Prison Officers understand right and wrong, Legal Representatives understand winning and losing. Blog.
Prison Officers understand right and wrong, Legal Representatives understand winning and losing. Discuss.
“Gov, how can you do this job?”
Many years ago a Headteacher said to me “fundamentally, people are good” and it’s turned out to be true. Strangers I’ve met throughout my life have been given the benefit of the doubt and mostly come up trumps. I believe you should be able to lean a bike against a shop window and find it there when you come out. Your car should have as many windows in it as when you parked it and your house should not have to be like Fort Knox to keep burglars out. I agree with the laws of this country, including the right to be free from sexual or physical assault. If you cross these laws you will go to jail and I will lock the door every night with a clear conscience.
“What about those who are innocent?”
I don’t know who they are. It’s not easy to get in to prison, if anything most people should go to prison long before they get their first sentence but the bottom line is, I don’t meet many people that claim to be innocent. Of those who claim innocence most are arguing that the exact conviction is wrong. Yes, they were there and involved but the exact conviction is wrong. Unlucky kid.
“What if they’re mentally ill?”
Difficult, I am aware of quite a number of prisoners whose mental health behaviour has been interpreted as criminal because the other option of using a Section of the Mental Health Act to hold then assess is no longer available due to resource issues. If this response was used against you it might take the following course. You’re having dinner with friends in a lovely restaurant when an ulcer in your stomach bursts. You wretch and spray some blood from your mouth. Instead of an ambulance, the police turn up and arrest you for criminal damage to the restaurant carpet and you go to prison. Replace ulcer with mental health problem and you have the mental illness route into custody. So how can I lock them up? It’s easy, most people in this situation are homeless when not in prison so its good to give them 3 meals and somewhere warm to be. Also, behind the illness is the personality and I’m lucky enough to be working with some people who are frankly a bit of a laugh. I’m working to try and ensure they don’t hit the streets on release so it’s not ideal but it’s moving on.
“I told that idiot on the switchboard I’d be here at 10 now where’s the prisoner?”
Most of my dealings with legal representatives come when I supervise legal visits. The quote above was fairly unusual in its rudeness but fairly common in reflecting an underlying attitude of mild contempt from legal reps to prison officers. One of the reasons for this is simple. Prisoners often portray officers as brutal violent thugs when in conversation with Legal Reps. I know this because they will go for the double whammy and speak of officer brutality in a loud voice to gain lawyer sympathy and officer anger. The drip drip of prisoner accusations is never balanced with any conversations with officers therefore the view of officers becomes negative.
Legal representatives have no moral compass at all.
Before you jump all over me hear me out. Appearing in court is a process devoid of morality. Has the prosecution got a case? Can they present it without falling into a trap? Was the investigation conducted properly? Was the evidence handled properly? Is this the correct charge? Is the paperwork complete and legal?
I suggest, for the purpose of this discussion, that Legal representatives adopt a position of neutral morality for their job. You don’t ever ask if this defendant is a danger to society because it’s not your job. Sometimes, legal people go into an area akin to hell. Rape victims being grilled in the witness box for hours in the hope they disintegrate as a person or the Dowler family being put on trial in the faint hope that Bellfield might see their resolve weaken and he gets away with murder. I’m not saying that I see an alternative but I am saying that as a prison officer I have a clear moral compass while as legal representatives you don’t have that luxury and I wonder what that does to you, how you manage the problem or indeed if you think there is a problem at all.