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The following is a letter to insidetime, from issue April 2010

Playing havoc with incompetence

From Veronica Hyland – HMP Askham Grange

I read with great interest the article ‘Renaissance in Prison Law’ by Ben Gunn in your February issue, in which he says he is convinced that the number of ‘jailhouselawyers’ needs to be increased and suitably equipped with the proper tools.

I am a person with some legal knowledge and when I was taken into custody it very soon became common knowledge among the other prisoners that I had been a solicitor; they were soon coming to me with all sorts of questions and queries, not necessarily relating to law, sometimes just because they considered me to be more intellectually able to answer their questions and queries.

I recently attended a board for full risk assessment to enable me to have child resettlement leave. At the board, the full risk assessment was confirmed and application for child resettlement home leave granted. Whilst at the same board, the chairperson told me she wanted to take the opportunity to raise a concern with me about ‘legal advice I had given to other residents’. When I asked which residents and what legal advice, I was told by the chairperson that she did not know the details but just wanted me to be aware that there were ‘rumblings’ about me giving legal advice to other residents. I pointed out that I am no longer a practicing solicitor, do not have a practicing certificate, and therefore cannot give legal advice.

I am having some difficulties with the prison authorities concerning disability discrimination and I am being very vocal about the issues concerned. Now some of you out there might think that raising ‘concerns’ about advice I may or may not be giving to other residents, that might or might not be considered of a legal nature, , at a board that was specifically for my licence for home leave, a convenient coincidence; then again others of you might consider the fact that I may or may not be a potential thorn in the side of the prison authorities and the thought of me giving support (of whatever nature) to other residents that could also become potential thorns in the side of the prison authorities smacks too much of coincidence, so much so that it might even be considered intimidation, which incidentally is the conclusion reached by others who are not necessarily residents.

As to the prison service and the jailhouselawyer, I would happily lend my own humble weight to try and level the playing field for those of us unfortunate enough to be incarcerated. However, I doubt the prison service is going to greet us with open arms, much less leave us in peace to play havoc with their incompetence.



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Comments about this letter

13/7/2010 Gordon Smith - - webvideocall.oovoo.com/callme/gorlynne/256

How long did it take to come to this conclusion? Prison officers are bullies and will use any means whatsoever to coerce prisoners from helping others to point out their incompetence and bullying and to prevent prying eyes into their failings. It is a sad state of affairs to be threatened, but if you help prisoners there is a certainty that you will be labelled as disruptive and subversive. Therefore you have to decide is it worth it for you to help others? The best way to hurt the prison service is to hit them in the pocket and no doubt he has found out that the prison service is institutionally discrimantory especially against the disabled. Every prison has a DLO (Disabled Liaison Officer) some better than others and that prisoners need to be asked how or what adjustments are required for them as individuals and for them to publish how they intend to carry out these adjustments.

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Summary of letters in the Mailbag for April 2010
Publicity stunt
Legal duty of care to diabetics
Category eligibility
Sexual activity a reality
Provision of materials for legal action
Cut out the hard luck stories
Current page: Playing havoc with incompetence
Eliminating discrimination
Prisoners’ pay
Visiting order validity period
What do we want from our prisons?
Banned DVDs
Don’t make me laugh
Putting the record straight
Common sense approach refused
DHL monopoly
Meaningless ‘apology’
Fear of wilful headlines
Horse sense
Legal highs – a drugs revolution
The curse of old age
Recall: more transparency needed
Serious ramifications
Dangerous dabblers
If wishes were horses
Haven Distribution
A nice little earner?

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