hope the stuff explodes when they open it (got to get your kicks from somewhere) and a good time was had by all. Can't confirm the veracity of the story  but it does stick in my mind!

May 28, 2016

Joined: May 8, 2014
Posts: 1204
Prisons and Drugs

May 28, 2016

David the other home bru was fruit in large buckets etc then add sugar leave to ferment ,bingo 100 proof ,Aby McKay loved putting holes in their containers during our searches

May 30, 2016

Joined: July 15, 2014
Posts: 51
Prisons and Drugs

May 30, 2016

 

I apologies in advance for the length of this response but people have made a living in writing vast tomes about prison life so we are hardly likely to solve the problems here.

 

Guys I can only speak from my experience in the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) which is a different entity from HMPS in England & Wales. Not a lot of people know that, they just assume we have one Prison Service in the UK. NI and the Isle of Man also run their own services. I have to add that I haven’t worked as an officer for a long time having spent the last 17 years in SPS HQ but I do work in the Operations Directorate so I do still have regular access to day to day business in our jails. John had twenty odd years of experience of working on the ‘landings’ and in industrial workshops but that was in a different era and like it or not the world is a different place. In the same way that the Army has moved on from our days so have prisons and so has society in general.  Essentially the job of a prison officer is the same no matter whether you are in HMPS or SPS but as with everything in life sufficient funding is key. We in SPS are quite fortunate in that we by comparison to HMPS are reasonably well funded and supported by our current government at Holyrood.  Justice is a devolved issue so we are not controlled by Westminster.  Another major factor is that we are a much tighter unit having only 14 jails in total in the public sector and only two private jails. HMPS are split into regional areas and most of their areas are much bigger than our entire service.  So being smaller means we can have more influence on how the jails and the system is general is run. HMPS IMO is too big, it is creaking at the seams so perhaps they need to consider giving each regional area financial autonomy to run their system in a more manageable way. Over the past 10 years or so we have rebuilt or significantly renovated most of our prisons making them fit for purpose and done away with ‘slopping out’ a particularly degrading process for staff and prisoners alike.  People tend to forget that staff spend much more time in a prison environment than your average prisoner and deserve a clean humane working environment, trust me the first jail I worked in was a disgusting Victorian hovel with no regard given for the dignity of prisoners or staff. If you treat people like animals then don’t be surprised if they act like animals. We in SPS have to thank the SNP for halting the previous Scottish Labour government from going down the private sector route.  When they first came into power we were halfway through the construction of a major jail that was to be run by the private sector SNP immediately overturned that decision and gave it back to SPS. They also ensured the next jail we built was also publically run and to date show no appetite for going back to privately run jails in the foreseeable future. IMO this is a major factor in maintaining the moral of SPS staff who see a future that is reasonably secure and stable unlike their colleagues in HMPS who are constantly under threat of being replaced by a private company.

 

Security, again I can understand that the majority of Joe Public can’t understand why mobile phones and drugs are so readily available in prisons. Trust me you would be surprised at the ingenuity of some prisoners and the disgusting levels they will go to to smuggle contraband. Grannies, mums, babies all have been used as drug mules. You can get a lot of drugs into a tennis ball and you don’t need to be Andy Murray to whack a tennis ball over a wall or fence and our latest challenge, drones. Most parts in your mobile phone are cosmetic, the component parts you need to send text messages or make calls are few and small and easily concealed in a variety of obscure places. As John said there are the odd rogue members of staff who will carry something in for a price but they are very few and far between.  Often if a member of staff is found carrying it has been due to intimidation of them or their families. Could we make a jail 100% drug and mobile free, yes we could but it would cost a fortune in increasing staffing costs (much more than even the Scottish government can afford to invest) and investment in the technology to block phones.  The alternative is we lock prisoners up 24/7 with no contact with the outside world or other prisoners or staff.  That might sound attractive but it has been tried many time through history and failed. All prisoners, well nearly all, will be released at some point and would you want something living in your street that had been cut off from all human contact for the last ten years or so……..I doubt it. 

 

I appreciate some of you will think this is controversial John included but I do believe that prisons aren’t there to punish, the punishment is loss of freedom. Whilst a prisoner is in custody our job is to work with them to prepare them for release but we can’t do that in isolation we need to work with agencies on the outside so that when they are released they have some prospects of leading a crime free lifestyle.

 

At the end of the day it is all about money. I guarantee if you asked the average tax payer to list their priorities for public spending prisons would not feature in their top 50 let alone top 10. Increasing investment in prisons doesn’t win votes hence why it rarely appears in a parties manifesto. So in a nutshell if you want drug free and mobile free jails you have to accept that you have to pay to provide the human and technological resources to achieve that aim. The vast majority of prison officers do a very difficult, thankless job in sometimes very challenging circumstances to the best of their abilities and for those who complain about life behind bars being cushy then I would say “walk in a prisoner officers shoes for just one day” then comment.

 

May 30, 2016

Joined: May 12, 2014
Posts: 684
Prisons and Drugs

May 30, 2016

Very interesting Frankie, balanced and insightful. Your experiences in the SPS compare very favourably with the damning article I read yesterday in a newspaper written by a current serving HMP Officer in the "South East" of England. He spoke of rock bottom morale, prison officers frightened of inmates and the disciplinary system they, THE OFFICERS, faced when dealing with unruly prisoners. He explained the increase in Muslim gangs and their subjugation of many vulnerable prisoners forced or coerced into changing faith for protection. He spoke of massive underfunding, over crowding, under staffing and Prison Governers with pseudo political agendas. He said he had to undergo several security checks on his way into the prison, officers had to relinquish their mobiles which he said was a joke as the prisoners had their own in abundance, prisoners had access to many drugs including the latest wave of "legal highs" only recently criminalised by the Government. He said he absolutely dreaded going to work and was constantly worried or frightened whilst there. It seems Scotland has a far better system of prisons from reading your post. I understand your point apropos prisons aren't there to punish, the loss of freedom being the punishment but that doesn't resonate well with the general population who perceive prisoners have a very cushy life. Yesterday's revelations I spoke of earlier included one that claimed some prisoners welcomed jail as a respite from the rat race they otherwise endured as a "free man". None of this is helped by the constant barrage of  pictures and "yah boo" two fingers up to the establishment posts we see on many social media sites posted by prisoners, some of them lifers, murderers et al. So what's the answer? Well in my opinion prison should be hard but fair. It should seek to rehabilitate those who can be truly rehabilitated and securely contain those who are a danger to the public in a safe but strict regime that makes such a life inside unpalatable and one people generally wish to avoid. Prison should be feared in my view and the sad fact is most hardened criminals have absolutely NO fear of prisons, they know how to play AND beat the system and they reoffend to a greater extent BECAUSE prison holds no fear for them. There should be adequate funding to provide a safe Prison Officer/prisoner ratio, enough funding to facilitate PROPER and exhaustive security checks and contraband blocking. I read almost daily of the ridiculous ease of obtaining drugs in prison and that some prisoners enter jail as non drug users and leave as addicts. that CANNOT be right in any society.

May 30, 2016

Joined: May 5, 2014
Posts: 556
Prisons and Drugs

May 30, 2016

Frankie & David - I read your posts with interest, obviously Frankie's more liberal view contrasting with mine ! In my experience, the very many recividists ( spelling ? - constantly returning prisoners) I encountered almost without exception came back because,  a) jail held no fear or deterrent providing they "played the system", b) it was "catch up" time with their mates still inside, c) it gave a chance for a wee "holiday" from the pressures (!?!) of  supporting wives/girl friends & kids, and d) also  gave  time to plan their next "jobs", possibly with new found accomplices on the next release. All this with 3 good meals a day, no responsibilities, free laundry & haircuts, TV in cell, duvets on the bed, and plenty of gym time (well equipped & totally free too). With regards rehabilitation, again in my experience, the vast majority of prisoners are way past "saving"; they enjoy their way of life both inside & outside the prison walls, and treat getting caught & jailed as an occupational hazard - the odd convict can respond to the opportunities available to stop re-offending, but I lost count of the number of cons who told me they'd not get out of bed to work for less than £400 per week (& that was many years ago, they'd want even more now !). Staffing & resources NEED to be dramatically increased, and in my honest opinion jail time must serve as a deterrent to a prisoner ever coming back inside. Society & changing times have moved on, but not necessarily for the best of reasons or results - a strict regime with adequate supervision & control would serve the tax-paying public and, let's not forget, the victims of crime, far better than the current policy of successive Governments burying their heads in the sand and  following a seemingly "appeasement" program just to keep the peace. Incidentally, I once proposed to HMP management that any prisoner brought in for any act of violence to people or property should be birched on Reception - my idea was rejected for some reason ! John (JKW)

May 30, 2016

Joined: May 8, 2014
Posts: 1204
Prisons and Drugs

May 30, 2016

Okay so we have to ask the question does prison in the UK work ,we see on satilite tv the system they have in the USA ,life means life,three strikes and its life,yes you say they have the largest prison population and still have crime in the city streets . Yes rehabilitate the inmate for release BUT the constant offender ( you here multiple cases taken into consideration whe sentencing ) as a law binding citizen why can't we do similar to the USA take them out of circulation and isolate them so you don't get gangs whatever threatening the officers . Let losing their freedom mean that , that then would make them think about doing the crime , it must of been easy in the old days of empire we just transported them to Australia or hung 'em


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