Tag Archives: Book ban

Wassssup?!?

This is an intercepted (but entirely imagined) Whatsapp conversation. 

CeeGee: Bro!

The GoveMeister: sup

CeeGee: You seen my main man Davey C? Been tryin to bell him up but he ain’t taking my call, bro.

The GoveMeister: chill man. he been busy with that Euro crew. brexit be a wicked ting yano?

CeeGee: Is dat wicked bad or like wicked good man?

The GoveMeister: 😜

CeeGee: But it like he proper dissin’ me. It be like my time as his Lord Chancellor ain’t mean nuthin!

The GoveMeister: dunno watcha chattin about

CeeGee: All this prison reform BS. Proper showin me up, bro. Like I didn’t no shit when I was there doin the tough guy pose and dat “no nonsense” face. 

The GoveMeister: LMAO

The user CeeGee invited the user DC_PM to join the conversation

The user DC_PM declined the invitation to join the conversation. 

CeeGee: It ain’t funny, bro. U ain’t been any better.

The GoveMeister: man, it just business. i am just taking care of business. it’s all cool.

CeeGee: It wouldn’t be so cool if it was you he was sellin’ out bro.

The GoveMeister: i feel you. yano dat education ting don’t end so well for me. yo just gotta roll with it man. take the hits. be on the down low when it all come on top. you know what I be sayin?

CeeGee: Not really….couldn’t you just have kept one of my things real. Like the book ting. Or dat big house for the yute offenders? Or maybe that tings that totally fkd the solicitors. They were all cool.

The GoveMeister: sorry dude. they were not cool.

CeeGee: I aint gettin no respeck innit?

TheGoveMeister: word

CeeGee: Bro, I be like all losin face in the Westminster hood. Everyone is sayin I ain’t know nothin. Everyone is be like “CeeGee, he ain’t got a clue”

The GoveMeister: you aint. lol 😂

CeeGee: Bro, I am the Leader and don’t you go forgetting dat. Don’t make me come round there and smack you up.

The GoveMeister: you ain’t got the moves to worry me. i am the LC now. u know that bill of rights ting you started?

CeeGee: Bro, you know I love my bill of rights. It was pure CeeGee, dat. 

The GoveMeister: well it’s goin the same way as the saudi prison deal and the court charge. consider yourself well and truly out of the crew

CeeGee: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah 😢😥😪😭😰😿

The GoveMeister: talk to the hand ✋

CeeGee: I got a wicked idea to stop the press knowin when the Feds wanna talk to one of us.

The GoveMeister: 💩

CeeGee: U ain’t got no right to be like dat

The GoveMeister: now be a good boi and stop ur bitchin

CeeGee: Can you talk to DC? Put in a word.

…………

CeeGee: U there?

………….

CeeGee: Bro??

You are blocked by the user The GoveMeister. 

The Book-Keeper and the Man

A small bespectacled man sat quietly in the corner, seemingly trying to blend into the background. This is how he had existed in life on the outside. Never standing out, never making a fuss, never being noticed. At first that had just been a natural shyness but later in life it was a quality which meant he was the last person the company had suspected of extracting over £100k from company coffers. In the first few days on the inside it had been a useful defence mechanism. Now a year into his sentence he sat untroubled in the far corner.

The chair opposite him was roughly pulled from beneath the table and he looked up from his reverie to see a shaven headed mass of muscle before him, the reds and blues of a tattoo dancing up his bulldog neck from the blue prison-issue sweatshirt.

“Bazboy tells me that you are the one everyone calls ‘The Book-Keeper’,” the shaven headed man spoke in a hushed, menacing voice.

“That is correct. But mother would much prefer you to call me Arthur,” the other man replied, not looking up from his jigsaw.

“Bazboy said you were the man to come to to be sorted out with some gear,” the bald thug whispered conspiratorially.

“It is true that I have a certain knack in the obtaining of particular articles, but you will have to be more specific than just ‘gear’ my dear fellow,” the Book-Keeper still concentrated on his puzzle.

“Drugs man, innit. Anything man. I don’t care. It’s been a while you see,” the voice softened, became a little pleading.

For the first time Arthur, the one known as the Book-Keeper looked up, his eyes suddenly animated. “Oh yes, I think I can help you there, most definitely. Perhaps Hunter S Thompson or Jack Kerouac would do the job.”

“Sorry mate, slow down. I am new to this gaffe, don’t know the words used here do I? Kerouac… is that Ketamine, and that Hunter thing, is that H? I could go some H to be honest.”

“My dear fellow, Hunter S Thompson wrote ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, surely the finest book written about and under the influence of controlled substances ever. And I have a copy, just for you. Only paperback mind you….”

“Are you taking the piss?” a sudden note of anger flashed across the voice of the customer.

“I am sorry, were you looking for something a bit more non-fiction? Perhaps Howard Marks’s ‘Mr Nice’?” asked the Book-Keeper.

“Bazboy told me you were the go to man if I wanted anything hot in this nick,” the voice now sounded a little exasperated.

“You don’t seem like the Fifty Shades of Gray type and I’m afraid Smithy took my last copy anyway,” sighed Arthur. He pushed his spectacles back up his nose and returned his attention to the half completed picture of cats on the table.

“Not Fifty Shades of bleedin’ Gray, I mean things like a mobi…..”

The Book-Keeper interrupted, “I am beginning to guess that you are not referring to Melville’s tale of the whale, Moby-Dick?”

“Too right I am not. I am talking mobile phones and drugs. Hot gear. Proper prison stuff,” the man sat back in his chair with a deflated air, “and I was told you were the man who could sort me out.”

The Book-Keeper took his glasses off and pinched his nose. “My dear man, you are new here aren’t you?” He placed the glasses back on his face and continued, “I am a dealer in the hard to come by stuff. You want a phone, go and ask Bonehead but don’t ask him where he keeps it. You want drugs? They are easy. It rains tennis balls stuffed with drugs every night of the week and Mrs Jones, the blonde officer, well she has a romantic leaning towards Billy the Whizz on wing B so she brings in all the speed he needs to keep his nickname going hidden inside her bra.”

The Book-Keeper lent back in his seat, “But I, I only deal in the real deal. Books. The stuff that had to be banned. And since the library is only open now and then there is such a demand for what I can offer. The devil makes work for idle hands and all that.”

“How do you get hold of them?” the man asked, strangely curious.

“Smuggled inside kilos of cocaine,” the Book-Keeper allowed himself a little chuckle, “just my little joke. These days they are placed inside hollowed out Playstations.”

“Blimey, I had no idea books were so, well, important.”

“A book, my friend, is an education all in itself. The redemption tales of Dickens and Dostoyevsky, the true life inspiration of Christopher Reeves in ‘Still Me’ or the fantasy escapism of Harry Potter. All food for the soul. All training for the mind. And there is nothing better for business than a little bit of prohibition. So what will it be my friend, a little hit of Amis or a small tote of Betjeman?”

And so the Book-Keeper and the man struck a deal. The road to rehabilitation was mapped out in the pages of a novel.

Of Books and Bingo

One of the things that the public never grasp, that I never grasped until I became a barrister, is that ordinary people end up in prison too. A lot of them. Not every prisoner is a tattoo’d violent thug. Not every prisoner is stuck in the revolving door of the prison system. That the public do not understand it is understandable, that the MoJ should base every policy and public utterance on this fallacy is disgraceful.

Disgraceful but not entirely surprising. My previous experience of politics has always been as an interested observer. Never before have I been so directly interested in a particular department that I have paid as much interest in the goings on of a ministry as I have been since the Transforming Legal Aid consultation was announced. So now I realise that the Ministry of Justice will never let the truth hinder their thoughts, actions or public pronouncements.

So the “book ban” story has been a fine example of their general approach. It is a shame that the “justice ban” brought about by the restrictions on access to courts for prisoners has not received as much media attention but I will take my exposure of the MoJ wherever I can. And in this case they are exposed as lying, cheating, penny pinchers who put the monetary cost of anything ahead of its value.

The restriction on books and other items being sent into prisoners is contained within a prison circular designed to promote the “Incentives and Enhanced Privileges” scheme. The context is given that it is too easy for prisoners to just have things sent in for them. They should earn their access to things by being compliant in the prison. Then they will be able to earn money to buy the things that may improve the hours spent otherwise idle. The early statements from the MoJ defending this policy were all about this. This is of course a blanket ban introduced based on the idea that every offender is in need of, and is resistant to, rehabilitation. It does not cater for the idea that being able to receive small personal things from the outside world may act as a brake to an offender’s further descent into poor behaviour. If the idea was that you had to earn the right to have things like books why not just introduce that you had to earn the right to have them sent in from outside?

Then came the change. Then came the justification that parcels had to be banned because they were being abused by prisoners seeking to receive contraband items such as phones and drugs. The parcels could not be screened for the presence of such things. Something had to be done. A ban was the only answer.

If that were true then the only answer to the tide of drugs and phones in prison is to ban prison officers from entering the prison estate. And to ban new prisoners as well. As anyone knows there are a number of ways drugs etc get into prisons. They are sent hidden in parcels (albeit I venture to suggest rarely), they are carried in hidden about new prisoners or visitors, they are thrown over prison walls or they are conveyed by corrupt prison workers. If the answer to the drug problem in prisons is to ban the means of them being smuggled then you are going to have some pretty empty prisons devoid of prisoners or guards.

So the truth is that in order to tackle one problem the MoJ will create another problem and hide it in a false justification. The problem seems to be that prisons cannot afford the labour or the equipment involved in checking parcels that enter the establishment. So something which is generally seen as a positive influence is sacrificed on the altar of cost.

And I seriously hope that it is only cost that has come into this equation and not profit. I recently came across this article which kind of made sense. There is profit to be made from the prison estate having a single supplier of items to their captive market. I believe that David Mowat MP would call that an anti-competitive cartel. I am sure he will be raising questions in the House about it.

I hope someone will. Because on the Today programme Jeremy Wright was asked to identify the business that would supply the books to prisoners. He came nowhere close to answering. Are the MoJ making money out of this cartel with a single supplier into the prison estate? As you can see from the InsideTimes article the prison service justified the 5% profit they were making on Argos orders as covering the administration charge. In that case, why not charge for a parcel being checked? Either payable by the family member when it is dropped off or payable out of the prisoner’s money if they want the parcel to come to their cell.

Charge £1 a parcel for prisoners who have been allowed the privilege of receiving parcels. Discipline and costs covered. Bingo! And the Government like Bingo.