The following is a letter to insidetime, from issue August 2010
Over the past couple of years I’ve pursued the appeals/complaints procedure assiduously for a simple emplacement of fairness. It only leads to the conclusion that the previous Blunkett/Straw hegemony has effectively shut down practically every avenue for contesting almost all decisions, no matter how reasonable.
Prison management will quite readily overturn a positive decision for a negative one, but very rarely vice versa. We should not bother to be upset or resentful about that. It’s not personal. Prisons are predominantly negative environments, focussed on constraint, punishment and containment. It’s only to be expected that staff are orientated towards negativity in most matters, and may be obligated to positive actions often as a last resort. There will be some more positive spots in places to decry such allegations, but generally it’s a nullifying environment where appeals are viewed at confrontations.
The language used is rarely a direct NO, but more often a political swerve, especially in the tedious cases where a prisoner has a fair and valid call for their cause. This is merely a reflection of how politicians speak regularly to counter questioning, by avoiding answering the core issue. Verbal swerving has almost become an art form. There has developed a commonality in public debate for ‘doing a Ronaldo’. A ghost, shoulder-dip, quick shoe shuffle, shimmy, head twitch --- then gone. Don’t fall into a direct tackle. Avoid any straight moves because that’s how to come unstuck. Quick feint and whizz past (what a star!) If you get a Paxman – take a dive. Bank on hoodwinking any fair minded referees. This is the language that has seeped into most areas of governance. And it pervades every level from ministers to MPs to NOMS and judicial reviews. It’s very much the new language of appeals/complaints procedures.
Resorting to IMB is a somewhat amusing part of the process to try all quarters of appeal. I’ve found that some may respond with high-handed rebuttal worthy of the caricature snooty magistrate in a Dickens novel, highly elitist and dismissive. Others may see clearly a good case to be answered, and so simply don’t answer. Of course some may wish to do their best but they have no chance against a set prison negativity, and they have no power anyway, to reason with the unreasonable.
The manner by which the most senior governors dismiss appeal/complaints with ‘write to the Ombudsman then’ illustrates how much inbred contempt has seeped into that.
Comments about this letter
19/8/2010 Gordon Smith -Typical well tried and tested method ignore and it will go away. Does anyone believe in the complaints system ever being fair and equitable? The hardest,no impossible word for the prison service to say is,
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