Friday 17 October 2014

The Scariest Prisoner? An Innocent One

The media has recently carried a rising number of stories of people who have been released from prison after serving very long sentences before they have been exonerated and finally set free. Most of the latest reported cases have been from the USA, where very serious miscarriages of justice do seem to be a fairly regular occurrence.

US justice on trial
In the past week alone we have had a man from Brooklyn released after serving 29 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit; a woman from California freed after 17 years when her murder conviction was quashed and a man in Texas freed after spending nine years inside, four of those confined on Death Row waiting to be put to death for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course, as I’ve highlighted in a previous blog post – Guilty Until Proven Innocent – the British justice system has its own shameful roll call of scandalous miscarriages of justice. 

I think that it is very difficult for most people who are unacquainted with the legal system to realise just how easy it is to fall victim to wrongful convictions, especially since the Criminal Justice Acts (1991 and 2003) changed the ancient Common Law provisions for disclosure of all evidence to the defence. Previously, all evidence gathered during a criminal investigation had to be handed over for the defendant’s legal team to inspect. Now, it is up to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to make the decisions on what should be disclosed and what should be withheld and – as some of the worst miscarriages of justice have demonstrated – critical evidence that could help establish a defendant’s innocence before a jury is sometimes not made available.

"And how does the defendant plead?"
What is just as concerning is that, in many cases, the investigating police officers – who are supposed to carry out an impartial investigation – only opt to interview witnesses that they believe will help them secure a conviction. Against this background, how can people who are facing false allegations, or even cases of genuinely mistaken identification, hope to defend themselves, particularly in a era of swingeing cuts to Legal Aid? Following some of these trials can be like watching a train crash in slow motion. Many defendants are now fighting these cases with both hands tied behind their backs.

Ayn Rand: she warned us all
Indeed, almost every day the intention to create some new criminal offence is proclaimed by the government. Perhaps the American-Russian novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was right when she wrote that: “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” Sometimes it can certainly seem like that here in the UK.

Our ‘justice system’ – like that in the US – seems to have lost sight of some very important principles, including a person being innocent until proven guilty. As Voltaire put it so succinctly: “It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.” 

A fair few of those whom I’ve met in jail I genuinely believe are innocent men, failed by the legal system including lazy and unprofessional defence lawyers, as well as dodgy police investigations and the withholding of vital evidence. That, of course is of very little comfort to the wrongfully convicted or their families as the newly convicted or sentenced defendant is led off from the dock to be handcuffed before making the journey to the local Cat-B nick in a prison transport van.

Transports the guilty and the innocent
It can be painful to see the bewilderment of the truly innocent as they arrive in prisons to be stripped, photographed, given numbers and processed into new cons. No matter how humane Reception screws try to be, going into prison is often a deeply humiliating and dehumanising experience. Imagine having to go through all of that when you are entirely innocent.

Some of the newly convicted are in such deep shock at what is happening to them that they almost shut down mentally as a coping mechanism. For others, it seems like a very vivid nightmare from which they hope they will soon wake. They don’t and that first night inside the slammer – with all the noise, shouting, screams and banging of doors – can be a deeply traumatic experience for some. It’s unsurprising that many suicide attempts and much self-harm occurs in these early days in custody. As an Insider (peer mentor) I spent a lot of time with some very distressed men just in from court.

Moreover, it doesn’t just stop with the banging shut of a cell door behind you. A decision to fight a wrongful conviction can have a profound impact on daily life in prison. Not least because of the fact that our prisons, by their very nature, are primarily set up to deal with people who have been convicted of crimes that they have committed. Protestations of innocence just don’t cut it with Offender Managers (outside probation officers) or Offenders Supervisors (prison probation staff). They state that the prison system must respect the verdict of the jury and proceed accordingly.

In theory at least, while cons are on appeal against conviction they shouldn’t be put under pressure to confess to crimes they steadfastly maintain they didn’t commit. Offender Management Units (OMU) in prison aren’t supposed to try to bully appellants to do offence-related offending behaviour courses, mainly because these almost always require an initial admission of guilt and an analysis of the offence(s) as part of the programme. Obviously, an admission of any kind risks derailing the appeals process and potentially undermines protestations of innocence.

Outside the Court of Appeal
I’m always struck when I read media accounts of the wrongfully convicted having their convictions quashed that there is usually the obligatory observation that “he (or she) has always maintained their innocence”. Well, of course. Had they made any kind of ‘confession’ to a member of the prison staff, you can bet that would have been rolled out in a prosecution statement to the Court of Appeal and that, as they say, would have been that.

As I’ve explained in previous blog posts, the issue of maintaining innocence in prison can be a truly horrendous ordeal. Not only is there often unrelenting bullying from staff to ‘accept responsibility’ – difficult if you genuinely are the victim of a miscarriage of justice – but this can also have a devastating impact on quality of life inside the nick, especially since 1 November 2013 when the revised Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) system was imposed throughout the prison system in England and Wales by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

Readers' letters reveal their misery
This new Prison Service Instruction (PSI 30/2013) has mainly been criticised by prison reform campaigners (and prison governors) because the new rules mean that even though an inmate is a model prisoner in all other respects, he must still face the prospect of being demoted to the highly punitive Basic level within the IEP system, for no other reason than he is determined to maintain innocence. In recent months, newspapers aimed mainly at the prison population, such as Inside Time, publish regular letters from readers who are now on the Basic regime solely because they refuse to confess to a crime (or crimes) that they resolutely maintain they did not commit. 

Of course, for prisoners who are serving life sentences or who are still on Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) – a penalty abolished back in 2012, but which continues to apply to anyone already sentenced – then a determination to make a stand can, quite literally, cost them the rest of their lives, regardless of whatever minimum tariff has been handed down in court. Being ‘in denial’ of an offence when you are serving an indeterminate sentence is almost always a barrier to being recommended for parole by the Parole Board, despite rather feeble protestations by the Board to the contrary. I think it’s probably fair to say that you’d be able to count the number of lifers freed on parole when they are ‘in denial of murder’ (IDOM) over the past 20 years on one hand.  

Grayling: gratuitous cruelty
When these people maintain their innocence despite coming under incredible pressure to make false confessions of guilt to win parole or to keep their Enhanced – or even Standard level – privileges, then they have my admiration. When you see a fellow human being stripped of absolutely everything that has any real meaning to him before being locked into a bare cell, in effective solitary confinement with deprivation of any supportive human contact, for no other reason that he dares to continue protesting his innocence, then he has won my respect and admiration. 

This sort of treatment may not be physical brutality in the same way as, say, being waterboarded or having your fingernails torn out, but it is a slower form of torture. In my opinion it is difficult to overstate the mental anguish, and often mental health problems, that can result from long-term solitary confinement.  

Anyone who is going down that path of passive resistance needs to be extremely strong willed and determined, even when they are vulnerable and almost entirely powerless. I’m reminded of a line from a book about the Russian writer and dissident – and ex-con – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It’s actually a quotation from the French writer and politician AndrĂ© Malraux: “The sight of a man saying no with his bare hands is one of the things that most mysteriously and profoundly stirs the hearts of men.” 

Malraux is quite right about this. I’ve seen it among some of my fellow cons who refuse to be broken by Grayling’s inhumane and punitive IEP system and who will not compromise over their determination to maintain their innocence and, maybe one day, to stand on the pavement outside the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court having finally cleared their names. I wish them every success. 


  1. A strange title, I was expecting to read that 'innocent' prisoners were the most unpredictable or troublesome prisoners.

    Interesting nonetheless.

    1. Thanks for your comment. The quote is actually based on one attributed to a defence lawyer who when asked who his most frightening clients were replied "the innocent ones".

      It is also true, however, that prisoners who have been wrongly convicted pose the greatest challenge to the system. It's the reason that Chris Grayling's new IEP system specifically targets them. In essence, because they are daring to defy the expectation that all convicted prisoners 'acknowledge their guilt' and 'repent' they are regarded as being deserving of much harsher punishment and grim living conditions.

      In actual fact, prisoners maintaining innocence are often 'model' prisoners simply because they genuinely believe that they shouldn't be in prison, therefore they rarely behave like typical cons. Usually, their behaviour is impeccable, yet they are often treated in a similar way to inmates who are regularly disruptive or violent, or otherwise break the prison rules.

      People like this 'scare' the prison authorities because many of them simply won't submit and make false confessions, even when they are treated with shocking inhumanity - which is what the Basic regime involves. They become, in effect, jail dissidents - and that causes concern, and fear, among prison managers and politicians alike.

    2. Thanks for your response.

      I must admit I'm rather torn, whilst I have read here & elsewhere about the IEP and its effects I do also agree with the original sentiment that: "Prisoners will actively have to work towards their own rehabilitation and help others if they are to earn privileges - they will not receive them through good behaviour alone." and to me the complaints often sound like prisoners who were used to the old system complaining because things changed.

      Of course, I'm sure the IEP is not perfectly executed or designed but that's humanity for you, nothing we do is perfect!

      With regards to those innocents who are wrongly convicted you have to remember that those are the failings of either the police, the courts or the legal team, the prisons and staff are to carry out the sentence determined by the legal system, not interpret its decisions. I don't know if it's a myth that most prisoners claim innocence (at least to anyone in authority) but once convicted the presumption has to be guilty unless proven innocent.

    3. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution. If I felt that prisons really offered opportunities for rehabilitation (particularly the closed prisons) then working towards this goal might seem a reasonable target. However, as repeated reports on specific establishments by HM Inspectorate of Prisons have highlighted, rehabilitation is often reduced to a 'box-ticking' exercise: has this offending behaviour course been completed or not?

      In fact when Prison Service Order 4700 (Indeterminate Sentence Manual) was revised a few years ago there was an attempt to redefine what could be accepted as 'evidence of reduced risk' including education and other positive activities. However, in practice this really isn't taken seriously by Offender Management Units. The received wisdom is that only successful completion of specific courses evidences reduced risk. The reason that I'm so convinced that this is the case is the number of representations to the Parole Board that I've helped other prisoners draft - and I've seen the negative responses contained in the decisions.

      Of course, I take your point that the IEP system could never be perfect. However, as most prison governors will say privately (and a few very publicly) the former IEP arrangements were working reasonably well. Prison managers had wider discretion over what to allow and what to refuse.

      As the Prison Governors Association (PGA) has already made clear, its membership as a whole was opposed to these changes which were made for no other purpose that for Chris Grayling to announce to the media that he was getting 'tough' on prisoners. Even the PGA warned that the new Prison Service Instruction (PSI 30/2013) would lead to unfairness and undermine the legitimacy of prison discipline.

      Under the previous rules, in most cases prisoners maintaining innocence whose behaviour was exemplary were able to achieve at least Standard level. Having experienced it myself for some months, I would say that it is possible to live for years on this level with a reasonable degree of human dignity and without restrictions on associating with others, remaining in contact with family and friends etc.

      Basic level was always designed to be used as a short-term behavioural modification technique. It is deliberately designed to be punitive and to make everyday life miserable, empty and depressing. Those on Basic are largely cut off from the outside world.

      As a short-term punishment regime for breaking prison rules I accept that this may have a place in maintaining good order and discipline. However, when this could be imposed on those of otherwise impeccable conduct solely because they will not admit to crimes they maintain they did not commit, then in my opinion it can amount to torture.

      Solitary confinement has a long and dismal history across most repressive regimes and the negative effects on human beings (and social animals for that matter) can be horrendous to witness. In many humans these responses can include self-harm, serious mental deterioration to the point of insanity and suicide.

      I approach this subject from the perspective of those men and women who survived imprisonment - often for many years - following miscarriages of justice. That they spent decades in prison for crimes we now know they didn't commit is bad enough. That these days they would face additional punishment that over such a period would drive even the strongest of us towards insanity, self-harm and suicide is, in my view, a disgrace to humanity and everything this nation purports to stand for.

    4. Thanks for your response and although it wasn't stated in my original comments I do feel that those maintaining their innocence should be allowed to attain the same 'privileges' as the rest of the prison population can 'enjoy'; with regards to them 'not accepting responsiblity' then that sounds like it should be dealt with by the parole/release system.

      I know that the IEP is seen as vindictive & a Grayling publicity tool but as a 'ordinary Joe' it comes across as reasonably reasonable (for the most part) and it's the media who 'whip up' public outrage over 'soft' regimes and unfortunately we are (for the last 30 years or so) ruled by politicians for whom style is preferred over substance.

      Are British prisons worse than Scandinavian ones, undoubtedly, but compared to many European and American (not to mention the rest of the world) they are undoubtedly better.

      Let's not forget, the 'threat' of incarceration is supposed to be an element of ensuring people follow laws and simple 'removal' from society for a period of time is not deemed sufficient, a loss of choice of many things those in the free world take for granted is also part of it.

      Once again, I'm not saying it's perfect, nothing with humans involved is and whilst aspects definitely need smoothing out and a massive rethink on rehabilitation to reduce re-offending I also think it could be a lot worse.

    5. Thanks for your response. You are quite right about the way in which the revised IEP system is popularly perceived. However, part of the problem is the way in which complete falsehoods are peddled by the tabloid media - especially the Daily Mail and The Sun - and then get accepted as 'true', even when they aren't. A good example is the 'Sky TV' in cells lie. This absolutely never happened in any public sector prison - indeed it would have been expressly excluded by prison rules - yet the tabloids ran with this enormous whopper for years and it still crops up occasionally even now.

      My main objection to the new system is that it does absolutely nothing to make prisons safer or to encourage rehabilitation. It fuels depression and resentment, particularly among inmates who stick to the rules and behave well, yet still perceive that they are being punished unreasonably over and above the loss of their liberty. I also find it very revealing that prison governors and many wing staff, few of whom are bleeding-heart liberals, were opposed to Mr Grayling's interference with the IEP system. They have many years of practical experience of running jails, while he has absolutely none. Yet he ignored their advice and warnings for purely political PR reasons.

      An example of this is the requirement that prisoners should make a positive contribution by volunteering to do specific jobs or activities in prison to help others as a condition of gaining or maintaining Enhanced status. Fine, most of the general public might say.

      However, when it is clear that there are so few of these opportunities available in most prisons - whether that is teaching reading though the Toe-by-Toe adult literacy course, wing reps, Listeners (Samaritan-trained peers) or Insiders (peer mentors) - then it becomes clear that you might end up with prisoners who are willing to volunteer, but with no hope of ever getting a qualify role. They then risk losing all their Enhanced privileges, solely because the prison system can't offer such opportunities, especially amid the current overcrowding and under-staffing in many prisons. In my view that contributes nothing to rehabilitation, but risks fuelling unrest, cynicism and disengagement from the system.

  2. West Midlands Serious Crime Squad! I wonder what happened to those bent coppers. I walk past the two bombed pubs in Birmingham quite often and wonder who were the culprits instead of the innocent six.

    1. Thanks for your comments. It's a good question. Whenever there has been a major miscarriage of justice, the real question that is rarely asked is who was really responsible. Even when names have been flagged up, there is very little chance that they will ever be prosecuted. In fact, because some of these cases take anything up to 20+ years before the conviction gets quashed, most of the police and prosecutors have retired, so there is no-one left to take the heat.

  3. Starting his 30th year of wrongful imprisonment - Jeremy Bamber. All evidence should be available for a true and honest trial.

    1. Thanks for your comment. As you see, Jeremy's official website is already in my list of recommended innocence campaigns on this blog.

      I once shared a cell with a lifer who knew Jeremy personally from another prison. We discussed the case at some length and my pad-mate explained why he was convinced of Jeremy's innocence, a view I've now come to share having done more reading on the case since my release from prison.

    2. Thank you - so good to know.

  4. If a family usually sent books and clothes by mail to their relative in prison, how is it different to buy the items through Amazon and clothing sites?

    1. Thanks for your question. Under the previous Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) system, each prison had its own 'facilities list'. This detailed everything a prisoner on each privilege level could have in his or her possession. This was revised from 1 November 2013 when PSI 30/2013 introduced a 'national generic facilities list' and specifically barred prisoners in most circumstances from receiving parcels from family or friends. This accounts for the ban on sending in books or clean clothing.

      The main difference is that under the new rules everything has to be purchased new from approved catalogues. This can put significant financial pressure on families to send in money, whereas previously they could shop around, buy items on sale or use discount stores - or even send in items of clothing from home (as my own family did when I needed replacement clothes). It is important to remember that most prisoners' families struggle to survive financially, particularly if the prisoner was the sole or principal breadwinner prior to imprisonment. If the prisoner was in receipt of a state pension (although not a private one) then all this money is also sequestrated by the state), often leaving them penniless.

      The other aspect of the new system is that prisoners have to purchase from catalogues via their prison 'spends' account. This includes only prison wages (usually £8-12 a week), plus an amount of private cash transferred weekly from their main prison account. For a prisoner who is on Entry level (usually the first two weeks) this is £10.50 per week, on Standard level it's £15.50 and on Enhanced it's £25.50. Basic level prisoners only get £4.00.

      Some of the clothing catalogues approved for prisoners can be very expensive. In the Very catalogue for example, simple t-shirts can cost £25, jogging bottoms £40 etc - far more pricey than can be found on offer in Sports Direct or other discount stores. When it comes to books via Amazon, then prices are also higher because only new books can be ordered at full cover price. This also means that if a title is out of print, it is effectively unobtainable in prison.

  5. I'd assume because books/clothes from friends & relatives 'could' be tampered with.

    1. Thanks for your comment. In fact, as the Prison Officers Association (POA) made clear at the time, they were more than able to control what was posted into prisons, using drugs dogs and manual searches. The claim made by Chris Grayling that books represented a security risk because of drug smuggling was completely rubbished by both prison staff and governors. It soon became clear that there was no real evidence for such a statement and this left the distinct impression that Mr Grayling had just made it up on the hoof when leading authors and prison reform campaigners started protesting about the restrictions on sending books to prisoners.

      The practical implications of the revised IEP policy are given in more detail in my answer to the comment above.

  6. I didnt realise you could buy only full priced books from amazon. Sports direct is a great place for discounted stuff like "onesies" and t shirts. Did you see any cons wearing onesies in prison?

    1. Thanks for your comment and question. Prisons only allow new books to come in via Amazon. The massive discounts on remaindered titles just aren't available. One example, I'd give is the standard legal textbook Archbold: Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice - which is essential if as a prisoner you are being forced to prepare your own appeals, as some cons now are due to Legal Aid restrictions. Most prisons only have one copy of this volume in the library and it is often a reference title, so you might only get to see it for 20 minutes a week, if you're lucky!

      A new copy of the 2015 edition is £717. If you saved every single penny of an average prison wage of £10 a week - assuming you have a job, that is - then it would take around a year and a half to save up enough to buy one. Previously, a few prisoners had second-hand copies sent in by their families purchased via eBay or ABE Books. Now that avenue is closed.

      No, onesies aren't regular gear in prisons! Funnily enough, in my Cat-D (open prison) quite a few of the younger lads did wear pyjamas that were similar to the ones worn by kids, just in bigger sizes. They changed into these as soon as evening curfew came at 7.00 pm and then wandered round on the unit. Every evening was like being part of some enormous pyjama party for naughty lads who were being sent to bed early!

    2. Are you referring to romper suits as kid pyjamas?

    3. No, more very brightly coloured pjs with pictures of space rockets or cute animals! Both of which designs I've seen regularly on prison wings, along with the odd pair of furry slippers!

  7. I reckon Chris Grayling should clarify which kind of troll he wants to send to jail for 2 years. There are two kinds of trolls:
    1. nasty spiteful keyboard warrior trolls who tweet death threats

    2. benign trolls who disrupt conspiracy theory sites when jfk, the mccans and child entertainers are being discussed.

    1. Thanks for your comments. Clearly, when people make threats online (or in other ways) the law needs to deal with them. Sending an anonymous death threat in the post or online is always going to be criminal behaviour.

      On the other hand, I'm not convinced that jailing people, even for the nastiest tweets or posts, is the right way forward. Recently, I was very impressed with the way in which Professor Mary Beard of Cambridge University dealt with some really horrible trolling on Twitter. She made contact, met up with the student who had tweeted about her and he bought her lunch and apologised. She even offered to write him a reference! I think that was a far more productive way of dealing with this kind of thing than costing the taxpayer money by prosecuting and imprisoning the culprits.

      When reported, the vast majority of trolls could be given a warning by police and the target of their trolling offered the option of a meeting with the troll to tell them face to face how much pain their behaviour has caused. If a suitable apology is offered and a commitment made to cease any further trolling, then in my view that would be a positive result. It's much easier to hate people you don't know in the abstract. When they are sitting in the same room looking you in the eye, then it's an entirely different thing. I think Prof Beard got it spot on! She's obviously a very shrewd judge of human nature.

    2. "nasty spiteful keyboard warrior trolls who tweet death threats"

      Maybe nasty spiteful inept Tories who cause a massive rise in self-inflicted deaths in custody should face a couple of years inside.

    3. Careful! Criticism of 'the Party' could get you banged up if Crisis Chris has his way...

      Where is George Orwell when you really need him?

      "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” Amen, Mr Grayling, Amen.

      “War is peace.
      Freedom is slavery.
      Ignorance is strength.”

      Maybe that will make it into the next Conservative Party election manifesto!

    4. I suggest you post something about Chris Grayling on the David Icke Forum!

  8. do you think it would be better if they got rid of the iep scheme completely and replaced it with everyone being on the same amount of money. there's a school in london that works like this - there are no rewards and no punishments. do you think things would improve if they did this? as in would people be happier and behaviour better if they have more access to personal items. also just wondering if you can take an mp3 player into prison? laura

    1. Thanks for your contribution and your question, Laura. My own view is that there need to be some incentives to recognise good behaviour in prisons. The old IEP system had serious flaws, but it was still much better than this revised version.

      Some prisoners respond better than others to positive incentives. However, you will always have some who think it is more rewarding to steal, bully, fight etc so there do need to be some sanctions to protect other prisoners, as well as staff. In fact, most internal prison punishments are much more lenient than would be given in a court outside.

      My biggest problem with the current IEP system is that it is set up to punish those prisoners who behave well but who claim to be innocent. Some are certainly innocent, others may not be, but I don't think treating them in the same way as cons who fight, steal, bully or smuggle contraband is the right way forward.

      I do believe that governors and senior managers should have much greater discretion over how their prisons are run. They know the local situation far better than politicians or bureaucrats down in London.

      MP3 players and iPods or other recording devices are all prohibited in UK prisons. A few prisoners did have old mini-disc players (not recorders), but these were allowed under old rules and wouldn't get through reception now.

    2. I am a bit confused as I was reading the revised IEP documentation and it specifically states that prisoners maintaining their innocence or on appeal should be treated exactly the same as other prisoners with regard to IEP.

      Is this not being done or misinterpreted?

    3. Thanks for your question. If you look at para 6.10 of PSI 30/2013, it states:

      Prisoners who deny their offence or who are appealing their conviction

      6.10 In determining IEP levels, the fact that someone is in denial of their offence should not automatically prevent them from progressing through the privilege levels, including to Enhanced level. It is a prisoner’s commitment to rehabilitation, good behaviour and willingness to use their time in custody constructively which should determine whether they meet required standards. Further guidance on the issue of deniers/appellants is attached at Annex D.

      The problem is that little phrase "commitment to rehabilitation". All prisoners who are sentenced to 12 months or more are required to have a sentence plan drawn up by the prison's Offender Management Unit (OMU). This document includes a list of offending behaviour courses or programmes that a prisoner is deemed to require.

      The general principles set out in Annex D of PSI 30/2013 applies to all prisoners who are 'in denial' of their offence (ie are convicted, but don't have a live appeal ongoing). In order to follow their sentence plan, they would need to do offending behaviour courses. However, in order to enrol for the courses an initial analysis of offence(s) is required. This is something that a prison maintaining innocence cannot do by definition. "Why did you commit this offence?" "I didn't. I'm innocent." You can see the problem.

      Once a prisoner cannot follow his or her sentence plan, then as Annex D warns, "the prisoner will not be engaging with their rehabilitation or reducing the risk of their reoffending" so this prevents them from attaining Enhanced level in the IEP scheme. It also states: "Depending on the outcome of a full review taking account of the prisoner’s performance and behaviour, it may also prevent them obtaining Standard regime status."

      In practice, what is happening is that prisoners who are "in denial" are first downgraded from Enhanced to Standard, then interviewed again and asked if they are ready to admit guilt and participate in courses or programmes. If the answer remains no, then they are downgraded again to Basic regime. I know a number of people in exactly this position at the present time and Inside Time carries a monthly crop of letters from prisoners who are now on Basic.

      In short, the PSI holds out the prospect of gaining and maintaining Enhanced status by prisoners maintaining innocence, but then contradicts this by the specific rules for prisoners who are deemed to be "in denial". I hope this clarifies the position.

    4. Thanks, it does clear that up (although it seems unfair) but I noticed the caveat regarding a live appeal, does that mean if they have a live appeal they can follow (or be excused from) their sentence plan requirements and thus, theoretically attain Enhanced status?

    5. Thanks for your question. Even an appellant will have a sentence plan. However, in those cases - in theory - the requirement to participate in offending behaviour courses is set as a 'future target' dependent on the outcome of the appeal. This means that prisoners on appeal should be able to achieve Enhanced status.

      In reality, much depends on the attitude of the individual offender manager (community probation officer) and the offender supervisor (inside probation). Since November 2013 I've known several prisoners who have lost their Enhanced even when they have a live appeal running. Although they pointed out the provisions in PSI 30/2103, they were simply ignored.

      Prisoners who do get to Enhanced status and are then unsuccessful in appealing their convictions then face the prospect of losing their Enhanced unless they are willing to give up maintaining innocence. Again, I know a number of inmates in this position at the moment.

  9. I reckon trolling could turn into a "gateway crime" by exposing convicted trolls to serious criminals.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Prisons are full of non-violent offenders who live on a daily basis with men who have been (or still are) very violent. They would also be exposed to the ready availability of drugs (legal and illegal) and potentially share cells with inmates convicted of very serious offences. I've personally witnessed people entering prison who have never been involved in drugs, gambling or violence getting caught up in these activities inside jails. It's not for nothing that prisons have been described as the 'universities of crime'.

    2. If you cannot afford the tuition fees, you can study part time using YouTube. For example, try searching for "Lock picking".


    3. Thanks for your comment, Peter. It give you pause for thought that since the average annual cost of keeping someone in prison for a year is around £40,000, it would actually be much cheaper to send a con to university, as this would more than cover annual tuition fees and living expenses!

  10. Cons should study "lock picking" to enter the library?

    1. Interesting that you should raise this issue. The one thing that you never want to admit to in prison is being a qualified locksmith. Apparently they are considered to pose such a risk to prison security that they are liable to spend their entire sentence in high security conditions, perhaps even in solitary down in the Block (segregation unit). Funnily enough, I've never met a con who wants to own up to having trained as a locksmith! I wonder why?

  11. You should watch "Russia's Toughest Prison" on BBC4, none of the cons plead their innocence in this show!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I did manage to see the second half of the documentary, but I'll try and catch it online. From what I saw it does look pretty tough! I'm not surprised to hear that when Russia suspended the death penalty in 1996 cons started committing suicide, presumably because death was considered preferable to living in a Russian prison!

      Interestingly, only a tiny proportion of prisoners in the UK maintain innocence. Most plead guilty in the courts to get the usual 1/3 discount (1/4 for most murder cases).

      Launching an appeal isn't something to do lightly, as it can have serious consequences for those that aren't successful. In theory, the full Court of Appeal (three judges) can make what is called a 'loss of time' order if they reject the appeal. This can mean that any time spent in prison from the date the appeal was launched until the final hearing doesn't count towards the sentence to be served. If the appeal has taken a year or two to come to court, then that is a lot of prison time to lose (or to have added to your sentence, whichever way you want to look at it). That's why some prisoners decide not to take the risk, even if they are innocent.

  12. what is the situation with having a MP3 player in jail and what about radio/cd player players that have a built in mp3 facility. how is it possible to buy the music and what about storing the music, how is this done in jail? what about a ipod, are these allowed? again how is music added to the player? do the prison arrange this. for buying cds and compilation albums, can family and friends order them and have them sent in to the jail. i read somewhere this is possible but the cds must be genuine items and sealed and sent direct from the company that family or friends buy it from, is this correct? what about dvd movies? i know you can have a playstation etc on enhanced status which will play movies but where do i get the movies from. do they have any films in the prison library that can be borrowed like the libraries on the out? any help appreciated

    1. Thanks for your question. Some years back a few prisons, mainly lifer establishments, did permit MP3 players. A lifer I once shared a cell with explained that they had access to computers (non-internet) and music was downloaded from CDs and shared between the cons. However, that has now stopped completely. MP3 players and similar devices such as iPods are now completely banned under PSI 30/2013.

      CDs can still be purchased from approved suppliers such as Gema Records, the firm that supplies certain models of PlayStations and computer games. However, prisoners have to buy these themselves via the prison using only the money available in their 'spends' accounts. Family and friends can only order books (or audiobooks for inmates who have certain disabilities).

      It's the same situation with DVDs. These can only be ordered by the prisoner via the prison. When I was inside the approved supplier for DVDs was, but this may have changed since they are no longer an approved supplier for books (Foyles, WH Smith, Blackwell's and Waterstones).

      Most prison libraries do have DVD libraries, although the range and quality really varies. Also, under current rules no DVD rated as 18 can be watched or owned by a prisoner. The maximum is a 15. Ridiculous, really as Film 4 regularly shows 18 films and that is one of the nine approved freeview channels prisons can receive on their rented cell TVs.

      There can be technical issues using a Playstation to show DVDs. I once shared with a lad who had a Playstation 2 and it had a nasty habit of damaging DVDs. The best solution is to share a pad with someone who has either a Playstation or a DVD player and then you buy the other item. Even if you are on Standard level in the IEP system, you can still share with a bloke on Enhanced, although you won't be able to order any DVDs until you get Enhanced yourself.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you need further advice or information.

    2. Hello, I am a completely innocent lady, prepared to be polygraphed to prove it, about to be sentenced for "hate speech". I was framed: how I was may be of interest. The transport police, their labs & bosses did it (using EMR/electronics of the police interview (music) tape the master tape too, while the solicitors did nothing when it was reported to them.
      As bad, the jury was fixed BY THE STATE USING LONG RANGE E.M.R at night from outside on the electoral rolls inside their crown court PCs from which jury members for the whole country are selected using postcodes. Geeks write it can be done! And, the lying evil police are allowed to "Vet", and select unwanted but likely good jurors; being bad themselves they wd not select good the guise of weeding out criminals.
      Our jury system has been destroyed ; do not go to them expecting justice anymore.
      C.P.Pict Director, ChildeRunawaysNightsheltersCharity.4.9.15.