I did it – But

Posted: 22 December 2014 in Prisons
Tags: , ,



I did it, but…

  • But life is hard man. You’ve gotta survive
  • But do you know what the Government get up to!
  • But others benefitted from it
  • But I had no victims
  • But it hurt me more, than them. By hurting my mum and dad/wife and kids.
  • But I never did it. I was set up

I’m in prison talking to men as part of the Sycamore Tree course. And this is what I often hear.

There is a strong mechanism of ‘explanation’ puts the crime at a distance. A defacto denial. It is an act of self preservation, in an environment that is telling them, implicitly or explicitly – you are shit, you are worthless, hey toe-rag, you deserve to be in this dump.

Jason says when he gets out “I’ll do it again. I need the money; I’m not going to live without”. Axel is more reflective “I don’t want this again [being inside]. I wanna do things different. Yeah, there is an impact on my family with all this. But – if I’m stuck and can’t earn, then I’ll have to consider this.” It is chilling, but in cases of robbery, fraud, or drug supply, there is a personal-impact calculation involved. Our role in the Sycamore Tree programme is to ensure these guys fully factor into their decision making equation the impact their next crime will have on the direct victim and the neighbourhood, as well as their own families.

I pressed Axel on the impact a violent robbery had on the victim we had heard from earlier in one of our sessions. He replied that he had been stabbed over a dozen times in his life, but in the discussion it became clear that most of those events were what might be called “professional hazards”

“But…” We must not underestimate that these ‘buts’ seriously prevent the prisoner from learning from the past, from understanding the impact of their crime on their direct victim, from seeing the ripple effect on their neighbourhood

This reflects the wider culture of victimhood. In a recent Civitas report We’re (Nearly) All Victims Now the list of victim groups now comprises 73% of the population (women, all ethnic minorities, disabled people, soon to be joined by gay people and the aged). Under the pressure cooker of prison, it can go further, when prisoners take on Victim Mentality as a self protection.

Only by treating these men with respect and not as toe-rags can some of them lower that defence mechanism. Ditch the ‘but’s’ and take on their responsibility for their crime. Sycamore Tree course gives then that chance.

And, to be honest, the world’s a mess and we’ve each done our bit to make it so. So in principle – we need the same chance too.


p.s. the Sycamore Tree course? Click here.


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