Into the abyss

To say this is a prison in decline is a real understatement. This is a Blackwatch site in rapid descent and we, the poor stiffs who endure, are plunging into a hellish abyss.

I dare the inspectors to call again, even they would be amazed at how fast apathy can destroy a place like this. Here are some HMP Exeter facts and faults – OL’s (Ordinary Letters) have not been issued for 7 weeks, we do not get NPR [national prison radio], I have had one sheet on my bed for weeks, apps and complaint forms disappear, and much more.

I have now started writing my COMP1s [complaint forms] in duplicate and logging them myself, but some people cannot read or write, and this prison does not facilitate anything as fundamentally important and self-improving as teaching people to read.

There are no toe-to-toe groups or anything like that here. I have been trying to get a job since I arrived, but have now given up. All the Governor’s hype about in-cell phones improving prisoner-family bonds and relationships is guff to us as most of us cannot afford PIN credit.

But there are things that Exeter regularly tops the charts with, such as hot-water assaults, prisoner on prisoner violence, prisoner on staff assaults and suicides in custody. I may not be a Cambridge University mathematician, but it doesn’t really take a genius to see a very sad, very avoidable pattern here, one of apathy, neglect, irresponsibility, lack of empathy and serious violence, self-harm and suicide.

If only we were encouraged to do something for ourselves and given the tools and support to better ourselves. Better and happier people would evolve and emerge from this dark place of failure and misery. A person who is learning to read, who can listen to others and identify with them, is able to feel decent and stay focused.

Damien McEvoy
– HMP Exeter

First published in Inside Time

Stuart Clarke

Author: Stuart Clarke

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