Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 2 108


I was walking down that improbably long central corridor in a group of about eight mainstream prisoners heading for legal visits, when panic broke out among the escorting guards. About a hundred yards further down, and coming towards us, was an overweight and bearded old man walking with a zimmer frame and wearing the maroon shirt of a protected prisoner.

Pandemonium broke out as the prisoners I was with saw him; they yelled, screamed and made barking noises. A couple made as though to break from the guards and run down the corridor to attack him, but they stopped after only a few yards and hurled abuse. One of them shouted “you bloody foster carer!”. It seemed a strange term of abuse, but it was for me a moment of epiphany.

Putting that together with a couple of conversations I had heard in the dinner queue and exercise yard, I suddenly realised that the reason sexual offenders are so hated in jail is that a high proportion of the prisoners, coming from whole lives of various forms of state institutionalisation, had been victims of child sexual abuse themselves. As I realised it, so much that I had witnessed became less confusing, and I understood the community I found myself in with a new clarity.

A couple of months later I had the opportunity to discuss this revelation with the prison psychiatrist and he confirmed to me that a high proportion of prisoners were indeed childhood sexual abuse victims.

I also took the opportunity of testing this insight on a couple of prisoners with whom I had become friendly and who I judged would not react badly to the subject. Both confirmed the truth of it, and one welled with tears. It is, he said, one of those things everyone in jail knows but nobody says and I would be well advised to follow that while in Saughton, and not raise it with anybody else.

The truth is that most of the prisoners have been in the crosshairs of the state for their entire lives. Almost all were born into poverty, frequently born into addiction, had been the subject of care worker supervision since infancy, had troubled and sometimes infrequent schooling, and very often had transitioned from care worker to foster or care home, to young offenders’ institution, to jail. Almost all had acquired substance addictions from childhood.

Institutionalisation was their life, with brief respites back in close knit urban communities, where the state is seen as a threat as much as a helper.

Once you have been jailed once or twice, judges impose jail sentences for the most trivial of offences. About a quarter of the people I met in Saughton were there for breach of bail conditions. Many others were there for shoplifting, petty burglary or lowest level drug dealing, largely to feed their own addiction.

Think of every sensible thing you think you know about prison. Think of education, training, rehabilitation. It is all completely ignored by the Scottish Prison Service. I am telling you I saw none of it at all in Saughton jail. Nothing, zilch.

What I saw was levels of security and cruel and harsh conditions that differ little from Victorian times, apart from the plumbing. All prisoners are subjected to utterly unneccessary levels of security and physical discomfort.

In the cell block next to mine was kept Peter Tobin, Scotland’s most notorious serial killer, repeat sexual abuser and murderer of little girls. He was kept in precisely the same conditions and security levels as the shoplifter and the seller of little packets of cannabis. Peter Tobin was held in exactly the same conditions as me, a journalist in jail as a civil prisoner.

The conditions of Peter Tobin may be appropriate to a mass murderer – locked in a tiny barred cell for 23 hours a day, never allowed anywhere unescorted, held behind multiple walls and razor wired fences, with eight locked and guarded gates and metal doors between him and freedom. That is very harsh, but not unreasonable for a dangerous mass murderer.

But why is a shoplifter locked in a tiny barred cell for 23 hours a day, never allowed anywhere unescorted, held behind multiple walls and razor wired fences, with eight locked and guarded gates and metal doors between him and freedom?

That is barbaric, an utterly, ludicrously harsh level of punishment. It is perpetrated upon “criminals” who are in reality often amongst the most vulnerable people in society, who come from extreme poverty and deprivation, who the police and justice system treat with scarce respect for their rights or their dignity.

The large majority of prisoners I met were people needing treatment for addiction and mental health conditions, and needing an alleviation of extreme poverty and lack of education. Instead, society finds it easier to lock people up and forget about them. In prison they are subject to constant humiliation and denigration; they are infantilised and deprived of self-worth. How this is supposed to improve society I could not in any way tell. There was not one single person in jail that I met who I felt needed or deserved the level of brutal security provided.

People who have never been a physical threat of assault to anybody, are held in conditions that would be viewed as barbaric and unenlightened for that class of prisoner by almost any other European state. I, a journalist and civil prisoner, was locked in a tiny barred cell for 23 hours a day, never allowed anywhere unescorted, held behind multiple walls and razor wired fences, with eight locked and guarded gates and metal doors between me and the outside world.

This is Barlinnie rather than Saughton, but it gives a fair idea of the kind of space in which I was held 23 hours a day

What was the point of that level of security? I remember on day one, as I plodded around the exercise yard, ankle deep in sloppy rubbish, with four guards supervising just me, I was thinking that in time, once they have done their threat assessments, this will alleviate. It did, in that later I only had two guards supervising me plodding around the yard.

The truth of the matter is that Scotland, with a single small exception, has no other kind of prison than what are, in truth, maximum security prisons in all but name. A number of smaller and less harsh institutions have been deliberately closed down over the past eight years as Scotland concentrates on large, vastly overcrowded, megaprisons.

The only vaguely amusing thing about this is that the Scottish Prison Service makes it a boast that now “all prisoners are treated equally”. As though treating poor shoplifters as though they are Peter Tobin is a proud, democratic thing rather than a prime example of callous, unimaginative, bureaucratic stupidity, combined with cruelty.

The eight foot by twelve cells in Saughton are all designed as single cells. Over 90% have two people crammed into them. That is the extent of overcrowding. This is a product, not of high crime rates, but of a completely unimaginative and brutal justice system that resorts to imprisonment far too readily.

It is also, of course, a result of the failed policy of the “War on drugs” and the attempt to fight addiction through criminalisation. You see the results of that failed policy in Scotland’s high drug deaths and in the misery on the streets of our cities. You also see it in the overcrowded jails.

One third of the people suffering from this extreme regime in Saughton have not been convicted of anything. They are remand prisoners awaiting trial. The average remand prisoner currently spends 11 months in jail before being tried – against a maximum “target” of eight months. Some spend much longer. One prisoner in Saughton had been on remand for over three years.

If you have previous convictions, you will almost certainly be held on remand, no matter how trivial your current alleged offence.

One prisoner I got to know, had committed the following offence. He had been extremely drunk with his friends in a pub one afternoon, a regular situation for them. He had brought a £25 round using his friend’s contactless card. He believed his friend had asked him to as it was his round. The friend disagreed. There followed an argument, and a bit of a scuffle. Nobody was hurt.

The police were called, he was arrested, and charged with several counts of violent disorder. He was in Saughton for 11 months on remand. At the end of 11 months, at trial, he was found guilty of some kind of minor affray and fined £75. After 11 months in prison. Think of that.

You see, nobody does think of that. He was one of Edinburgh’s underclass, and nobody cares.

The prisoner with whom I became most friendly was charged with kidnapping and assorted other offences. He was one of the few non-addicts in the jail, but his girlfriend was an addict. There had been a row where he bundled her into his car to drive her away from her drug dealer. A friend of hers, also addicted, had reported this to police and he found himself charged with kidnapping.

He was in jail for over a year on remand before being found not guilty by the jury at trial. He is an entirely respectable member of society. He too had been held in the same security conditions as a mass murderer.

Another prisoner I got to know, only by conversations through his cell window, had been on remand for over fifteen months and still had no trial date. He was in jail for breaching an order against seeing his children. He claimed – and I believe him – that he simply met them by accident when taking his everyday route home from work. There is no accusation he did anything wrong when he saw them, other than pick up his infant daughter for a brief hug.

The problem with jailing people for domestic abuse is that they are simply locked away; nothing is done to alter their behaviour. In fact, the opposite is true. They are put into an environment where their behaviour is reinforced, even approved. While perpetrators of sexual violence are universally loathed, perpetrators of non-sexual domestic violence are much sympathised with by fellow prisoners, and viewed as victims of undue police interference.

One direct quote I can give you, overheard in the exercise yard from a prisoner explaining his case to a small knot of others, was “I gave her a slap, as anybody would”. This brought grunts and nods of agreement.

Why society thinks it is helpful to put domestic abusers into this prison community I fail to understand. There was no concerted effort that I could perceive to tackle these attitudes. There were no classes, no meetings with victims of domestic abuse, no attempts to explain why it is wrong or to make the prisoner think differently about the role of women in society and in his own life.

Eventually the prisoner is released back into society, with his views reinforced plus an added, much stronger, layer of resentment against women for having put him inside.

Simple imprisonment is completely counter-productive as a means of tackling violence against women. There is no education on equal rights; there is no meeting with victims to understand the impact on them; there are no seminars teaching the effect of domestic abuse on the children. There is simply nothing to correct the behaviour. After the embittering experience of harsh prison, they are simply let out. Then the justice system feigns alarm that they do it again.

The Scottish Parliament has not intended that prison conditions in Scotland should be as hard as they are. The Prison Rules approved by parliament contain much that is good provision for prisoners’ rights. Yet almost every single provision in the rules that assists prisoners has been systematically and deliberately negated by the Scottish Prison Service, drawing on the sweeping powers given to Governors to ignore the rules on security grounds.

The comprehensive extent of this denial of rights is truly astonishing. I shall elaborate on that in my next episode.

I am aware it has taken six months to produce this instalment. The truth is that I find the subject very emotionally disturbing, not because of what happened to me, but because of those I left as all those gates and metal doors slammed shut again behind me. I was finally shamed into producing this by an ex-prisoner I met at the Eden Festival.

He told me that there are many people inside jail who had been waiting for me to expose these abuses, and that I had a moral duty to speak on behalf of those who had no ability to express these things themselves, or occupied a place in society where nobody listened. I am grateful to him for the reminder.

If you have not read it, you can find the first part of my prison experience written up here.

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108 thoughts on “Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 2

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  • Ian

    Excellent piece, Craig. Your time might been harsh, utterly unjust and vindictive, but you have provided the kind of insight only your experience could have provided. What a colossal perversion of any notions of justice, penal policy, fairness or rehabilitation this horrible, Victorian system is. Your emphasis on the multiple deprivations and poor life chances that most of these people have suffered, the result of which is to inflict more punishment and suffering upon them, is a scorching analysis of how we let voiceless people down, ignore them and lock them away out of sight to fester and foment more crime and resentment.
    It is entirely possible to devise a system which is not arbitrarily unjust, cruel and sadistic, where modest improvements would reap huge benefits for all of us. What a tragedy that no political party, no mainstream media, is remotely interested in such blatant prejudice and the uncaring dismissal of the problem. And how horribly ironic that this insight should be gained and eloquently dispersed thanks to one of the most blatant rigging of the justice system in modern day Scotland. Let’s hope the people who facilitated this and ignore the terror of the prison system are nowhere near the levers of power in and independent Scotland. But of course we all know the same people will take charge and carry on in the way they are accustomed – powerful, arrogant, manipulative and deceitful. Your description isn’t just factual, it is a powerful symbol of the corruption of power and the contempt for those who have least in life.

    • Tony Little

      Exactly right. Look to the changes made in the Netherland’s prison system over the last 10-15 years. their prison population is FALLING and with reduced reoffending (about 25% of the UK’s). If there is long term planning and political will, positive changes can be made.

  • Thomas

    “almost every single provision in the rules that assists prisoners has been systematically and deliberately negated by the Scottish Prison Service”

    I expect the reason for the logic behind the SPS thinking will be forthcoming in the next episode, but I suspect the situation is similar to the rest of the UK where we mock Scandinavian incarceration systems despite their low rates of recidivism.

    Also, I guess there is an MSP who should be accountable for this wayward service?

  • pretzelattack

    Thank you, I have a friend who got framed and spent 15 years in a federal prison because, even though his attorneys thought he might win, the government threatened him with going for life in prison for being a drug dealer if he didn’t agree to a 15 year plea bargain. tried to take his house, too, but failed. He rarely talks about his experience, and this give me a better understanding of some of what he likely went through – your experience was worse though because he was in a medium security federal prison, so he had considerably more freedom than you did, and this was before Covid.

  • Peter

    Very strong piece Craig, thank you.

    Chris Hedges has also spoken powerfully about his experience of teaching in the American prison system in a presentation in which he is at times almost approaching shamanic.

    The whole piece is well worth watching but see for instance from 52:00 and again at 1:02:00 :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj1-47VqgOs

  • Mick

    All correct and also true in the Australian prison system. Human warehousing at its worst. Privatised prisons cutting corners in everything from staffing to food. No rehabilitation or education. It’s a very lucrative market for Serco and plenty of returning clients

  • Michael Taylor

    Hi Craig. I was in touch with you nearly thirteen years ago after my violent arrest while publicising a meeting at Dundee’s Dalhousie Building. Due to you and many others support, we were able to get the charges dropped but the Procurator Fiscal told the campaign that it was not in the ‘public interest’ for the lying police officers to be charged after libelling me for police assault. Let me congratulate you for this excellent material in exposing the backward prison system. I am a supporter of the newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!. The only newspaper on the left which covers this material in every issue. It is the most widely read newspaper in prisons. I’ll forrit your stuff to our Prisoners Page editor. I am also Branch Secretary of Unite the Community Tayside and will propose a donation to your blog at our next meeting.
    Adh Mor! Guid Luck!
    Michael Taylor

  • Tom

    I’m beginning to understand those radicals who plead for completely abandoning prisons. Their argument is that the prison system does nothing for society but only supports itself. This sounded absurd to me when I heard it first but it makes more sense the more you think about it and the more you hear about it.

    • Angus

      The prison Service along with the Justice system and Police are totally corrupt.

      It’s one big sausage factory which needs to be fed or expanded upon all the time.

      The IQ level is generally very low for those working there.

      In the USA at least you have client/attorney privacy.

      In the UK, all lawyers are officers of the court and cannot be trusted.

      I always thought it was a dark day for Craig and justice when Craig got banged up.

      We need to get more of your experiences exposed from prison, carry on the writing.

  • Clark

    I have read this post. I am appalled, but not surprised.

    “In prison they are subject to constant humiliation and denigration; they are infantilised and deprived of self-worth. How this is supposed to improve society I could not in any way tell.”

    It generates the fear that underpins the system of competition and exploitation called capitalism.

    • Bayard

      Not so much capitalism, but the authoritarianism under which capitalism grew in the C18th and 19th. It would be no different if the UK had become communist.

      • Clark

        I don’t think capitalism has to be like that. But when a large proportion of the population can barely afford necessities, there has to be an underclass to scare the rest into continuing to cooperate. The system as it stands offers so few of them any way to rise that there has to be somewhere to fall.

  • Squeeth

    Thanks for this Craig, I can imagine that it’s difficult to remind yourself of the ordeal you were subjected to. Liberal bien pensants should take note and compare conditions in British prisons with those of other countries.

  • Jimmeh

    The state arguably has a right to deprive someone of their liberty when they are convicted of a crime. In exchange for that right, they take on responsibility for their prisoner’s well-being, including physical security, and physical and mental health. Having deprived the prisoner of personal agency, they have on their hands what amounts to a child, someone who can’t look out for themselves.

    That moral responsibility isn’t reflected in the legal responsibilitiies of the prison service. If you get beaten up in prison, you should be able to sue the service for damages. If you trip, fall and hurt yourself, you should be able to sue. If you get addicted to drugs in prison, you should be able to sue. And if your brain turns to mush through lack of stimulation, you should be able to sue.

    The cost of a few such lawsuits would concentrate the minds of prison services and sentencing bodies..

  • Don Carr

    That was a particularly powerful last paragraph, Craig. I think we can all understand your reluctance to relive this period of your life and I think that we all are grateful to you for doing so.

  • AndrewR

    This is very moving. I believe Kenneth Clarke, in the first Cameron government, had plans to halve the prison population in England and Wales, on the grounds that it is hugely expensive and almost completely ineffective. The budget could then be used to treat the remaining prisoners better, with the mental health provision and education Craig writes about. But Cameron moved him instead, because of his fear of a hostile backlash and press reaction.

    Politicians continually increase sentences so as to be seen to be doing something. But, as always with government, there is no monitoring of whether it has the effect that it’s claimed. But then it is not designed to have an effect, just to look good to the right audience – an incredible callousness on the part of our politicians. Fucking arsehole bastard shits. – Legalising drugs would also help, it doesn’t matter how it is done. It’s obviously coming, so why not just do it?

    • Lapsed Agnostic

      ‘Legalising drugs would also help, it doesn’t matter how it is done.’

      I certainly wouldn’t legalise all illegal drugs, Andrew. First things first, in order to get the acquisitive crime rate to plummet, make a daily supply of pharma-grade heroin (plus fresh pins etc) available to all registered addicts or people who’ve recently tested positive for heroin/morphine or fentanyl etc. This service would be conditional on agreeing to random blood tests and not testing positive for fentanyl, cocaine, amphets, street benzos etc (the things we don’t want smackheads taking) – if they test positive, or refuse to give a sample, they’re kicked off the scheme for a month. They would pay around £3 per wrap, which would cost them around three grand a year, which they can pay for out of their benefits. You would probably need to get the army (in full combat kit) to deliver it to their houses, as sites on industrial estates etc for addicts to pick up their drugs would just present too big a target for the light & dark gangs’ SWAT teams to spray up with their AK’s / Skorpion machine pistols etc in an effort to deter people from visiting them.

      What the general situation should be for other drugs: cocaine is still class A, as it can easily be turned into crack, and even as powder causes plenty of problems, particularly with the cardiovascular system (like the Covid vaccines then*), and there are better alternatives available. Most amphets are Class A. Synthetic cannabinoids like Spice are definitely Class A. Street benzos like etizolam get bumped up to Class A from Class C because they’re what’s killing loads of people in Scotland. Cannabis is legal up to 10% THC. MDMA (Ecstasy), mephedrone and similar cathinones are available from pharmacists subject to strict limits per person per month to reduce the chances of addiction/overdose. Methadone is banned because it’s horrible and causes all sorts of issues, not least little kiddies dying after drinking it. Oh and ibuprofen would be Class A as well because it’s considerably worse than the banned Vioxx and kills loads of people – I only let it in the house because it’s in Nurofen Plus, but it all gets separated out from the good stuff and binned.

      ‘Fucking arsehole bastard shits.’

      Indeed.

      Worth the wait for the original blogpost.

      *I’ve just found out that the window cleaner is having a stent fitted because he’s recently had a heart attack – he was a healthy family man in his mid-thirties. AstraZeneca x2 + Pfizer booster. He’s the latest.

      • Jimmeh

        Goodness, that’s a jumble of preconceinved notions. E.g.:

        > MDMA (Ecstasy), mephedrone and similar cathinones are available from pharmacists subject to strict limits per person per month to reduce the chances of addiction/overdose.

        MDMA isn’t addivctive; it’s the opposite. If you take it for more than a couple of days on the trot, it stops working, independent of dose.

        > Cannabis is legal up to 10% THC.

        So you ban coke because it can be turned into crack; but the fact that you can turn shake weed into THC oil using just butane doesn’t matter?

        > First things first, in order to get the acquisitive crime rate to plummet

        That was the premise for your conclusions – that drugs cause crime. Do you really think that nearly all illegal drugs cause crime? Do you really think that’s the reason they’re illegal? I know you mentioned a OTC drug as one that you object to; exactly one.

        > AstraZeneca x2 + Pfizer booster. He’s the latest.

        Oh, dear – I suppose you regard your body as some kind of temple. You seem to be an antivac kook.

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Thanks for your reply, Jimmeh. I don’t believe all illegal drugs should be freely available, but then, like most people, I’m not and never have been a full-on libertarian. In the UK, drugs are illegal largely because The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, though most illegal drug users that are in prison are in there because they steal to fund their heroin habits.

          If you read my point carefully I stated ‘addiction [solidus] overdose’. I’m aware that MDMA is not generally addictive but the risk of fatal overdose is very real – particularly for women. However, mephadrone and other cathinones can be addictive because they are dopamine transporter inhibitors like cocaine.

          ‘the fact that you can turn shake weed into THC oil using just butane doesn’t matter?’

          That’s a reasonable point and probably one I should have thought of – it’s years since I’ve been in the weed world. I doubt most stoners would do that though, just as most drinkers don’t distil vodka to 95% ABV. A lot of cocaine however does get turned into crack – though that was not my only reason for treating cocaine as Class A, as I made clear.

          The AstraZeneca vaccine has been withdrawn, or restricted to certain age groups in several countries. In the UK, it wasn’t approved for use in the boosters – by then, millions of people had had two doses of it. I don’t remember any of the people I used to hang about with having heart attacks in their thirties – and quite a few of them used to cane it. I haven’t had any of the Covid vaccines. As far as I’m aware, I haven’t had Covid. I have a couple squirts of a sodium nitrite-containing nasal spray when in company and the ivermectin* is on standby if I do test positive.

          If your point is that I like to know exactly what I’m putting in my body and more or less what it’s going to do to me, then I do treat it as a temple. A PhD in chemistry helps with that – it also teaches you not to necessarily trust anything a professional scientist says, especially not where money’s involved. Time to enjoy the last of the sunshine with some cigarettes & alcohol in the garden.

          * Yes I’m aware that the Beeb’s factchecker-in-chief Ros Atkins says it doesn’t work (factcheck: it does – the Oxford trial was designed to fail), but he also says that it’s okay to support Azov because they’re “only 10-20% Nazi”

  • vin_ot

    It should frighten everyone that they locked you up and treated you the same as a mass murderer, without any media interest let alone outcry. I have subsequently seen commenters on this very blog affecting outrage about mistreatment of journalists in designated enemy countries far away, people who must know quite well what Scottish and English authorities did to you. They appear very obvious state shills so it surprises me to see them indulged by your regulars as good faith actors. Anyway this piece was a further depressing eyeopener on a barbaric, utterly useless carceral system without saving graces. Thank you, very glad you survived it to be able to blow the whistle.

  • Robert Dyson

    We have the evidence from those prisons that do try to help prisoners overcome what they lack, like literacy, that reoffending is reduced. Even in cash terms it is a benefit, and a huge benefit for all of us in human terms.

  • Crispa

    I remember doing a month’s placement in Wormwood Scrubs in the early 1970s as part of a university course. It was a time when security had been tightened after the escape of spy George Blake in 1966. I was frequently pounced on by arrogant and officious assistant governors for straying into forbidden areas, who would then complain to my prison welfare officer supervisor. Despite a totally antiquated prison building, I certainly do not recall conditions being as security paranoid or generally as harsh as described here. The prison welfare officer to whom I was attached ran a daily surgery, always well attended for prisoners to bring their sometimes simple, for example about visiting permits, sometimes complex emotional and family problems, which she and her colleagues – there was a small team – diligently addressed as best they could, and which in many cases brought a degree of relief and hope. It was always recognised that much more could be done with political will and resources to adopt a rehabilitative approach.

    My impression as described by this excellent and convincing article is that there is no such thing anymore as “prison reform”, meaning a movement towards a more humanitarian model of justice as certainly practised in some more enlightened European countries.

    The main reason for this is the dominance achieved from Thatcher’s time onwards of the “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality presided over by right-wing politicians and the mass media, both pandering to populist sentiment and creating moral panics of one kind or another.

    This is now the accepted norm and there are no politicians of any colour or party prepared to challenge it or at least to open up the can of worms for public debate. Meanwhile Johnson’s government is driving the country back in these respects way beyond Victorian to pre-historic times and no-one seems capable of stopping the regression.
    Hopefully Scottish independence might stop the rot, but from all that I have read on this blog, I would not bet on it.

  • Ilya G Poimandres

    Craig, thank you for this. Prisons everywhere lack compassion – my father spent almost a decade in a Russian one for being betrayed by his business friends, and largely when he opens up the stories rhyme.

    The irony is, whilst punishment throws problems under the carpet, rehabilitation offers a little chance that the reformed can teach the yet to make errors. Nobody but a murderer knows the experience of murder, so how can a non murderer effectively explain murder to those falling close that error? Sure, possible, but a reformed fool is worth a thousand well thought out well doers.

    Thank you for sharing, it is a rare treat to see this kind of journalism.

  • Michael Weddington

    I volunteer in a prison in Florida. While I do not think conditions in it are adequate, it seems a paradise compared to what you describe, Craig. Florida. Scotland should be ashamed.

    • John Monro

      Except that in Florida the imprisonment rate is 720 per 100,000. (greater than the US average). The imprisonment rate in Scotland is 134 per 100,000. You are more than five times likely to be imprisoned in Florida than Scotland (even as Scotland’s rates are among the higher in Europe). Cold comfort perhaps that the prison regime is a bit kinder in Florida when you’re five times as likely to be in prison in the first place. This is merely to provide a bit of context, not to excuse the deplorable treatment of prisoners in Scotland and the deplorable misuse of the justice system in imprisoning so many people in the first place.

  • Dave M

    Thank you for highlighting this, Craig. The fact that prison does not work is well known, and it’s alarming to know that, overall, nothing has ever changed inside the prison system. Rehabilitation in any sense appears very far from the consciousness of the system and those who run it. Too many people are simply discarded by a society which does not care; sadly this occurs within an expensive and inefficient system which appears to have no real interest in helping those people who fall under its influence. It’s an outrage. I just wish there was the political will to change it, but that appears absent under the authoritarian SNP.

  • Patsy Millar

    This is the sort of article that should be published in the MSM but, alas, it hits too many nails on the head!

  • andic

    Yes Craig you must write your experience up.
    It’s valuable because many people including your readers have no experience of jail or the communities from which their residents are drawn.
    It’s very easy to look down on people and make twee observations when you don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. This applies in many areas from one’s neighbors’ behavior to Russia/Ukrane to Brexit.

  • Mist001

    If you are unlucky enough to find yourself being placed under arrest by police on a Friday morning, you will be taken to a police station and held in a cell for Friday, Saturday and Sunday until you can appear in court on the Monday morning. It’s even worse if it’s a bank holiday or something because then you won’t appear in court until the Tuesday morning.

    The point I’m labouring to make is that any citizen, any one of us, can be held in solitary confinement for FOUR days without any recourse or redress. The best you’re going to get in all that time is a 30 minute chat with a duty solicitor. Once you appear in court, the judge is just as likely to set you free but that’s FOUR days you’ve been held captive alone, by the state.

    That’s why I’m not shocked or surprised by anything that Craig writes about his time in jail. If the state can treat ordinary citizens in the manner that I’ve described above, what chance does anyone have once they’re held on remand or sentenced to jail time?

    • pretzelattack

      i recently read of a case in the US where a guy was held for something like 3 weeks without ever seeing a judge or even being told what his alleged crime was. it was a case of mistaken identity, they had the wrong guy.

    • Bramble

      There are Saturday courts expressly designed to deal with this situation – though if the political powers that be wish, no doubt an “enemy of the state” will be remanded in custody by a complicit magistrate (and sadly there seem to be some in the ranks of the District Judges) however trivial the office. See Mr Assange.

    • Jimmeh

      > If the state can treat ordinary citizens in the manner that I’ve described above, what chance does anyone have once they’re held on remand

      A remand prisoner *is* an ordinary citizen. So’s a convict, in my opinion; if all the “ordinary citizens” who have broken the law were in jail, there would be hardly anyone left on the street.

  • SleepingDog

    Which demographic has proportionally the most criminals? For some reason I was thinking it was the members of the UK Houses of Parliament (MPs and Lords), not that this statistic is displayed on their websites (whatever happened to the Nolan Principles?). If treason legislation was changed to be more rational, the prisons couldn’t cope. I’m assuming that profiteering in office during a national health emergency, or taking instruction from a foreign power while in public office would count. Given such an influx, would there be elite pressure for prison conditions to improve?

    • Jimmeh

      Treason nowadays is essentially plotting agaist the monarch (in Scotland, also encompassing the death of the Lords of Session or of the Justiciary). Corruption in office isn’t treason. Wasting public money isn’t treason. Treason laws are not there to protect taxpayers.

      • SleepingDog

        @Jimmeh, yes, indeed, that is why treason laws need changed. After all, one of the greatest known traitors was Edward VIII:

        https://www.channel4.com/programmes/edward-viii-britains-traitor-king

        so great a risk to the nation he was spied on by his own intelligence service (or maybe they just spy on everyone). What treason legislation would people propose for an Independent Scotland? Perhaps we’ll see a different prison population mix then, a lot more white collar and ecocide convicts. I am envisaging a lot of lesser treason offences (disloyalty in public office, squandering public resources indeed, environmental harm), rather than old High Treason: Off With Their Heads.

  • G

    Brilliant work.

    I have long burned with contempt for much of what passes for authority in Scotland. When I was younger my old boy used to pull me up for having a chip on my shoulder. Not because what I felt was misplaced, my old man believed in the Scottish Nation and disrespected what passes for authority in this land. He noised me up for letting it get to me. This brings yet more understanding to the situation, for the poorest folk in the country, the folk with the harshest lives.

    It is hard to grasp the level of contempt or the callous determination that is involved in perpetuating this generation after generation on the same sections of Scots society. We need to know more about how power works in this land and why. Thank you for enlightening me.

    Excellent work

  • SameGreatApe

    Then is it the same in Scotland as England where ex-prisoners are referred by local councils through to privately letted shared houses/buildings (HMOs), with other vulnerable/difficult people, with no ongoing safeguarding? And when incidents happen it can be tricky for the police to work out who’s done what without being psych experts (who are often misguided anyway) as well as crime experts.

  • glenn_nl

    Thank you for this, Craig. I am sure a lot of us literally have no idea.

    Your final paragraph is painful in its honesty. It must be tough to dredge through your recollections and come to significant understandings like this, to do your comrades left inside justice, and articulate them well enough for those of us with no understanding of the environment.

    I did wonder at the time if the authorities had blundered into making a powerful prison reformer, when they sent you down in such an unjust manner. They probably failed to consider your humanity, having so little of their own. Beyond the injustice of your own situation, it’s clear you have spent a great deal of consideration on the plight of other inmates.

    The drug laws in this country are absurd beyond measure. “Chasing the scream” by Johann Hari describes this in depth. A large aim of the USA’s “war on drugs” was to imprison and criminalise a large proportion of the black population, and it has been very successful in this regard.

    We do not have such a target population we want to criminalise as a matter of ideology, so where does our useless, destructive drug policy come from? Just blindly aping the US as usual?

  • Kimpatsu

    Craig, you say that serial killer Peter Tobin is kept in “exactly the same conditions as everybody else”, but is it not the case that Tobin is in fact in a single cell, not kept two to a cell as with other prisoners? If so, I would say that his conditions are slightly BETTER than those of the prisoners incarcerated for petty theft and low-level drug dealing.

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