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Jock Young has offered many telling insights into crime, power and class structure and recently wrote a fascinating profile of the rise and fall of financier Bernie Madoff (in How they got away with it: white collar criminals and the financial meltdown). This reminded me of my time as a probation officer when I was given supervisory responsibility for Brian (not his real name). Brian's financial transgressions, although on a considerably more modest scale than Mr Madoff, in stealing a significant pot of money from his employers accentuated some pertinent themes arising from white collar crime. When Brian arrived for his appointment for the preparation of a pre-sentence report, his smart, articulate and affluent bearing appeared to sit uneasily with many of the presuppositions that often frame these meetings.
The custodial sentence, as the judge noted, was an 'inevitable outcome' as this was a 'grave breach of trust'. My first post-sentence prison visit to meet Brian was a curiously unsettling experience. The oppressive interview room with all the noise and pent up frustration together with Brian's unflappable demeanour caught me quite by surprise. He asserted that having 'undertaken national service' was a perfect preparation for a spell inside and he cited the offers of help and assistance that he provided to inmates aware of his professional background with letter writing and appeal hearings. The circumstances of his offences appear to owe more to a sense of misplaced loyalty than any narcissistic plundering of the firm's books for personal gain. He politely requested that I make discrete enquiries to ensure that his property remained secure and that I support, if needed, his transfer to an open prison. When next we met it was indeed at the open prison: suitable for his designated cat D status (lowest risk of harm and not likely to mount an escape attempt). By this time Brian had reached a point in his sentence when early release on licence was soon to be realised. His achieved status as a white collar prisoner had, it seemed, resulted in a largely untroubled (outside of the pains of confinement) sentence progression.
I visited Brian after release at his flat close to a busy London landmark and his hospitable offerings by way of lunch made for a stress-free interview. He complied with his reporting requirements and was often seen unhurriedly walking his dog in an adjacent park. The loss of income and livelihood was much more difficult to negotiate for him. There appeared to be no artifice to Brian's return to the community and his modest outlays in rent and subsidence suggested that he had not squirreled away any ill-gotten funds. I remained bemused that Brian appeared to cope with his fallen status and did not adopt the rhetoric of victimisation when faced with the challenge of regaining employment (he was approaching retirement age). Brian's well adjusted and solid persona helped him to re-integrate into society after his time inside. Maybe greed and excess entered into Brian's actions when faced with easy access to financial dealings. The losses sustained by his insider fraudulent behaviour were covered by the firm's indemnity fund and far from 'getting away with it' he was apprehended, prosecuted and jailed.
After one home visit Brian pointed towards a framed certificate on his wall, 'I got that after two years' National Service, maybe you should get a certificate that says you have done your time'!
Democracy in action: Public Criminologist versus Publicity Commissioner, or vice versa?
On Monday night, 15 April 2013, I attended a lecture at the University of Hertfordshire given by David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Hertfordshire. Like 40 other areas it differs in its police governance from the Met in having a PCC. Given its size and functioning bureaucracy it is no surprise that the Met has an extensive plan and even publishes the comments they received on the draft.
Lloyd’s speech was very wide-ranging, as is his police plan. He received some publicity in January for his plan to 'Make suspects pay for police cell stay', and his call for more citizen action has been picked out by some for coverage. I am mulling responding to him on the speech (beyond my live tweets @criminology4u) but more specifically on the plan as a resident (it’s my money) and as a criminologist (many of the schemes appeal to the populist). I should not be surprised about Lloyd’s populism as the wordle produced by the Association of PCCs (APCC) shows, ‘Victims, Community Engagement and Cutting Crime’ all feature. And this clearly feeds into their priorities (it is less clear why the page title is a quote from Desiderata) which are, in order and excluding those below 50per cent: Public engagement (73 per cent); Neighbourhood Policing and Volunteering (68 per cent); Victims (68 per cent); multi-agency cooperation (56 per cent); ‘front line’ visible police (51 per cent) and Cutting Crime/increasing safety (51 per cent).
The PCCs were meant to be more democratic than the Police Authorities but only achieved about 15per cent turnout, apparently the worst since 1918 and worse than the 2010 X Factor’s estimated 23per cent.
The APCC summarise the results:
31.7 per cent previously involved with the police authority (12 members and 1 staff member).
8 PCCs are former Police Officers (19.5 per cent)
6 women (15 per cent)
19 Current or former Councillors (PCCs may retain their council seats) (46 per cent)
6 Former MPs (15 per cent)
16 Conservative PCCs (39 per cent of 41)
13 Labour (31.7 per cent)
12 Independent (29.2 per cent)
Overall vote share:
33 per cent Labour
27 per cent Conservative
22 per cent Independent (Independents did not contest 7 of the 41 areas).
Lloyd sits in that venn of Conservative, men, who was, and hopes to continue, as a councillor and was Chair of the Police Authority. With a turnout of 14.5 per cent he beat the Labour candidate Sherma Batson 65,585 to 42,830. Other candidates were from UKIP and Lib Dems.
But back to some aspects of his speech, the evening and a small confession. Whilst far from convinced about the plans for PCCs I did look up how to become one and even jestingly touted my potential candidature on Twitter. If I were to look to a party to support me I’d pick the Green Party but they, for similar reasons to mine, (including the £5,000 entry fee - would the ESRC have funded me as research?) decided against standing; though one Green Councillor in Middlesborough, Joe Michna did.
And, shame, I did not know about the lecture until his team picked up on a tweet of mine and invited me (see how I repay them). It was a public meeting but it felt very corporate, very inclusive of its ‘members’ and exclusive of others - if name badges were anything to go by.
In the Q&A I asked him about comparisons between Saudi and Herts crime figures. He had made much of how low they were in Herts and still intended to drive them lower. Saudi figures are believed to be much lower still. He also made it very clear, despite mentions of sociology, criminology etc, that his Hayekian libertarianism led him to believe that people chose crime. That is as an exercise of free will. My intention in the question was to show - by playfully suggesting the people of Saudi might therefore be more moral than us - that factors other than free will were important. He either misunderstood or perhaps politically cleverly ‘reassured’ me he wasn’t going police Hertfordshire in a Saudi way.
Whilst I disagreed with much of what he said I am glad he gave this lecture - more are promised - and he makes much use of social media (@HertsPCC). He courts publicity and here I give him more in the hope of a public engagement. He seems very keen on Policy Exchange’s Citizen Police Academies ‘to train the public – using a mixture of police officers and voluntary groups with relevant expertise – on how to play their part in the fight against crime. They would be taught everything from how to perform citizen’s arrests safely to how to avoid danger when walking home alone.’
Here’s my proposal, a wider education in crime stats and policing etc. Organisations like the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies might be a good place to start.
These were exciting times for me and I took every chance to move on. My Open University studies were the most important thing to me now with regard to my overall rehabilitation to date. Prison industries could not provide me with anything in comparison, only mind numbing work.
Which I was refusing to do now because there was no benefit in it for me, as is the case for most prisoners.
Yesterday I was invited in to a prison by a governor who I met on my travels to help their team to understand the everyday problems of resettlement. One of the things I heard off one of the governors of that establishment was that prisoners get too many benefits being unemployed i.e. free council passes and so on and that the dole is probably the best we can expect in life. I went off it and got into a debate with her, I was fuming!
My argument being: am I not to have any aspirations like wanting to have normal things in life like a relationship, pay bills, start a family and support them? Have a secure foundation after prison so I do not re offend and am a law abiding citizen and not a burden?
This is what we are up against on a regular basis with narrow minded governors, this one worked in a young offenders Institution. So what future prospects have they got when this is the perception of their governor?
After I had a go at her 2 Independent Monitoring Board members come up to me and said what I was saying was having a greater impact on them prior to anything they had heard before.
At these events I call myself an 'ex-offender'. Another governor who I know through my travels does not like me to describe myself like this, but after yesterday's debate, that divide is still there. Them and us. She has just affirmed that with her beliefs of what we are and what to expect - nothing.
But, getting back to prison.
I could see light at the end of this long dark tunnel and even start planning for my future release.Time was flying past.
I was in the prison badminton team and we used to stay out until 11pm in the prison and were told to make our own way back to our cells. I didn't need to ask permission to go anywhere. You were responsible for yourself and everyone embraced it. The opportunities were unbelievable, paid work, college, Prince's Trust, voluntary work - basically anything you wanted to do the prison was geared up for it and helped you achieve it.
Within days of being there, I had to send my Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) forms to my probation officer who had eight weeks to return them for me to have a full day out with my family. One morning my pad mate came back telling me he was out for the day next week and asked me if I had my ROTL. I chased it up in the wing office then down to the ROTL clerk and anywhere else I could think of. There was nothing there for me so I phoned my probation officer. She was on visits in but was due back in the afternoon. I was missing my deadline date if I didn't get hold of her, when I called back in the afternoon they told me she was on holiday and would not be back until next week.
When I say I lost my head you better believe it!
I called the Chief Probation Officer for Teesside and she had to do my ROTL, something that had never been heard of then and today. First she did not want to talk to me but I'm persistent and wouldn't be fobbed off. I was in the right and I have waited a long time for this. I refused to work with her any further she had no time for me and vice versa.
My time there was great but, as a resettlement regime, for me it was too far away from home and therefore no long term benefits for my release and I asked the governor for a transfer closer to home.
He gave me another ROTL to make my own way there and told me it was the worst cat D going and I was making a mistake, I was better off there. But I needed to be closer to home.
I was off again.
It takes more than 20 minutes for them all to wander in. There are only ten of them but they come from different wings, and some of them like to wander slowly when they're outside because they get so little chance to feel the breeze or see a full sky. There's no sign of that Monday morning feeling either; not with being locked up for so long at the weekend. Some are full of chat about the football results, but most just want to get on with things.
Within five minutes, the atmosphere is settled, the computers are being switched on and papers are being shuffled. These men are serving at least ten years each, though a couple who have just two years' incarceration left, are on the slow home straight. One is writing his autobiography so that his bank manager dad, who was often absent from his life, can see how he turned out this way. One is writing a novel set in early twentieth century America, with the dawn of silent cinema. Then there's the feller who's writing short stories based on his service in the army, the man who's doing advanced creative writing with the Open University, three men who are doing Level One creative writing and never felt confident at school, one who's writing a film script because he's sick of British films' unrealistic portrayal of black youth, and the man sat in the corner who's writing poetry because it might just stop him from self-harming or committing suicide.
Hardly a bunch of stereotype thugs, I'm sure you'll agree.
This may not be an ordinary class, but it's not unusual in my experience. I teach four lessons of creative writing at HMP Frankland and have done so for over five years. I've been writer in residence at HMP Durham and have facilitated numerous creative projects at HMP's Low Newton, Deerbolt and Northumberland.
Prisoners' writing may be controversial to some, but most prisoners write because, in times of crisis and despondency, the pen is indeed a mighty instrument. When your life is curtailed through incarceration, your future blocked by concrete walls, it is natural to turn backwards and ponder, to investigate decisions and actions that led to such a predicament. And it can often be reassuring and warming to gather up some of those good memories too. Most students write about something that is connected to themselves. I spend time with them, offer editing and advice, read over sections of their life that don't appear on charge sheets, or on psychology files. Frequently, I am amazed at the beauty and power of their work.
Writing is good for them. It is good for all of us, regardless of our ability with literacy, our levels of creativity. In this era of increasing tick-boxes and targets, of huge cuts in funding, the importance of the arts grows stronger than ever. For in difficult times the arts work in ways that speak to the self, and weave paths of understanding that help us understand ourselves and move on with greater confidence.
In Ben Shephard's moving book A War of Nerves he uses a phrase from the WW2 poet Keith Douglas (killed in action in 1944) which immediately evoked a memory from my former experiences as a probation officer. The phrase which resonated so strongly was 'beast on my back' and Duncan's (not his real name) expression came into mind. Our first meeting was unnervingly fraught. The case papers hinted at a challenging and troubled individual whose attempts to remain offence–free were usually undone by alcohol binges when a propensity for violence would surface. There was a clear need to try to engage with Duncan and to steer him towards sustained abstinence as a prelude to harm reduction in the areas of his personal life that excited judicial concern.
The sentencing judges noted that although he showed a willingness to comply with the terms of his current community sentence, he was concerned that without a firm approach underpinned by some therapeutic support that Duncan's bouts of violence could escalate worryingly. Duncan offered some broader reassurances to me, that with a pending offer of employment and the chance to settle down with his partner, any misgivings expressed by others could be safely discarded. I remained unconvinced that he had the drive to achieve his goals without some lapses on the way.
Duncan chided me for my lack of faith and suggested I should visit him at his temporary address which would offer added assurances that he had 'mended his ways'. When I arrived at the home address, I was shaken by the almost impenetrable fug occasioned by the heavy tobacco smoke that Duncan's flatmate was giving off. The elderly flatmate was the flat owner.
When we next met at the office I felt that some greater scrutiny was merited into the nature of this relationship, as the responsibilities of informal carer appeared to be swinging in Duncan's direction. This sense of foreboding remained whenever we met, and the topic of whose care was best handled in such an arrangement met with a sullen refusal to open up the conversation. My efforts to clarify the status of this relationship with the local authority did not elicit much by way of raised concern. Duncan did agree to meet with an alcohol worker, which was an important step showing his willingness to discuss the misuse of alcohol and how this was impacting negatively on his relationships with others. I had shared my concerns with my colleague about this scenario as I believed that money belonging to his flatmate was being siphoned off for the consumption of alcohol.
The pattern of supervision did stabilise the tentative beginnings of a more honest professional relationship, with trust leading to the exploration of changes in his approach to better handling his conflicted feelings - often masked by his alcohol usage. Duncan began to feel more enabled in his supervisory meetings and offered insights into his, at times, very visceral anger. He would sometimes bang the desk as if acting to hold back a distressing and intrusive set of thoughts. What lay behind these wounded mutterings? I was slowly sensing some lived trauma that he felt unable to share and that might require greater therapeutic skill. He did eventually offer a terrifying glimpse of what he was trying to suppress. As a former soldier who was enlisted in a UN mission to secure a safe haven for civilians in a war zone, he had witnessed the aftermath of a terrible massacre perpetrated by militia. These scenes of carnage and naked destructiveness, he had tried to block out ever since. Indeed this was 'the beast on his back' and something he could only admit to after two decades.
Reflecting on how Duncan, and many of those former soldiers who now find themselves on probation caseloads, cope with the trauma of war the prescient words of Keith Douglas may serve to offer an insight into the 'beast on my back':
'I can admit only once to anyone, never to those who have not their own!'
My time in prison was passing well and I was happy. It may sound mad being happy but it was a big part of my life and I made the best of it.
The officers in there were becoming a bit more approachable to me and I ended up getting a bit pally with a PO and luckily for me he was made in charge of recategorisation. There was only one category left for me and that was D. He put me in for my cat D after 4-5 months in cat C and I got it. On top of that he said I could make my own way to the cat D. I could not believe what he was telling me, I thought he was joking.
I put in the paperwork and got a ROTL (Release On Temporary Licence), I had eight hours to get from Leicestershire to Derbyshire. Our mam and my sister came to collect me, it was a beautiful summer's day. You can't imagine my feelings at the time. I had been in prison for nine years so far. My sister put the details for the cat D in her sat nav and we set off. It was the first time I had seen a sat nav and could not believe what I was seeing. It did not take long to get there and we had plenty of time left so we went shopping. I spent a few hundred quid on accessories, a quilt pillows, new ghetto blaster, toiletries and so on.
I loved it, freedom!
I had to be at the prison for 2pm, my family left me there. We were all buzzing, you can't imagine the happiness we all shared together. And finally we could all see this coming to an end.
In reception I had to declare all my stuff. The officer was just looking and he had to go through it all. He kept on asking we where I got all it all from and I kept on telling him my last prison. Until he found the receipt for the shopping, he was alright about it and let me keep everything.
The following day after my arrival I had to go and do my induction. I was given a card with a few locations on it and I had to go and basically see what was going on and what I wanted to do. I went in for cell study and got it but had to do part time education with it.
There was a new education block and it was fantastic, there was no pressure and nothing was a drama. The library was unbelievable and open all day, you could just walk in. The overall facilities for further education were very accessible too.
It was definitely the best prison I have been in for getting people back into society via education, employment and training opportunities for everyone. You only saw officers at role checks through the day and after that they were very hard to locate. The whole emphasis was on you to take advantage of the facilities in a formal constructive way.
It was a very happy prison.
I have followed with increasing dismay the numerous concerns expressed over the likely implications of the Ministry of Justice's, alarmingly short, six week Transforming Rehabilitation consultation. If the consultation is implemented without amendments, it could lead to what many fear will be the demise of the Probation Service. Alongside this consultation trundles another legislative milestone in the shape of the Crime and Courts Bill. Contained within the Bill are concerns surrounding the provision that every community sentence should contain at least one punitive element. Reflecting on these developments reminded of a particularly difficult experience that occurred during my time as a probation officer. I was preparing a pre-sentence report on Clare (not her real name) whose index offence was one of threatening behaviour. She had according to the prosecution, persisted in remonstrating about her personal circumstances when faced with potential homelessness from council premises. The police were called to the incident and arrested her and subsequently the magistrates asked that the Probation Service provide a 'fuller picture of this troubled woman's situation'.
I noted on the court papers that the interview for the pre-sentence report might well need to be home–based (in this instance at an address funded by the community mental health services) and arrangements were made for me to visit her. I was used to visiting a high percentage of clients at local hostels and bed and breakfasts. The first meeting with Clare was suffocatingly intimate, in the sense that the B&B room provided was so small I had to write my report notes on my knees as she struggled to articulate her story of increasing marginalisation, vulnerability and an unwelcome dependency on psychotropic medication. Before the visit, I had spoken to her community psychiatric nurse (CPN) so was better prepared to understand the stresses and demands of her situation.
There was some dispute regarding her culpability and as such I was minded to propose to the court that sentence be deferred for between 3-6 months. I would arrange to see her during this time and liaise with her key workers.
I sensed that when the deferment was sanctioned Clare felt 'let down' because deferral was often construed as a prelude to statutory supervision and as such was cited as 'testing motivation'. One day she appeared at the probation office unannounced and insisted that I see her to resolve a number of issues that she believed merited immediate resolution. Hurriedly rescheduling tasks for that day, I accompanied Clare to an interview room and said that I would help as best I could. As I listened to her concerns, she became increasingly distressed. Colleagues in adjacent rooms looked in anxiously to see if my safety was being compromised. I never experienced any fear of potential harm but began to realise that her deep seated issues could not be dealt with on one day. After three hours, and one of the most fraught interviews in my 20 years as a probation officer, Clare left the office weeping inconsolably.
Shortly before her court date at the end of the deferment period, I spoke to Clare by phone and said that a period on a community sentence, shortened perhaps by her deferred sentence, was uppermost in my mind. She accepted that maybe there was some worth in re-engaging with probation, partly to access services that addressed her needs but, just as important, to allow her to explore what she believed to be her 'deeper needs' for some connection to sources of help and support.
I was profoundly saddened to hear from her key worker that staff at the B&B had discovered Clare's lifeless body in her room when they went to remind her of her appointment with her GP. I subsequently found out that she had taken a fatal overdose and had most probably lain dead over the weekend. The verdict later at her inquest recorded Clare's death as suicide. The court was duly informed of this tragic turn of events. I arranged to see Clare's CPN to try to make sense of this sad outcome. He explained that she had mentioned self harming when he visited her over many years but she had always drawn back from the precipice of self destruction. I returned to the office full of gloom and disbelief.
But whether further criminalising or indeed 'psychologising' of Clare's disruptive behaviour would have made any difference to the direction her life might have taken, is indeed a moot point. Certainly when I interviewed her for the first time she said that 'everyone needs to have someone to care for them'. From my point of view, punishment in the community was what Clare had experienced in reality.
There have been many occasions during my 20 years as a probation officer when I was confronted by a distressed and angry parent or relative of a serving prisoner or young person protesting their innocence of the offence(s) for which they were sentenced. Once there was the unexpected arrival at the Probation Office of the irate mother of a young offender (the term 'offender' is given to a young person sentenced for a criminal offence between the ages of 18 and 21) called Stephen (not his real name). I had been allocated casework responsibility for Stephen shortly after he was sentenced to two years in a Young Offender Institution (YOI) for robbery.
Unusually I had not prepared the pre-sentence report for the hearing and as such felt a sense of palpable awkwardness when I looked at the contents of the report in a stuffy interview room with Stephen's mother. The author had commented on the fact that Stephen had not accepted responsibility for this offence and had said that he had been 'framed' by the police. This was greeted with suitable judicial derision and the remarks on the court case papers made for uneasy reading.
Stephen's mother had a resolute and heartfelt belief that mistaken identification had played a crucial role. She claimed to know the identity of the actual perpetrator as he had 'openly' admitted to the fact and this widely heard admission had added to her feeling that an injustice had been committed. I asked how Stephen was coping, having earlier spoken to probation colleagues at the YOI to enquire as to his welfare, and if he was considering an appeal. The appeal against sentence and conviction had been lodged within the 28 days timeframe. At that point, I arranged to visit Stephen and to keep his family informed of my contact. Stephen rang the office and we had a conversation, conducted with the noisy and volatile backdrop on the wing at the YOI.
He requested that I defer any decision to visit him in custody pending the outcome of his appeal. Afterwards Stephen's mother invited me to her address as I had to undertake a Home Circumstances Report. I readily agreed to the home visit and on my arrival, all family members presented themselves (including the feisty family dog), and I was given an impromptu viewing of Stephen's bedroom bedecked fortuitously in the colours of my favourite football team!
The course of the appeal was grindingly slow and it was ever more likely that Stephen would be released before any appeal decision had been made. Stephen's family ties and their fervent belief in Stephen's ability to readjust (in light of what they perceived as a major injustice) really challenged my own preconceptions on some of the quotidian approaches to seeing people who offended as somehow in need of 'fixing', to how best to repair the harm, occasioned by what I could accept was an injustice, with his family and the community. Indeed the one sustaining element which kept Stephen on track during his sentence was the hope of release and his being found innocent.
I met Stephen on the day of his release. He was quietly self-assured and agreed to comply with the terms of his licence (notwithstanding his appeal). I had disguised my own disappointment when an over-zealous middle manager had admonished my attempts to frame Stephen's evident unwillingness to participate in an offending behaviour course – as a part of his licence supervision – as an expression of a legitimate concern that this might confirm his offender identity! Collusion being the unspoken shibboleth of what was often viewed as being ' too close to the offender'!
The pathways towards a successful re-entry to the community had been facilitated by his family support and Stephen had opted not to engage with or contact the person who had 'boasted' that he had 'got away' with this offence. He cited the many occasions in which he had been stopped and searched by Police as he was known to them when a juvenile and mentioned the particular animosity that he had engendered when he had successfully complained about being harassed. To his credit, he was mature enough to be able to distance himself from such events and the take up of employment via a solicitous uncle had removed him from the malign peer driven pressures so many of his contemporaries were exposed to engage in offending.
I recall his mother ringing me on the day that his licence period had expired, her dented confidence in the 'justice system' tempered by what she deemed my open minded and decent approach towards her son, I averred that I hoped that he would be exonerated in due course and secure some redress for 'stolen time'.
Some of my own preconceptions and prejudices had been challenged and I began to rethink my approach to the issue of miscarriages of justice as more than just occasional system failures. In Stephen's case it remained an alleged miscarriage of justice as the appeal was eventually unsuccessful.
But his mother's words at the outset of her struggle for justice for her son were 'Don't just look at the surface, see if you can look in the heart'.
I knew a few lads when I moved to the next prison who I had met along the way and you just get on with it. My 2 Scouse mates got me on a part-time catering course with them. But I was behind on my studies and I needed to catch up and quick.
I’m laughing to myself because on my induction when you see the PO, he looked down at my file then up at me. It was about 5 inches thick!
I told him what I wanted and this was part of a progressive move in order to get myself in a good position for my cat D and later my parole. He asked me about work and I told him I was behind with my studies. He was alright about it and told me to crack on and stay off the radar. Sound.
I’d got to continue my education part time in the mornings and do cell study the other free mornings I had. Everyone who knows me know that I took cell study to another limit! Hahahaha...
In the afternoon I would go to catering, smash it in there. I’m a wicked cook and so were my 2 mates. We’d have some fantastic food in there and take it back for our pals too. It was a real treat.
I was enjoying my studies and the facilities in the jail were excellent. Access to education and resettlement was open all the time to everyone.
I knew the number 1 Governor from my time in HMP Frankland. We were shocked to see each other again but he was a very approachable guy with a top memory. He asked me what I was up to, knowing in the back of his mind I will be blagging him too! He was very supportive and made sure I had good access to education to facilitate me doing my degree with the Open University.
I was averaging scores on my tutor marked assignments from 75-85 per cent. I was enjoying it and it gave me an optimism I never had before and that was hope.
My tutor from the Open University used to come and see me every 6 weeks and he helped me a lot by encouraging me. The overall package from the OU was excellent during my time.
The rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey in India has sparked much discussion and activism. Some note the other 'forgotten victims' or, like Suzanne Moore reiterate, 'Rape is not about sex. It is about power.' And this case supports that. Many protestors use it to call for changes in policing or punishment which is understandable; but, I believe, as a criminologist, can only have limited effect. Others too point the finger at sex selection as an explanation. This might be a biological 'strain' or hydraulic/pneumatic argument but might be reconfigured more sociologically in the masculinities discourse. Hunny Sundal examines Indian culture but finds the complaints of Indian women will be recognised around the world.
The circumstances of her death should leave no room for argument that she had not consented (though see here). Often these matters come down to consent; and largely provided there is consent there is no offence. In court cases these are often matters of contested fact (9 women were on the jury that found Austen Donnellan not guilty) but the law seeks to define some of these matters in advance. Thus the underaged and those drunk or otherwise temporarily or permanently incapacitated cannot consent.
Student drink and sex rape cases like those of Donnellan have lead, most famously in the USA, to guides, codes and policies on 'sexual misconduct'. The most famous or notorious is that of Antioch College (though see those of Earlham and Gettysburg's which owe something to Antioch's). However, in the wake of the Kobe Bryant case Dr Ava Cadell proposes her own Sexual Consent form for all men and women but undermines any criminological or feminist credentials by claiming, 'The Sexual Consent form is NOT a rape tool. On the contrary, I believe that it could prevent rapes because most rapists attack total strangers and they are not likely to use a Sexual Consent Form to coerce a victim'. Perhaps, it is these difficulties that lead an anonymous man to blog 'I'd Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying'. Others are less generous about his confessions.
Andrea Dworkin may not have said 'all sex is rape' but I took it from radical feminists like her and Brownmiller (with a dash of Engels) that within patriarchy the conditions did not currently exist for any woman to consent to heterosex. However, given that these are the conditions in which the majority of women currently 'consent' it may not be helpful to call it all 'rape'. In saying this I am aware that some will now accuse me of making a claim for the existence of 'real rape'. I am not. But I do acknowledge rapes that are most likely to be recognised as such by greater numbers than currently existing radical feminists or those most likely to lead to a successful prosecution. And I'll hide behind Deborah Orr's, 'Even those who believe most passionately that the horror of rape should be fought tooth and nail damage their cause by insisting inflexibly that rape is rape is rape'.
And if these difficulties in respect of defining consent between men and women (often but not exclusively) in wider society how are we to deal with sex in the more coercive conditions of prison? Not only is it contentious it is poorly researched, hence the Howard League's Commission. And I have to admit I failed to get job as Consultant/Researcher for that. It would have been very interesting to have tried to unravel in prison that which we've failed to manage in wider society.
Whilst men are raped - and the anonymous male blogger mentioned earlier concedes his lifestyle may lead to his rape - much of the emphasis within wider society is on the rape of women.
But in talking about prison we will most often be talking about the rape of men. It is mostly an artefact of the collection of figures and methods but it can be made to appear that the numbers of men raped in American prisons exceeds the numbers of women raped and hope I'm not being po-faced in recalling attention to Virgin's advert featuring Wyclef Jean that ends with a prison rape reference.
We cannot meaningfully say no to sex unless we have a meaningful capacity to say yes to sex. And prison illustrates that more obviously than in wider society.