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.