Is There Life After Death?
For the purpose of this blog, the context of this elusive question concerns life after prison. Prison is a death sentence for many, horrifyingly, not only in the physical whilst banged up, but in the psychological sense upon release.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties I had many friends who ended up in prison. Northern Ireland would’ve done that to you at the time. My answer was to leave and explore the big wild world.
When I’d pay a visit home I’d get “did you hear about so and so he got ten years” etc. My uneducated and ill-informed attitude at the time was ‘hopefully it will do him (never a her) the power of good and he can get on with his life, a better person, when he gets out’. Oh, how times have changed.
As I’ve mentioned before the term ‘adjusting’ to life after prison, for me, is like finger nails scratching a blackboard or tumble weed blowing across the street before a gunfight.
I do like these definitions as they refer to the word ‘adjust’ in relation to an object, after all that is what one becomes upon a spell at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Then there is number seven –
“1. to change (something) so that it fits, corresponds, or conforms; adapt; accommodate:
to adjust expenses to income.
- to put in good working order; regulate; bring to a proper state or position: to adjust an instrument.
- to settle or bring to a satisfactory state, so that parties are agreed in the result: to adjust our differences.
- Insurance. to determine the amount to be paid in settlement of (a claim).
- to systematize.
- Military. to correct the elevation or deflection of (a gun).
verb (used without object)
- to adapt oneself; become adapted:
They had no problems in adjusting at the new school.”
It took me a long time and a lot of skulduggery to adapt to prison life. I’d regard myself a professional after six years. I honed the whim of staff and management to continually move the goal post and pre-empt their every move whilst at the same time never letting my guard down.
In the end I can only describe it as psychological warfare. Therefore, one would think after mastering the art of warfare in the institution of prison that it would naturally assist a body in ‘adjusting’ (grrr) to the after life after prison. Unfortunately, in my experience, this has not been the case.
“Primum non nocere,” or “first do no harm” may not actually be quoted in the original Hypocritic Oath but for all sense in purpose we get the gist and as prison regimes are based on a combined military and medical model of care I find rather hypocritical and an effrontery the words ‘duty of care’ and those ‘in (or under) our care’ given the nature of the institution of prison.
Upon leaving prison I was so damaged mentally that I could hardly function as human being never mind adjust to living in society. I left prison with a BA (Hons) in Criminology and Psychological Studies, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Suicidal Thoughts, Social Awkwardness. Oh, and nice pair of work boots.
Having all these wonderful letters after my name allowed me to explore the getting on with life expectations post prison. Would you employ a middle-aged man (now not so middle) with all these lovely qualifications and a conviction that will never be spent?
Well would ya, punk? I’m still unemployed and to be honest am starting to give up on the notion as the past, age, mental and physical illness are not on my side. It was with great sadness that I left a Work Fair in the Europa Hotel Belfast a couple of years back.
Myself and my friend Robbie (who’s in the book) were making enquiries to the hundreds of employers as to their policies on employing ex-prisoners (it was easier to say ex-prisoners due to time constraints). Not for ourselves, but for the younger people leaving prison with NVQ’s, OCA’s and early Open University modules under their belt. Some employers didn’t know they had one, others an absolute no but some would consider if conviction spent. When Robbie and I explained we were asking on the behalf of younger people the majority of employers did say that it was something they would look into. When we enquired about ourselves they just laughed.
The hypocrisy of prison never ceases to amaze me. All one really has to do is look at the mission statements and politique. They all sound wonderful and quite plausible until you leave Narnia and face the cold hard facts of living in society. We are not wanted, we are still a non and in the norm most people don’t actually give a flying fuck.
As I may have mentioned in my own blog I have been accepted by my community, but this has only been achieved by furthering my academic studies and sharing my life via criminology conferences, my blog, TV and Radio and few drunken nights out and about.
I was posting a copy of my book off to a competition a few weeks back and the lovely lady who has worked in the local Post Office all her life realised it was my book that I was posting. Upon my next day visit to the shop this lovely wee woman announced to the whole ensemble and me that she had bought it on Kindle and was loving it. I now can’t pass her without an update and a ‘well done you’ an ‘oh you poor thing’ and ‘you should be proud of yourself Michael.’
Went over to my Dad’s this morning and he tells me the wee woman told him she was loving Michael’s book and that he must be so proud. My Dad’s reply to me this morning well at least it’s done you no harm. I sort of get it but in effort to keep the peace I let the hair sit. When I think of the hurt and pain I’ve caused my family over the years my heart breaks a little bit more.
Therefore, no, I simply cannot accept the terms ‘adjust’ or ‘adjusting’, the very fact that thousands of people leave prison with absolutely no chance of surviving in society leaves me with the conclusion that there is only death after life from a prison perspective. For many it will be physical death (an unrecorded statistic) but for most it will be a life sentence or social death to the uneducated.