Being Unprofessional

Posted: 17 November 2012 in Prisons, Understanding Others
Tags: , ,

There are a lot of professionals in a lifer’s prison, to manage the prisoners, not just to “contain” them while inside, but to reduce their risk to others when they go outside. Education, Psychology, Offender Management, even Chaplaincy. Prison Fellowship put on the Sycamore Tree course too. I as surprised to hear one of the prisoners describe it as non-professional – and because of that it moved them.

As the prisoner moved towards his release date, he can be put Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Relationships courses, Self Awareness Inventory, etc, to address attitudes and thinking behaviours. Joey said to me, “you just mouth off at a prison officer and it’ll get noted down somewhere”. Even if Joey is wrong, it is what he and some of his peers are thinking. 

“It is not like these prison courses, Sycamore Tree” said Al to me. “Those are hoops you have to jump though. This was not about your crime, or you, only analysing the offence itself. I was surprised how much I got out this. In prison you become engrossed in yourself, doing your time. Though the thoughts of the victim are always with you, Sycamore tree helps you deal with the victim as well. Meeting a victim of crime on this course helped me visualise my own victims, in a way the prison programmes don’t. We get a chance here to talk to volunteers about our crime”. I challenged, didn’t Al have the Chaplaincy? ”Yeah, sure. We have Chaplaincy. But these are outsiders and fresh. Many folk in here (prison) don’t have visitors. We need a little hope.”

Phil added “the hardest bit in Sycamore Tree is to listen to the victim’s story. Looking into the mother’s story, when she picks up her dead son’s shirt. I was surprised that she wept caring about us. I was expecting some ‘stick’. Indeed, I was looking for it as some sort of punishment”. 

The Sycamore Tree course is run by volunteers. The victim of crime who comes is not the victim of these particular individuals, but just another volunteer, who is prepared to tell their sad story.Nick, another lifer added “it’s always nice to see visitors, to speak to people from the outside, as you think all outside people hate you or despise offenders. Or that they don’t care.”

That they care, and are not paid to care, matters. For once, it is being un-professional that makes the care count. 

NB: all names have been changed.

Bill Lovett


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