Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 2 107


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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107 thoughts on “Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 2

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  • Allan Howard

    I just did a search (on duckduckgo) re Saughton Jail, and the top two results were Craig’s two articles. And quite a few other interesting things came up in the results…….

  • Allan Howard

    I know it’s a bit off topic, but I came across the following debate last night from 11 April, 2019 – ie the Arrest of Julian Assange. Here’s a taster:

    His arrest follows a decision by the Ecuadorean Government to bring to an end his presence inside its embassy in London. I am pleased that President Moreno has taken this decision and I extend the UK’s thanks to him for resolving the situation. Ecuador’s actions recognise that the UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr. Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his legitimate interests will be protected……

    Both the UK Government and the Ecuadorean Government have become increasingly concerned about the state of Mr Assange’s health. The first action of the police following his arrest was to have him medically assessed and deemed fit to detain……

    — Sajid Javid (and I bet he managed to keep a straight face)

    https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-04-11/debates/0650F0B8-1D1E-4FD5-8E6D-9A94FE112986/ArrestOfJulianAssange

    • Allan Howard

      Apologies, but I was just looking through a BBC timeline of events and came across the following, which I’ve never come across before, and which I think Craig will find very interesting:

      15 August 2012

      Ecuador’s foreign minister claims the UK has issued a “threat” to enter the Ecuadorean embassy in London to arrest Mr Assange. The Foreign Office says it reminded Ecuador that it has the power to revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy on UK soil and says Britain has a legal obligation to extradite him.

      So why did they wait seven years before doing so – ie wait seven years before entering the embassy and arresting him?

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11949341

      • Jimmeh

        > Britain has a legal obligation to extradite him.

        Fair enough; so next time he steps on British soil, extradite him. But he wasn’t on British soil.

        If I was a country considering diplomatic relations with the UK, I’d insist that they explicitly endorse the Vienna Convention, and guarantee the inviolability of my new embassy.

        • Ebenezer Scroggie

          It is an urban myth that an embassy is the territorial soil of the country of that embassy.

          It does, however, have certain rights and privileges which include the exclusion of the host country’s police force.

          The cops who arrested Assange had the authority by consent of the President of Ecuador to enter the premises to arrest him by force.

          Sad, but true.

          Getting back to the subject at issue here, it is notable that both of the two political prisoners are bona fide journalists who were/are being held in maximum security prison conditions as if they were some kind of public enemy. That is wrong and I’d like to think that it’s unBritish. Sadly it is now a very British thing to happen, on both sides of the county lines which some call a border.

          The awfulness of Sturgeon’s very nasty little clique is neither better nor worse than that of the British state.

  • Bayard

    “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.”

    like John Henry Dana and the American seamen, back in the early nineteenth century.

  • Peter Mo

    Has any Labour MP confronted Pritti Patel on her erroneous statement. i.e. “In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.”

    The statement is totally wrong. After hearing evidence the court (Vanessa Baraitser) found “Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge.”

    On appeal there was no new evidence re the state of USA prisons. There was only an assurance which had nothing to to with the conclusion based on evidence that the US prison system would be damaging and oppressive.

    Secondly. DOUBLE JEAPARDY
    Assange has already been tried, convicted and served his sentence. Yet he is being held without bail only on the excuse of he might reoffend again. The logic there is that anybody who serves time in prison can’t be released because they “might” reoffend.

    • Jimmeh

      > Assange has already been tried, convicted and served his sentence.

      That was for hopping bail. He’s to be extradited on an espionage charge. Double jeopardy holds that you can’t be tried twice FOR THE SAME OFFENCE.

        • Jimmeh

          I don’t think he committed anything; but he hasn’t been tried for anything yet, so double-jeopardy doesn’t arise (if I recall, he wasn’t tried for bail-hopping; he was just sentenced).

      • Peter Mo

        He is being held without bail because he legally pursued asylum. There are no charges to which bail became relevant. He has served his time for the bail skipping (n.b. no prior charge). He should be out on bail and not in prison. What if he is proved innocent?

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Double jeopardy was abolished in the UK in 2005, Jimmeh, as part of the NewLabour catastrophe. I’ve replied to your reply to me about the drugs etc on the previous page, if you haven’t seen it.

    • Alf Baird

      Postcolonial theory suggests the level of barbarism described by Craig – which, let’s remember, occurs within a society subject to a cultural division of labour – is symptomatic of a colonial justice system. Independence is about liberating a people from such institutionalised oppressions.

  • Ebenezer Scroggie

    The SNP likes to pretend that an amputated Scotland would somehow become like Norway in some way.

    The SPS is controlled by the SNP, not by Westminster, so the tired old crap of blaming everything on Westminster is shown to be a sham by the conditions and the whole mentality of the prison service leadership in Scotland. They’ve had well over two decades of control from the Scottish Executive/Government and what have they got to show for it.

    In Norway in the 1980s and 1990s they realised that they had a problem with the prison service – so they changed it.

    Here’s a brief introduction. If you look around YouTube for documentaries on the subject of prisons in Norway you can find many other videos which all confirm this one, some in much much more detail:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IepJqxRCZY

    The Norwegian experience has been the exact opposite of the Scottish experience which is so vividly and shockingly described by Craig Murray in this series. They found that spending the considerable investment in educating the prison officers first and foremost, enormous saving could be made by slashing the recidivism rate.

    It’s hard to see how the SNP/SPS prison policy could have any other outcome than they have produced.

    • fredi

      Indeed ebenezer, look at the blatant corrupting influence of the SNP over the Police and Judiciary. If they can have that level of control over them it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t manage to influence the Prison service in the 20 years they have mismanaged Scotland. The sad truth of the matter is they are satisfied with the status quo.

      • Ebenezer Scroggie

        Although not technically a ‘one party state’, Scotland is being run as if it is.

        A probably very small coterie, perhaps as few as two or three dozen apparatchiks of the inner circle, do seem to have an extraordinary tight control of the Police and the Prosecution system and the Scottish Prison Service, and perhaps even an ability to influence a Judge. The venal malice shown by that coterie towards Salmond and Murray, together with the sadly incapable parliamentary investigation system, have shown just how powerful and unanswerable that clique has become.

        Only the ancient and not yet abolished jury system saved Salmond from being subjected to many years of penal servitude in the appalling conditions described in this series.

        The clique manipulated the rules on “civil prosecution” so as to ensure that CM would be denied access to the jury system because they knew damn well that no jury would have convicted him.

  • Kaiama

    two guards are needed so they can corroborate each other’s evidence. the third was taking notes, and the fourth was keeping an eye on the 3 dangerous intellectuals.

  • Crispa

    Interesting learning point on the powers of prison governors. I have just been reading some sentencing reports on some of the Just Stop Oil members for contempt of court after breaching an injunction to restrict their protests.
    One amongst others had been remanded in custody pending the hearing and was reported to have spent 2 days in solitary confinement for reasons which the judge was unsure. But this seemed to be in response to her gluing herself to the court fabric at a previous court hearing when on remand. (The incident caused much disruption to the court’s schedule because so many of the private firm staff paid as custodians to get people from the cells into the court that day had to attend to the gluer).
    On return to prison she was then punished for this misdemeanour by 24 hours in solitary confinement.
    It could be that the demographics of the prison population will soon change with a lot more people in prison for these acts of “civil disobedience”!

  • yesindyref2

    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?

    Just taking this as an example, the direct answer is money. Not enough funding allocated to prisons.

    But here’s another indirect answer further up the chain of “criminality”, and it’s “representation”.

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/20228329.minister-says-scots-legal-aid-system-one-best-europe-lawyers-say-court-justice-on-brink-collapse/

    The whole article shows how f**ked and unfair our legal system is in Scotland, but here’s one simple statistic that explains and typifies it:

    The SSBA says the average rate of pay for a newly qualified defence solicitor is £25,000 a year while, a publicly funded procurator fiscal depute at the same stage will be paid over £48,000.

    I think, we should all say to ourselves: “There but for the Grace of God, go I”.

    • Jimmeh

      > Not enough funding allocated to prisons.

      You’re saying we need MORE razor-wire and fences? For shoplifters? Seriously? You’re in favour of incarcerating shoplifters?

      Would you support imprisoning speeders, unlicensed drivers, and people who have exaggerated their expenses?

      It’s opinions like those that have resulted in 80,000 prisoners in the UK.

      • yesindyref2

        Are you seriously so short of comprehension of context? Did you read Craig’s article at all?

        For instance:

        The eight foot by twelve cells in Saughton are all designed as single cells. Over 90% have two people crammed into them.

        Or did you even read my comment and try to understand it? For instance:

        The SSBA says the average rate of pay for a newly qualified defence solicitor is £25,000 a year while, a publicly funded procurator fiscal depute at the same stage will be paid over £48,000

        Do you need to call a friend or ask Jeremy for help?

        And by the way, Saughton is in Scotland, not your precious UK, SSBA is the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association, and Scotland is actually better than the rest of your disunited Kingdom.

        • U Watt

          “Scotland is better than the rest of your disunited Kingdom”

          You seem to have read this article, but do you actually understand what was done to Craig Murray?

          • yesindyref2

            do you actually understand what was done to Craig Murray

            If YOU had read the article you’d realise that it’s not about what was “done to Craig Murray”, it’s about the other prisoners and indeed, the prison and “justice” system. It’s actually a very thoughtful and well researched piece, though it clearly sailed over your head. Whoosh!

          • U Watt

            “It clearly sailed over your head Whoish!”

            l think it must have done because I saw nothing in it about the other prisoners or the system in general to prompt anyone to boast that Scotland is better than the rest of the UK.
            Btw I only queried whether you understand what was done to Craig because your boast screamed so loudly that you do not.

  • Ebenezer Scroggie

    Going back to what I said earlier about how the Scottish Parliament/Executive/Government could have improved and modernised the penal system in Scotland with the advent of Devolution almost a quarter of a century ago, I proffer this link to a talk given to senior staff of a notoriously harsh maximum security prison in New York by a prison officer of the Norwegian prison service.

    I have jumped forward to a particular slide because I’d like to emphasise a slide which shows an assessment of just who was being admitted to the Norwegian prison system and itemises their pre-existing conditions and personal circumstances which I think are perhaps comparable to some of what CM has described of his prison’s inmates. It’s worth hitting the pause space bar immediately to absorb the similarities. The numbers may perhaps be slightly different in Scotland right now, but the overall picture of the demographic seems to me to be strikingly similar. I commend winding back to the start of the lecture after you’ve read those numbers because the whole lecture amounts to a highly intelligent blueprint of what Scotland could/should have done with Devolution.

    Note that the costs of doing what Norway did were diffrayed and amortised against the costs to society by converting so many now former prisoners into economically valuable taxpayers and the investment has paid for itself several times already and its a gift that keeps on giving to society in human terms too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB037gVIpJc&t=1640s

    On a closely related matter, I recall a now retired head of the SPS who had formerly been the head of Scottish Education and prior to that had been head of the Scottish Court Service at the time of the unspeakably awful trial of those two innocent Libyan guys, being interviewed on BBC Scotland over the matter of women prisoners being manacled to the bedstead in hospital while giving birth. He crossly dismissed the interviewer by saying “What part of the word SECURITY don’t you understand?” I know that he paid a visit to the Norwegian prison service to have a look at how they do things. Clearly, he learned nothing at all. At least, did nothing whatever with whatever little bit(s) he might have learned.

    The following documentary video is also worth watching. It portrays an equally uncomprehending prison chief, this time from America, visiting Scandinavian prisons to see how things can be done in a humane way and with the huge profit to society of slashing the recidivism rates.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfEsz812Q1I

  • Republicofscotland

    If they do not try and educate prisoners and possibly give them some sort of training to allow them to apply for work when they leave prison, then they may reoffend and end up back in prison. Holding serious criminals in the same conditions as minor offence prisoners is not right, and holding people for long periods on remand is disgraceful. I mean how much does it cost to house a remand prisoner per annum £40,000? £50,000? I’m sure its pretty expensive to the taxpayer, minor offenders shouldn’t even be in prison even if they’ve constantly reoffended.

    I’ve read the the Scottish court system is heaving at the seams with a backlog of cases, and that the COPFS has dropped nearly 400 DUI cases due to them now being time-barred, before the pandemic I read that almost 5,000 cases were sitting on the floor in boxes at the PF offices in Glasgow, on top of the usual case load: no doubt many of those cases will now be time-barred as well. The whole system needs overhauled.

    Locking prisoners up for 23 hours a day is in my opinion inhumane. I’d wager its all about saving money: it’s cheaper to lock them up for 23 hours a day than to train and educate them. This is of course a double-edged sword, for by not educating and training offenders, they will ultimately find themselves back in prison which will probably cost the taxpayer more than if the offenders were educated and trained in the first instance.

    Private prisons (and there’s one or two in Scotland need prisoners to make a profit;, the American system, of where again I’d wager US judges are paid quite handsomely by the private prisons to keep a steady flow of inmates heading to the prisons, sees judges send down folk for offences that otherwise (if the judge wasn’t on the prison payroll) would be dealt with by a fine, or community service etc. Is Scotland heading in this direction? Only time will tell.

    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      I applaud your post RoS.

      Part of the problem is that the ‘government’ does not look at the whole picture. As they only look at the accounts of the SPS prison estate, they only see that sorting the problem out would cost money. They don’t look at the fact that the wider costs to society of the criminal lifestyle are vastly greater.

      If the Snumpties looked at the whole picture in the way that Norway did, as described in that lecture which I mentioned earlier in this thread, they would have seen that there is a better way of running prisons than simply using them as keeptanks and using prison warders in the same manner as zookeepers are employed.

      The American prison system is even worse. It is a resource centre. It takes the meaning of ‘human resources’ to an absurd extent.

      I know that this is not a topic for humour, but this short piece describes how awful a prison system can become if it is misused.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHz2Hmq7soo

      Scotland has a different problem. We seem to be stuck in the Victorian ethos that if you incarcerate a person for long enough with a bed and a bible and some water you will somehow change them for the better; and that the nastier you make that prison somehow it will work better.

      The indys missed a wonderful opportunity to show that they are in some way fit to run a small country. They could, instead, have read the two Norwegian government white papers on prison reform and followed the logic. Scotland, particularly the red bits on the map shown in CM’s first article, would have been so much nicer places to live than they are after 25 year of devolution and misrule by numpties.

  • Dr Michael Duncan

    Dear Craig,

    As other’s have said – this is a unique perspective from a learned and qualified person from the inside of a prison. This is the ’Silver Lining’ of your misfortune.

    I read that Xi Jinping once said ‘Life is like buttoning a shirt – if you don’t get the first buttons right, the rest will not be successful’

    Now I am not a fan of Xi – but as the saying goes – even a broken clock is right twice a day

    What you have described about most prisoners is ‘the first buttons’ that comrade Xi told of. It’s a meaningful metaphor.

    While I applaud charity one of the things I have never understood is the appetite of a population to help faraway places whilst the colossal problems closer to home persisted unresolved.

    Perhaps therein lies the answer – I thought your title ‘Your man in Saughton’ was a wordplay on ‘Our Man in Havana’ by Graham Greene

    Havana is here and Saughton is here – and the population desperately trying to get the buttons right is one you saw in Saughton and they are also here – wherever you live. As J J Rousseau put it – ‘Everywhere man is free but can’t do the first buttons’ (is in chains)

    When independent Scotland does arrive your calling is more ‘home office’ than ‘foreign office’

    Your acquired knowledge is certainly social welfare and health.

    You are welcome in Nunhead should you need a bed in London

    MickD

  • yesindyref2

    OK, here’s a link with other good articles linked to on it on that page, this is against a backdrop where access to legal aid is much better in Scotland in theory, but where practices receive so little funds for each case, as per the Herald article I quoted before, that they can only pay defence solicitors half of what the prosecution gets. Guess where ambitious solicitors end up, and who can blame them? And guess how far duty solicitors and those representing clients in court, have to travel with so many practices taking legal aid cases now refusing to take them?

    https://www.lawscot.org.uk/news-and-events/law-society-news/england-and-wales-funding-boost-underlines-scottish-legal-aid-crisis/

    And if there’s more money – like double not a pathetic few million – made available for defence and representation, and more solicitors willing to take it on, less people convicted might end up in prison being forced 2 to a cell in a cell built for 1, waiting times for remand might be less than 11 months – and far fewer actually remanded, and even the current prison budget might be adequate instead of being woefully low. In which case more guards are available to take prisoners for exercise, and more money available for rehabilitation. It starts with removing people from prison who shouldn’t be there at all. And yeah, there should be more sherriffs and courts, or a lower level still to start a process.

    And of course the long-term of that is more productive citizens, more taxes, and a wealthier economy.

  • BrianFujisan

    Craig Told us of State Violence Before he was Locked up”’
    one of those Threats of Violence is the BBC …I was forced into court once for refusing to Pay for war crimes ( Propaganda )
    Now they are Back ‘ be in on the 24th june ‘ I do not have a tv.. it would Kill me to watch BBC… They can Fuck Off

    Would Love to See Mick on Tonight Question Time… I Bet Fiona thinks shes Got it Sorted.. Evel Wench…

  • Doug Scorgie

    JUNE 23, 2022
    An Open Letter to Biden on Assange’s Extradition
    BY MICHELLE RENEE MATISONS

    Dear President Biden:

    “The recent news that British courts approved Julian Assange’s U.S. extradition is the occasion for this letter. Mr. Assange is one of the most astute publishers, activists, and intellectuals of my generation; I write imploring you to drop all charges against him and other Wikileaks affiliated individuals– past, present, and future.”

    ————————————————————————————-
    I fully support this open letter. Please read the full item on Counter punch web site.

  • Matthew Harding

    Thanks Craig. Your ex-fellow prisoner was right, your acuity, conscience and reach make it essential for these accounts to be published. I have been a criminal defence solicitor for 35 years, visiting Scotland’s prisons weekly and I have never had any real understanding of the true nature of these establishments for those consigned to them: you have gone a long way towards remedying that unacceptable deficiency. These insights are at least one positive consequence of your dreadful incarceration and, undoubtedly, one not wished for by those who put you there.

    • Blissex

      «Thanks Craig. Your ex-fellow prisoner was right, your acuity, conscience and reach make it essential for these accounts to be published. I have been a criminal defence solicitor for 35 years, visiting Scotland’s prisons weekly and I have never had any real understanding of the true nature of these establishments for those consigned to them:»

      It is good that someone got better informed, but it seems to me incredible that a member of the middle classes in a developed country is so unaware of how underclass people (“residuum” in Victorian terms) live outside and inside prisons.

      Perhaps because I have lived some several years in countries where class segregation by residence is not as extreme as in the UK, or perhaps because I read more, I have had a clear idea of underclass living conditions and of prison conditions since I was a teenager, and indeed my parents (as expected) drilled into me the idea that fate happened also to those middle class people who made “mistakes” like annoying the authorities and being blacklisted from the “good jobs”.

  • Jimmy Riddle

    Craig – many thanks for writing this piece – I do understand that it must have been very hard – but it does seem of vital importance to get the message out – and perhaps this is of greater importance than the other issues that you are campaigning for. This piece is strongly appreciated (at least by me).

  • Blissex

    The underclass, from prisoners to to the homeless, exists in rich countries largely because it is used by the authorities to terrify the middle classes:

    * As an example to what happens when people fail to conform, even just once, like the person held for 11 months in remand for affray.

    * As a threat from which the authorities “protect” the middle classes and their 3 bed semis.

    BTW that Barlinnie room looks pretty nice to me, in many parts of London or Oxford or Cambridge it would rent quickly for around £1,000 a month (£500 per bed), and many live in much worse situations. I have lived myself for months in AirBnb rooms that were similar or worse. As to being locked in one, the inmates of such rented rooms are largely so too, because other than hard labour during the day they hardly have the energy or the money to leave them.

    A comment from a discussions board commenter illustrates:

    I once worked with a Pole. He was the senior developer on my team. He said when he came to the UK he started as a builder and lived in a studio flat with 10 other eastern european immigrants, all working on the same site as him. Grim. But now he lives in Brixton so you know, it can always get worse

    But think of how the living standards of affluent property owners have been booming for 40 years thanks to housing cost inflation and redistribution!

  • Robert Ben Loyal

    I waited patiently for months for Part Two about prison. Eventually I forgot all about it.
    Thank you for writing about your time in Saughton. Yes it is an important topic. I can appreciate it is an emotionally difficult topic to write about, too. Greatly appreciated, Craig.
    best wishes

  • Robert Ben Loyal

    I’m a nothin and a nobody. In no position to help the underclass.

    When I go to my bed tonight, I’m going to look at the door handle on the inside of my room, be glad it’s there and grateful I don’t have to wait for somebody else to open it for me.

    Glad and grateful, always a good way to be.

  • MrShigemitsu

    Craig, you really should write a book describing not only your experiences but the gross injustices within the prison system.
    I promise to buy a copy if you do.

  • Sam

    So right. The point is, the ruling classes despise ‘plebs’. They want to give contracts to their mates = mega prisons. They want to monetise the criminal justice system for the benefit of private companies. They don’t care one jot about what is good for society. They don’t even believe there is such a thing.

    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      It really doesn’t have to be this way.

      Under Devo which already exists, the prison system in Scotland can be reformed for the betterment of Scotland as a whole.

      The mechanism, and funding, already exists. All we need to do is to follow the Norwegian formula as set out in those two white papers and which has so brilliantly been shown to work in every way.

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