The following is a letter to insidetime, from issue February 2012
I would like to highlight and make comment on a recent drama shown on BBC 1 – “Public Enemies”.
The programme featured a recently released murder case acted by Daniel Mays and a Probation Officer played by Anna Friel – a MAPPA board was featured at one point. Written by Tony Marchant. I am wondering if he has experienced the system as I found the programme eerily accurate from all angles and in no way exaggerated – from my experience of Life License. I found the reality to be played down but certainly enough reality to make people take notice.
It depicted just how much responsibility is placed on the supervising officer to ‘control’ the licensee.
At one point the ex-offender was threatened with recall for ‘being caught in a lie’. This nervousness was due to the officer’s own predicament – she had recently ‘failed’ to control a client who re-offended. She feared being ‘struck off’. This mirrors the current system. It showed how knee-jerk reactive she had to be – to preserve her career.
You saw how the ex-offender lived in constant fear and threat of recall from every angle – hostel staff, people with grudges and probation. It is in reality impossible to live like this for all involved. The pressure and oppression can only end up in destruction in one way or another.
You saw a grown man reduced to tears due to the uncertainty of his freedom, the pressure, the stress, the mental anguish.
I have experienced all of this. If you will be on Life License, be prepared, this is how your life will be.
I familiarised with the ex-offender when he went to his GP for medication to ‘take the edge off’ (in reality this is the point where most would relapse if they used to use drugs – is it any wonder.) He stated to the Doctor if my probation officer finds out, it will do me no favours. It is sad when one cannot even turn to their Dr for help for fear of being recalled for ‘not coping’.
I myself with no mental health issues was offered to be hospitalised as I was such a nervous, depressed wreck. I didn’t touch med in jail on a long stretch. I was too scared to accept the help for fear of recall. I suffered in silence alone with nowhere to turn.
A person should not have to live this way – I am not even a murder case – GBH, prior to I.P.P.s existence.
A probation officer should not be expected to ‘control’ a person. No human being can be controlled without it being abusive – this is where the system becomes mentally abusive.
You saw how the Chief Probation Officer found ‘risk’ in the ex-offender’s reaction of running away when he bumped into victim’s family. Yes, I’m perplexed myself to see the link – it’s things like this cross-fertilizing of ‘problems’ that make me question my intelligence – can you see the risk of his running away in fear? This is how it really is out there, ‘problems’ being plucked out of normal things, ? to result in recall = removal of the person= removal of responsibility. This is the current system in reality – scary isn’t in it.
In one scene, the P Officer gives licensee a day out – says I can’t keep punishing you can I. This is an ideal and would help counteract the negative effect of over control techniques - but it doesn’t happen in reality. Continual punishment does, resulting in insanity or breaking point – then for either natural or human response, comes more punishment. All humans have a breaking point, they want to see what yours is and how you display it. Any response even if non-violent results in destruction in one way or another.
Anna Friel’s probation officer actually says in one scene, “I haven’t managed a problem, I’ve created one.” This is profound and true. If only this could be acknowledged in reality. This profound accurate statement was made after the ex-offender finally reached breaking point. Smashed a chair up the wall in sheer frustration at his situation – he screamed “is this how you protect the public, by making me feel desperate” – yes it is.
This is what would happen to ANY human being subjected to such oppression/punishment without ‘cause’. The most passive person would break – it is psychology and in my view that is exactly why this dangerous mind control game is played – then you’re punished again, for being human. I find it confusing that such natural responses to mind control are related to ‘risk’. It isn’t, it’s psychology – yet it is overcooked and blamed on ‘poor problem solving’.
It is my view that if the supervising officer has read our licence conditions, made the rules clear, provided interventions. They have done their job. They should not have such unrealistic expectations placed on them, ie to control a human being. They should also not live in fear of losing their career should something go wrong. The only person anyone can control is themselves.
Anna Friel stated in her disciplinary hearing, “years ago, this job was about helping people, helping them become better. Now, it’s all about control, punishment and keeping the crime rate down.” It’s true.
I really hope that probation officers and MOI Officials watched this programme.
The hypocrisy of the system, the constant contradictions were also depicted; it was not lost on me. The licensee went to anger management. He was taught “Confront the problem, not the person – solve the problem, not the person.” I rest my case.
I was extremely impressed with the accuracy of Public Enemies. I think it is high time that the public realises that even if a lifer on a murder charge is eventually released they are never free, are continually punished and live in emotional turmoil. That, in fact, prison is the easy part, release is far more difficult to survive.
I also think that the group of lifers that have not murdered should not be made to live like this.
There needs to be categorisation of lifers, they should not all be treated the same. There needs to be differentiation of offences resulting in tailored management on license.
Failing this, we could be micro-chipped and programmed to be the perfect human beings devoid of emotion or natural human responses.
A probation officer once said to me that the lifer system if 50 years old. The licence is aimed at people/men aged 50 years plus, not youngsters like yourself.
A review is much needed – this will reduce re-offending and recall and actually give people a chance of being successful on license. The current system in unrealistic and can only end in failure, one way or another.
Comments about this letter
5/2/2012 sandra abbott -my son is on licence for 7&halve years which ends in 2018.Just recently he was arrested and handcuffed and done a runner but the bullies in blue caught him were he fell to the ground and one officer kicked him in his legs and between his legs put his hand over my sons mouth were he couldn,t breath so he bit the officer so now his po has recalled him back to prison for 28 days because of an assault on a officer.I have spoken to his po over this issue asking him does he think my son done this cos he felt like it there was a reason for it his reply was he assaulted a officer.I am real annnoyed over this situation i wish i could take it further and whats annoyed me even more this so called prob.officer has done nothing for him for the last 15 mths he has been home ,all he has done is recalled him back to prison.
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