Hello! I'm JohnWorking to prevent loneliness and isolation in our communities & prisons.
Is Prison Ever Fun?
When I visit prison, to meet residents and for a very short period, make their lives a little easier to bare, it seems like fun, but is it really?
Imagine if you will that you are living on the streets. No home, no job, very few “friends”, perhaps an addiction to deal with 24/7. You are relying on people you meet for food, drink, and somewhere to sleep. Life is getting you down because once upon a time you served your country in the armed forces, and were proud to do so.
Northern Ireland, Croatia and many other places you did visit, never dreaming that when you left the service you would have more problems than you had faced in these places. But in those days, you did not understand that later on you would pay a very high price for the experience, your mental health would deteriorate.
Last week was “Mental Health Awareness Week” perhaps we should examine what can be done.
Our man, let’s call him George, is now living in Birmingham, on the streets of Birmingham to be exact. This is a result of his addiction, which takes all of his income, such as it is, and leaves him with very little. He begs for some cash, and passers-by give him some. He has help from various charities, and of course there are many others he speaks to who are in the same situation as him.
It matters not how he got into this, all that matters today is where he is going to sleep/eat/drink etc. Depression keeps him in this eternal cycle of deprivation. The question is for us, as a society, are we prepared to help ? Mainly the answer is NO.
Not because we have not got the money, the UK is the fifth richest economy in the world, not because we have not got medical help available, the NHS is the envy of the world, but because we no longer care enough !
- We have more people in employment now than ever before in history.
- We enjoy a good quality of life, own our own homes, heat them and keep them well maintained.
- Our children want for little.
- Our society is largely law abiding, our local authorities are well established.
But as long as people like George have to live as they do, how can we say we care anymore?
Until we care more, little can or will change.
- Ask yourself, when did I do anything to help another person who I happen to meet in my travels?
- When did I last support a charity, a charitable event, an event laid on by anyone ( with a big heart ) to raise funds?
- Why do I not chat to anybody I see less well off than myself?
Probably seldom or never, and until we do change then I think we all can be classed as part of the “uncaring” society.
We are divided by class, gender, monetary value, career path, culture, colour, and sexual orientation. There are many more, these are only the “tip of the iceberg” in this “uncaring” society.
Now consider if you will, what if “George” were in prison ?
Same mental health problem, same addiction, same thoughts. His loneliness is compounded, he has no idea who he can trust, if anyone at all. And life inside is far from “fun” as some would suggest.
- Is he likely to improve?
- Is he likely to get worse?
- Can he, on his own, find a way out?
- When he is released, can he hope to redeem the situation he is in, bearing in mind that he now has a conviction to his name?
- Does society offer any help at all?
The answer to all of these questions is often NO.
Better for us, when the man is “inside” to address the problem and help the man to find a way out. Teach him, help him adjust, try to overcome the mental problems he has.
Give him his self respect back, give him hope, speak to him, provide alternatives to loneliness, show him how to help himself.
And if we do that, will that not only improve the man, but it will also save the state a lot of money by reducing reoffending.
BUT WE NEED THE WILL, THE DESIRE TO HELP, THE VISION TO EXPLORE OTHER SOLUTIONS OFFERED OUTSIDE OF THE MAINSTREAM PRISON SYSTEM.
AND UNTIL THAT HAPPENS, LITTLE WILL CHANGE!
Please feel free to comment if you feel, as I do, that the system needs to change so that we all can benefit from that change.
The Story Teller Fellah