Author: jpriley2502

Men with Tissues and Women with Balls

 

 

INCAS Project delivery has brought me to a new way of thinking. Over the last 18-months, the project has housed and supported men coming from prison.

Running alongside the SHE Project, working with East Lancashire CRCS, Lancashire Constabulary. Sodexo Justice Services (Forest Bank HMP) and Shelter, the INCAS Project was part of an early adoption scheme on “recovery housing” as part of the Through the Gate programme.

The most difficult part of the project was grown men coming from prison and being labelled by referring agencies, as vulnerable.  Most of the stories were word-for-word, similar about what had led them to offending and ending up in the slammer. Throwing in a tear or two, I began to challenge these grown men on how they presented themselves. I first asked if there had been any trade they had worked in – this was met with a resounding, “I have not worked for years.” As part of the initial assessment, I had arranged visits to prisons to determine eligibility criteria for the INCAS Supported Living Scheme. On initial assessment, family dynamics were discussed. This included questions around children and where those children were.

Most of the men responded they wanted to be good fathers and to resurrect partnerships with the mothers of their children. The majority of men on the project had been estranged from children for years due to them being in prison.I assessed levels of alcohol and substance misuse and asked them if they wanted to stop misusing alcohol and/or drugs. Mostly, the replies were “it’s not that easy, I have been doing this for years” This to me suggests there was no intention to stop substance misusing.

My thoughts during this process was one of frustration. These are grown men telling me they were having it hard. Being led to believe by other agencies, they were the victims of some incurable disease, I began to unpick the man sitting before me. I am a former builder with earned stripes of alcohol abuse from the age of 14 and in an alcohol unit at the age of 21-years old. I don’t succumb to fluffy outcomes nor do I believe in hand-patting support. Men are supposed to be men, take responsibility for their families, their children, actions and understand there is a difference between fathering & being a father.  From an early age in the building trade, a man’s wage meant doing the work of a man.

From here, mental health problems were discussed. Statistics show that men are diagnosed with acute mental health disorders more than women. Homelessness is far more common in men than it is in women. Yet, the INCAS Project was offering men a home, support and the chance to re-establish contact with their children. I had many meetings during their support plan on their wishes to have contact with their children. Following a year’s support, not one of the men had established contact with any of the 42 children INCAS Project residents had between them.

The partner agency in INCAS Project is the SHE Project. Most readers of this blog know the SHE Project. Run and founded by the editor of this site, Tracey McMahon, SHE offers supported housing to women in the CJS.

My simplistic approach is that for change to happen in a man’s life, that man has to accept and take responsibility. My statistics show, men were not willing to take responsibility. This became apparent when I had supported some of the women on the SHE Project who had fully engaged with services and discussed their need for a home and to be with their children. Smart and resilient, the SHE Women have shown how to do it.

This brought me to the gender-gap evident in released prisoners. As a comparative study, results from SHE and INCAS showed the outcomes from SHE project work were far more attractive to read. I can only conclude this is due to the women and their willingness to address and accept responsibility for the reasons that got them inside a prison cell. I put this down to the power of Mother Nature. Separate a woman from her child and there are few more powerful sights than a woman rising from adversity to be reunited with her child or children. As a man who has watched his mother fight back from violence at the hands of my father, cancer at the age of 32 and left with no money to raise her five children during the hardships of the late 50s and 60s,  I have always had a deep respect for my mother in what she faced and overcame both as a mother and a woman.

In my eyes grown men don’t cry and ignore their children. They should be a shoulder to lean on for the mothers of their children. They should be getting off substances and caring for their children who are often living with their former partners, struggling to survive. Women are the backbone of communities and society, and it’s time men get off their backsides and support their children. There are plenty of men who have been to prison that I know of back when prisons did not have the attention or the reformers they have today, that have cared for their children and supported the mothers.

As INCAS enters a new era with his much respected sister, The SHE Project, my experience is that men really do have the tissues and women have the balls.

1400 Children and Questions that Need Answering writes JP Riley

CARwedgeSM

Rotherham has hit the headlines this week for reasons that are wrong on so many levels. It appears a huge systematic failure, on a scale that beggars belief, has occurred over a number of years and now the authorities need to explain why. Feeble excuses of “we must ensure this never happens again” are just not good enough.

Child sexual exploitation is a very serious matter. As an observer with no legal experience, the glaringly obvious is the following:

1) Engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 is a crime.

2) Authorities have a duty of care in order to protect children from harm

3) The police have a duty to investigate any allegation.

4) The CPS must consider any case presented to them.

Seems to me this ought to be a simple process that should quite easily run its course.

When is the law not the law? It seems to be able to move the goal posts with the complexities that surround it, nothing seems black or white at times. If a crime and/or crimes have been committed or indeed many crimes as appears in Rotherham, why was it allowed to happen to so many? Who knew about this, and who were actually involved with the process that seemed to fail them all? If politics are allowed to be thrown into the mix this may hinder the process further, throw in the race card or cultural differences and this could hinder the process. Throw in community cohesion and multi-cultural agencies and this may also hinder the process further.

Will one authority or a number of authorities be sufficient to suppress the distaste of many people that are appalled at what has happened in Rotherham? Will it spiral to other parts of the country and show failings in their local authorities too. One needs to cut away the chaff, no excuses from the class system, or the out of control children from the worst deprived areas of the country, or blaming the parents of those children. The law applies to all. Why has the law been distorted in this way? To the naked human eye, it appears the law has been broken to avoid the law.

The police have many questions to answer. There should be questions to answer. Lest we not forget the media. Their control of such events of late have been nothing more than contempt in order to cause frenzies and sensationalise these events. Their profits will soar and they will be wielding their axe on many people in order to conduct their kangaroo trial of these events.

These children have suffered heinous and violent attacks and have been failed on a monstrous scale. By the law, that is supposed to protect the public. Statutory agencies had a duty of care to these children and the voices of these children were ignored. There has been no recourse to help from the victim support networks that are available. The agencies who were aware of these crimes had a duty to report, furthermore, the police had a duty to investigate any allegation and they have a duty to answer now, why they chose not to act on these matters.

The magnitude of the failings between so many agencies and the people responsible for those failings need to be brought to task, people cause system failure and in turn ought to be accountable and dealt with accordingly to that of the law.

You Cannot Melt Ice with Snow – The Ice Mountain that is Chris Grayling

iceman_answer_9_xlarge

 

I love to study body language and there is no better body language to study than that of Chris Grayling. This Ice Mountain of a man, appointed as Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice, has been the subject of criticism from lawyers, probation and lest we not forget those who have been sentenced at the hands of his department. Chris Grayling has caused a stand-off between the Criminal Bar Association of monumental proportions. Even the Yanks are writing about this. My time being in the cells ceased in the 70s. Mr Grayling is the most talked about Secretary of State for Justice in my lifetime and I am 55-years old.

Since his appearance on the panel of Question Time this week, I have seen cries of injustice that questions about the injustices of his axe coming down on the Probation Service and The Criminal Bar, were not put to him. Housing and immigration were the order of the day. The lawyers and Probation staff felt cheated. (From what I have been reading)

We know Chris Grayling is not a lawyer. He has a degree in history. He’s made history, I’ll grant him that. Grayling towers over people as his hatchet comes crashing down on legal aid and the ever controversial figures of re-offending. Controversy theories reign large – he must have something on Cameron to be able to cause collateral damage of massive proportions on the Justice System and not content with pissing off barristers and Probation staff, he’s happy to lock kids up in a modern-day borstal.

So what is it about Grayling that intrigues me? The MoJ have a frontman who is unshakeable. He has a photographic memory. I have watched him on various news outlets and the man never flinches. He is unemotional and chilling in his delivery.  A well-versed public speaker who is not stupid. He knows exactly what he is doing and as the MoJ shuffle their balance sheets, worrying about the cost of legal aid, who better to front out controversial changes than an Ice Mountain who raises an eyebrow and places his hands together, before he launches his missile attack on lawyers and Probation? I have respect for the legal profession and the Probation Service but the missile Chris Grayling has launched on them is huge and he simply, raises an eyebrow as our esteemed legal profession stand off against him and NAPO write daily on the hatchet job he has done on their members.

I am not in a profession. I am a former builder and have worked with people diagnosed with acute mental health illnesses. That took some doing and gave me a few skills to look at behaviours. Chris Grayling’s behaviours have caused the Masters of The Criminal Bar and they are no shrinking violets to stand up to him, but even the Masters of Inner Temples cannot shake the Grand Master who is without a doubt, The Ice Mountain that is unconquerable. One thing you cannot take away from Grayling is that he is an educated man, his use & understanding of words leaves everybody lost for words.

Public opinion is not divided on Grayling. He has obliterated it and everybody detests the man. One cannot even align him to Marmite. People don’t love or hate him, they just hate him. Grayling shows no signs of psychotic episodes, he is neither a sociapath or psychopath, take away the rage and contempt people have for him and look at the man, one could attribute him to an adored Mary Magdalene. The Criminal Bar and The Probation Service are the ones on the pilgrimage. Thou shalt not worship false gods.

The legal profession have their ice picks out and have chipped away at the base of the ice mountain. Despite the overturning on appeal of the halting of a major fraud trial, the legal profession chipped away at the ice mountain. Chris Grayling and the MoJ then used the little-known Public Defender Service and began to offer a recruitment process for lawyers. The Criminal Bar’s reaction to this was to dismiss any lawyer who went and got themselves a paid job.  Sadly the Probation Service have not yet used an ice pick, they have used a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

David Cameron may well be the leader of the Conservative Party, but Grayling is the Don. Grayling decides who lives, dies and who gets to be a volunteer for those pesky re-offenders who will be mentored by a range of private enterprises when sentenced to less than 12-months in prison or a community based sentence.

My opinions are entirely my own and without prejudice. Time to go and take my medication.

Author – JP Riley

 

The Fashionable Trend of Mental Health….

There is no subject matter than I come across more frequently than that of mental health. Government consultation on the controversial section 135 & 136 is current. Having worked in the mental health sector and a previous service-user in the 80’s, I read todays views on it and it brings me nothing more than astonishment.

Personality disorder and multi-personality disorder became terms widely used in the mid-eighties. These terms were used to define those that did not require psychiatric treatment. Mild forms of schizophrenia or bi-polar were placed into “behavioural” grids in order to handle the “Care in the Community” scheme used to “house” those who were previously in the asylums. In the closing of asylums, or to be PC, psychiatric hospitals, a 100-year gagging order was in place as the much-maligned and money-making “suing culture” was about to explode onto the market. Who can fail to forget the hot coffee and suing of McDonalds headline story?

Having previously worked in a secure unit, later to be called a forensic unit, I have experienced first-hand the care received and all that is wrong about mental health care or the lack of it in these fractious modern times.

The demise of the mental health services in this country has presented itself over the last three decades. The cost of mental health care had to be cut dramatically. Duty of care was replaced with duty for the £. As we now see with the fragmentation of the NHS, care services are now outsourced to private enterprises. The prison healthcare system is a good example of this. The MoJ claims all prisoners have the same level of care as if they were to seek treatment in the community. Yet, block bed contracts are being sold to private healthcare companies. Research has shown that prisoners with acute mental health disorders are waiting, shockingly, in some cases, up to a year for transfer to hospital for treatment. What we see today is the fallout of the closure of asylums in the 80s and the introduction of community care. Of course, the slicing up of the NHS has to bear some accountability for this.

As far as I am concerned, there are far too many mental health diagnoses. Bi-polar is the modern- day term for manic depressive. Back in my day, manic depressive had a stigma attached. Now it is considered “fashionable” and “brave” It is an illness that needs serious and specialised treatment. However, the illness can be treated within the community. We know this. I have a family member who is treated successfully, lives independently and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although it was a fight to get the services to engage with us over her care, we are now well-established and have made her safe, secure and as a “vulnerable adult” the police, the housing association and the local mental health team are all in partnership with us as a family to support her. We know of course, people such as Stephen Fry are living well, having great careers and have well-publicised mental health disorders.

As a previous patient of a psychiatric unit at the age of 21 and ongoing treatment for chronic depression, I was diagnosed with multi-personality disorder at the age of 25, I have over 30-years’ experience of mental health services. I was prescribed carbamazepine to control mood swings. I did not find it fashionable at all to be on this drug. I took this drug for four years. This is a drug that is used for anti-convulsions and has been used for epilepsy and other conditions. The drug did work and is no longer prescribed for personality-disordered conditions.

Back in the “old days” having a mental health disorder did not prevent me from working in the sector. Society today works on lessening the stigma associated with mental health disorders. We are more accepting of mental health today than we were three decades ago and far more aware of language used to describe people with mental health problems.

From my point of view, I am more alarmed and astonished at the lack of awareness and how fashionable mental health has become.  This I am afraid, like everything else has become a money-making machine. There is a large difference between acute mental health disorders and the low-level mental health problems caused by modern living such as anxiety and depression that is treated in the community.  The shock when a person commits suicide, as I have seen with friends who have ended their lives due to lack of treatment or of being heard is immense. But we have to get things into perspective. Acute diagnoses are being missed and what can only be described as low-level community-treated mental health problems are being mixed up as we look to have a mental health “blanket system” There is an acute shortage of beds in the system and has been for the last three decades. Until this is addressed, then I fear what we see now, is only going to become a bigger problem.

 

 

 

Modern Times

Modern-Times-poster As a 55-year old man with shall we say, some experience of the Criminal Justice System a quarter of a century ago, I want to look at modern times.

I am amazed at what goes on in the CJS. I live in what can only be described as a shithole. That is how we describe it. Lefties would describe it as a poor, deprived town, righties would describe it as somewhere up North we would rather not mention, it’s a shithole no matter which way you look at it. We are simply too afraid to say it out loud.

Let’s take criminal behaviours. When we commit crime, we are behaving. I used to behave in a way that was against the law, I no longer behave this way. Why? I didn’t have rehabilitation (as it is called today) we simply stopped doing what we were doing and nothing was made of it, we weren’t given awards nor were we given a Channel 4 documentary. We didn’t know what the word rehabilitation meant, it was never used. We were piled in the back of a van, taken to the “nick” and on one occasion I was handcuffed to the custody sergeant’s desk. Superb sergeants and police officers who were just as gritty as we were. Them were t’days.

I read and educate myself and I have a fairly good understanding of politics, government agendas and all-in-all, I am fair-to-middling in the grey matter area for a former builder from one of the shittiest towns in the North. I’m not a writer (I taught myself to read at 21) though. I’m a working class Northern lad who has taken a look around at the broken communities. I look at criminal behaviours and little tow rags committing some savage crimes. There is little honour in teenagers these days,. No respect, I  might have been a pain in the royal behind to the local constabulary, but I would never speak to an elderly person with disrespect. Despite coming from a family of alcoholics, poverty and cockroaches crawling in the sugar pot, we had values drummed into us. The youth offending (a new name) sector seems to be a business these days and is out of control and there is no coming back from this. Rehabilitation is not working, clearly not, Grayling is building a new borstal somewhere, preparing for these “youths” to break the law. When a treasury builds new prisons, yet throws immense amounts of cash at rehabilitation companies (lest us forget the recent sledgehammer on Probation) that tells me everything. Rehabilitation is not happening. It’s a word that is used to dumb us down into not seeing the real issues going on.

Criminality is rife. It ain’t going anywhere soon, Grayling. The gravy train for that one is too big.

Victims – My favourite topic. I am soon to be called victim-.blaming I suspect. There is a crusade going on. My parents were alcoholics. Am I a victim?  No, because today’s society only concentrates on its young. We have more victims because there are more laws. Should I report my parents for abuse? My father is dead, we could convict him for being an abusive bastard to his wife and children. I am disgusted just as much as the next person when I read stories of children being subjected to abuse and I mean abuse, yet we have a society that seems hell bent on criminalising almost everything. Social media reporting, newspaper copy and an abundance of women’s magazines with stories that simply are families making a bob or two for their problems. I was married for 18 years and while it was a marriage that I regretted two years in, I made an effort to remain in that marriage for my son’s sake. That was what we did and my wife drank neat vodka every night. It was hell, but had I left, what would have happened to my son? She was also in a profession that cared for those with mental health problems. I prevented my son during his childhood from being a victim by modern standards. That was my duty as a father and one I took seriously. The current call for victims is nothing short of inviting problems. Domestic abuse is not defined and I suspect, at some point or another, we are all victims at some point in our lives. Victims of crime go through pain of course they do but being “brave” is now considered telling a story to all. Bravery and courage has lessened in meaning. My 78-year old mother was beaten by my father. She cannot talk about it to this day. That’s not a sign of modern times, that’s a woman who has moved on with her life and come to terms that the man she married, my father, was a out and out bastard to her. People fronted it out and got on with life. My sisters and I look after her now and she was no shrinking violet herself – she was handy with a slipper or two when we were kids. We didn’t use the word “victims” we were poor, neglected and lived in extreme poverty.

There is a mixed reaction as we have many generations living in modern times. People are living longer and many can remember the tough times of the post-war era and compare with today’s events and how hard life is. I was a child in the “everything goes” decade, the 60’s and began my first drinking (soon to become a huge problem and related to my time in police cells and magistrates courts) binges in the tough 70’s. While drugs were appearing more in public and the elite have always taken drugs, I was never able to afford them.

Modern times have a lot to answer for. Society causes many of its problems. Is it any wonder our younger generation are in trouble and the treasury is preparing to “secure” them?