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Posted by: In: General 06 Jul 2014 0 comments

In an open letter to The Telegraph  Jonathan Aitken revealed some well-meaning advice to Andy Coulson on how to cope with prison life which may have been too much coloured by his own unusually soft experience of incarceration. An excerpt as follows

“You were immediately interested in becoming a “listener” (prison Samaritans); or working for the Shannon Trust’s Toe by Toe programme, which enables young illiterate offenders to be taught reading and writing skills by other prisoners (just the job for an ex-editor).”

“You would be extraordinarily unlucky if anything truly unpleasant happened to you. One or two rough verbals maybe, but nothing worse. So you should have little to fear.”

Mr Coulson will not be in jail long enough to be trained as a listener, unless the Samaritans take him on purely for publicity reasons; the Samaritans devote significant effort to training listeners and given that he will be out in nine months (or four and a half if he earns a Tag) he would not have time to put the training to good use.

In addition, prison life has changed much in the 15 years since Mr Aitken was inside; last year alone there was a complete overhaul in IEP (Incentives and Earned Privileges ) regulations which dictate how prisoners are to be treated and what is expected from them in order to progress

Mr Aitken’s offence was, in essence, lying – fairly low in the pecking order of repugnant crime from his fellow prisoners’ point of view. Mr Coulson, on the other hand, has been jailed for his involvement in hacking the phones of, among others, a murdered child, which raises his exposure to danger considerably above that of the “one or two rough verbals” suggested by Mr Aitken.

There is also the possibility that he might be housed in close proximity to convicts whose offences were reported sensationally and judgementally by the News of the World, and who might harbour grudges.

It is concerning that Mr Coulson may have approached his incarceration with an inappropriate awareness of the serious risks he faces.

Posted by: In: General 20 Mar 2014 0 comments

I kidded myself that I would be fine and that I would not go to prison, after all prisons are for rapists, paedophiles and murderers aren’t they? Neither I nor my family were prepared for what happened and the stress that this put upon us was intolerable. It was worse for my family, they were trying to cope and put on a brave face for my benefit but they were suffering. My children had to go to school and face their friends, my wife had to face the neighbours all the time trying to find out what was happening to me and what was going to happen next. I assumed that being a white collar offence that I would go straight to open prison, how wrong I was. Open prison in not a right but a privilege which like everything else in prison has to be earned, except no one explains to you what you should do to gain these earned privileges. In fact no one told me anything, I was shown to my cell, there was a cell mate, I had a bed pack some well-worn prison clothes, the door was shut and that was it…..being prepared would have helped greatly, I would have had a plan. It would have taken away a lot of the stress and strain on my family and my progression would have been so much quicker.


I was absolutely terrified about the prospect of prison, I lived in denial throughout the whole process of being on bail and trial at court. When I arrived in prison it was almost like an out of body experience. All of a sudden I had to exist in a world that was completely alien, the noise, the smell, the filth and  the constant feeling of impending danger no one prepared me for, other than my solicitor telling me to ‘keep your head down’ which actually turned out to be bad advice. It took me a long time to adjust and I made some mistakes which could have slowed my progression. I was used to being in control of my life and all of a sudden I found that I had no control, I was a number and was treated like all the others no matter what the offences were. 

Posted by: In: General 26 Jan 2014 0 comments

Suicide and the Murder rate in British prisons at the highest level for years as reported in The Guardian this week. Male prisoners’ suicide and self- harm is rising year on year however there has been a recorded fall in female suicides in prison due to improved safety measures. Prison are of course a very stressful place in which to exist and abnormal to the general public however in prison, as in any situation, after a period of time “abnormal” becomes “normal”.

The stresses are not just confined to the existence in prison but also the worry and stress over loved ones who are left on the outside, the detachment and inability to communicate at will for some can be too much. The smallest of problem when left to stew all day behind a locked prison door can fester and manifest itself into a state that can become intolerable.

Prisons are dangerous places however they are survivable once one has come to terms with the state of the existence and embraces it, no matter how difficult life becomes a whole lot easier. Simple ground rules also have to be obeyed and in prison its not about making friends but learning how not to make enemies with both the staff and other prisoners.

Cutbacks within the prison system must also contribute with overworked staff simply not having the time to spot the danger signs of both personal depression and possible frictions that can flare into violent episodes.

Acceptance, understanding of those around, understanding the system that is in place, a planned procedure for the time spent inside together with educating the family and stakeholders of those in prison can only serve to reduce the compounding pressures that mount up daily. In particular the maintaining of the family unit is one of the key components to the reduction in re-offending which costs our society an estimated £13bn per year.




Posted by: In: General 19 Jan 2014 0 comments

The newspapers seem to report daily on new cases of Fraud linked to the banking industry. Recently three Rabobank employees were charged in the USA  for allegedly  fixing Yen LIBOR rates over a period of 5 years. There was also a report that Deutsche Bank has announced that they will withdraw from gold and silver fixing amid an investigation by German regulators into suspected manipulation of precious metal prices by banks.

In this country there are investigations building that high street banks forced  small businesses to the point of collapse so that they  could buy back their assets at rock-bottom prices. And of course there are the number of former bank officers currently on bail awaiting trial for allegedly illegally manipulating markets. It would appear that what was perceived as being normal business practice has turned into police investigations subject to which arrests, charges and possible prison sentences may result.

It is probably fair to say that these alleged perpetrators are not of normal criminal mind or intent and it can be argued that they were simply carrying out activities that were pressured upon them in order to achieve and progress through their respective careers.  These people now find themselves facing lengthy prison sentences and entering into a world that they neither understand or have in any way prepared for. More importantly, or certainly of equal importance is the impact to families and other stakeholders. People who were once members or pillars of society face the prospect of being disenfranchised and castigated by their peers which  can cause immense pressure on the individuals concerned and the  family unit.

Understanding the ‘system’ and what may lay ahead is crucial and it is important to understand the unknown in order to take away the fear of the unknown. Preparation and knowledge is the key to making the best of what is seemingly a dire situation. Once the legal process starts there is nothing that can be done to stop it, one cannot change the inevitable however one can prepare for it.

Posted by: In: General 04 Nov 2013 0 comments

Significant reforms to the Incentive and Earned Privileges (IEP) policy across prisons in England and Wales have been brought into force.

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, made it clear that the policy needed to properly address reoffending as well as being something the public can have confidence in.

From today the absence of bad behaviour will no longer be enough to earn privileges – prisoners must also actively work towards their own rehabilitation.

Other key changes include:

  • The introduction of a new IEP level – “Entry” – where privileges are restricted.
  • Certificate 18 DVDs and subscription channels banned from all prisons.
  • A national standardised list of items available for each level.
  • An automatic IEP review for bad behaviour, with a presumption of downgrading.
  • TVs turned off when prisoners should be engaged in work or other productive activity.
  • Prisoners who misbehave will lose their TV.

In addition, changes to the prison rules which will see prisoners pay compensation for damage caused have been introduced from last

There aren’t too many changes to the previous system, other than the ‘Entry’ status. as most prisons are ‘working’ prisons. The main change and emphasis being on the fact that from now on privileges now have to be earned and prisoners will have to engage with the system and conform to a working day or an education programme all in the name of rehabilitation. From now on a prisoner will not gain status through the IEP system just by being of good behaviour, conversely non conforming and bad behavior will cause a downgrade in status and lose all the associated privileges, this can include less money to spend, reduction in visits and perhaps block progression to a lower category prison.

Lets hope that there is enough work available and enough space on the education programmes in order to facilitate these changes! It is not always the prisoners fault that his or her days are not productive.

Posted by: In: General 03 Nov 2013 0 comments

On the 2nd November 2013 there was a reported ‘riot’ inside Thanet Wing of Maidstone prison in Kent. There appears to be no confirmed reasons for the discord although it was reported that this may have been the result in a change of daily routine due to staff cuts. Maidstone prison is a category C establishment, therefore the lowest security rating for a ‘closed’ prison.

This highlights the fact that prisons are at best a tinderbox and the slightest change can bring about demonstration which when this takes place in such closed confinement can prove to be dangerous. This danger is not just regarding staff and officers (who, for reasons of safety, we understand beat a hasty retreat from the situation) but with prisoners on the wing, it becomes very important to distance oneself from trouble and those wanting to cause trouble without being ‘aloof’ from the wing. This may be a time that old scores are settled especially if there is no control by officers therefore no way of bringing safety to the wing.

No doubt there will be deep investigation to what happened, the fall out could affect the innocent as well as the guilty and will probably cause the rest of the prison establishment to be on high alert.

Posted by: In: General 21 Oct 2013 0 comments

The media have reported that prisons are now running at over 99% capacity. This is obviously a major problem as overcrowded prisons bring about many issues. Unfortunately prisoners have to survive and exist in a limited space and share this space with many other prisoners, overcrowding provides that space becomes even more a premium and will result in extra pressures on the officers and staff and can lead to disharmony and inflame what is by definition a very tense environment.

It becomes even more important to understand the unwritten rules of surviving in prison so that a prisoner does not find himself or herself at the heart of a  difficult situation that could easily have been avoided.

Posted by: In: General 21 Oct 2013 0 comments

Recent reports in the press state that fraud is very much on the increase and has risen by 60% in the last 5 years. According to the Office of National Statistics figures show that recorded frauds topped over half a million in England and Wales in the 12 month period to June this year.

The report shows that other criminal activity is being abandoned in favour of fraud as there is less risk of being caught.

If you’re facing a possible prison sentence and going to prison for the first time it can be a daunting prospect. It is better to be prepared so we have provided you with a quick guide and some initial information and advice below:

What is going to prison like?

going to prison in vanGoing to prison for the first time is a highly intimidating prospect. There will be a mixture of emotions ranging from confusion to fear. Prison life is a whole new way of living in an environment that can seem totally alien to life on the outside.

New rules apply from both the prison official and the new found peer group. The most important point you should understand is that prison is not easy, but it is survivable, and can be quite enlightening.


How can I survive in prison?

Surviving in prison is all about understanding the “system”, understanding the rules and the logic governing the system, adapting to it and conforming as quickly as possible. It is also about coming to terms with your new status and understanding the measures that have brought about this extreme change in life. Surviving prison is also about understanding that vast range of characters that will form your new peer group, coming to terms with their coping mechanisms and foreseeing areas that can lead to conflict and can make prison life difficult and dangerous.

Read more…

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