Guest Opinion Column published in the Gazette & Herald newspaper – Nov 2013

Prison is not a punishment…

As D, one of our regular guests, comes bounding through the door with his normal vibrancy and high energy levels, I ask him where he has been since he has been missing from our service for a few weeks.

He answers that he has been back in prison once again. Now D is known as a PPO, a “prolific and priority offender” since he has had 15 or more previous convictions or cautions, and D is regularly being sent back to prison for shoplifting, so I’m really not very surprised at the reason for his absence.

In years gone by a conversation with D would have been really hard work since it was very difficult to keep up with his extraordinarily jumbled train of thought, but now that he has been diagnosed (as an adult) with ADHD and is taking medication he is much more confident and eloquent and has the ability to concentrate on one topic at a time. Prior to his diagnosis D would self-medicate with prescription or illegal drugs in order to deaden some of the hyperactivity that he would experience.

The following is a précis of the remainder of the conversation with D in September 2013…

I was sentenced in Dec 2012 for breaking and entering and served 6 months in prisons before being released at the end of March 2013. What I was looking for when I offended was a conditional sentence and help to get into rehab.

Since then I have been in prison three times for shoplifting. Each time I am released it takes six to eight weeks to get my benefits sorted and with no money I have to shoplift.

For me prison is not a punishment but an inconvenience.

I feel I am going around in circles because I am not getting the support I need and whenever I appear in court nobody stands up for me so I am sent down instead of being given a conditional discharge which would get me the support I need.

When the police want to interview me they don’t bother to knock, they just kick the door down which gets me in trouble with my landlord and they are looking for an excuse to get me out.

I had to report to probation when I came out of prison in March but I don’t feel I get any support from them. I haven’t seen my prolific offender manager since March.

What I really want is rehab. My support worker at WSMS has made an application on my behalf for a 1 year rehab course to get me off the methadone. This will keep me out of circulation and allow me to get my life back on course.

The ADHD clinic in Bristol are responsible for my prescription and I have an appointment with them but I don’t know how I am going to get there.

No one does their job properly and no one fights my corner.

D was really upset on this occasion that no one would give him the chance to prove that he could manage with a full rehab support programme in place rather than repeatedly sending him back to prison for shoplifting offences.

D and I decided to continue the conversation and a written record of his thoughts and feelings during the next week’s sessions. Unfortunately, D did not appear again for several weeks and it later transpired that he had once again be sent back to prison.

When D subsequently returned to the drop-in session at the end of October, he was a totally different person. It was like the spark had gone out of him. He shambled and stumbled through the door and then had extreme difficulty in getting his words out. He attempted to explain that he had fallen and hit his head but he was making no sense and my heart broke at the state that he was in.

Now, at the time of writing in mid-November, I have just learnt that he has been sent back to prison once again, and so my recording of his experiences is put back on hold until he is released.

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