Changes to the Disclosing Offences to Employers

 

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Ex-prisoners that want to turn their lives around through work and rehabilitation will be supported in this in a move from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). There new ruling will change what the ex-prisoners have to disclose to prospective employers.

Some prison sentences of over four years will no longer have to be disclosed to employers after a specified period of time has passed. This change will not apply where there are issues of safeguarding; and will not apply to offences attract the most serious sentences, including life, or for serious sexual, violent and terrorism offences.

 

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We all know that regular work is a major factor in breaking the cycle of crime, and that  but many ex-prisoners find it impossible to get a job, without the assistance of some amazing organisations (https://cleansheet.org.uk and https://tempusnovo.org/).

In addition to the rule change for longer sentences over four years, the period of time for which shorter sentences and community sentences have to be revealed to employers will also be decreased. As of yet MoJ and others have not finalised these proposals with the stated time-lengths, but whatever they are, they will be most welcome

The government say that they are doing this to aid rehabilitation and the acknowledgement that the longer an ex-prisoner is out of work the more chance it is that they will slip back into the cycle of offending to help finance their lifestyles.

David Gauke, said:

The responsibility, structure and support provided by regular work is an essential component of effective rehabilitation, something which benefits us all by reducing re-offending and cutting the cost of crime.

That’s why we are introducing reforms to break barriers faced by ex-offenders who genuinely want to turn their lives around through employment.

While these reforms will help remove the stigma of convictions, we will never compromise public safety. That is why separate and more stringent rules will continue to apply for sensitive roles, including those which involve working with children and vulnerable adults.

Currently, where a sentence longer than four years is passed, crimes committed decades earlier, including those committed as a child, must be disclosed to employers for the remainder of the offender’s life. If someone was convicted of a minor offence in their childhood some tens of years ago, and received (a then lengthy) sentence, they would still need to disclose this today!

 

The NEW Incentives Regime

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“This new framework gives Governors the tools to set clear behavioural standards for prisoners – enhancing their ability to maintain stability while steering offenders away from a life of crime.” These words by David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice announced the reformed Incentives regime to be used in our prison estate.

For me, the removal of ‘Entry Level’ is the most sensible of moves. I witnessed how this alienated prisoners from the regime in their jail. It caused a divide between individual prisoners and the staff that manned their landings and the prison management. This is not a good position to be starting your prison career. If a prisoner enters the system on a even keel with their peers it helps build that foundation of belonging to the community. This move should have an immediate impact on the prison community and its members.

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The scheme allows staff to affirm good behaviour and challenge when that behaviour does not meet the desired level. This, as many members of the public will think, is what ought to have been happening without this scheme. Prison officers that walk the landings and have the day to day dealings with the prisoners ought to be guiding them this way. With the new keyworking scheme that has been implemented a while now it should be that relationships between prison officers and prisoners get stronger as they work together. This is the path to real rehabilitation.

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The new scheme allows for Governors to facilitate extra time out of the cell for those prisoners that follow and engage with the prison regime. This has been tried previously, and failed when a former Secretary of State decided that we had too many prison officers and made it easy for the staff with years of experience to leave. For Governors to be able to act on this aspect of the scheme prisons are going to have to ensure that their landings are manned with enough staff to patrol the landings and supervise those prisoners who are still on association.

While I welcome this reworking of the scheme, I am also concerned that the groundwork has not be done to ensure that this will be a successful change. We have seen changes made to prison policy time and again, and more recent changes have been poorly administered which causes more confusion in the community; and that only goes to detract from the good work that goes on in our prison estate.

it is my hope that this scheme will be administered correctly at local and national levels. We can only watch and see what comes of this.

The Greatest Day in my Life

“Your situation leaves me no option but to sentence you to life imprisonment…” They were the last words that I heard before being taken down to the cells to await transport to prison. What I did not hear was the Judge go on to explain what he meant by that, and today, some 26 years later, I am pleased that I do not know what he said.

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For me this really was the best thing that could have happened at that time. I was in such a mess physically, emotionally and spiritually. Imprisonment was not a punishment even though it took me away from my employment, my training and my friends. It took me out of my comfort zone even though life had become uncomfortable for me, and more so for the victims of my offending, but it gave me so much more.

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The images I have used at the start of this piece are dark, and I chose them on purpose. This is, after all, what many think that prison is like. I can empathise a bit, after all, it is what I thought that I would be going to. But the reality is so much different from that; and I am aware that this is not the case for all my friends and former peers in prison.

 

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I was sentenced to life imprisonment, but what His Honour Judge Sheerin did not know at that time was that he was giving me a life worth living. He was giving me time and space to find the ‘real me’, and not the ‘new me’ as Her Majesty’s Prison’s Offending Behaviour Programmes like to call it. Prison was not a re-invention of the old Mark Humphries, it was an uncovering of the person that had been in hiding since early childhood.

I do not blame my parents, my up-bringing or my ‘learning history’ for my actions even though they all played a part. I was the person that put a rolled up, lighted newspaper through the letterbox of an unknown (to me) person. I was the person that set fire to numerous other properties in the area, and I was the person that caused mayhem, panic and confusion for many – including the emergency services. And I am sure that when I handed myself into custody at Parkside Police Station in Cambridge there was more than one sigh of relief.

Our ‘learning history’ is not solely based on our education. It is the way that we live, move and have our being in society; in the community that we were raised in. Prior to prison I did not realise how much of an impact this had on my life; and it has on all our lives. ‘Learning history’ is the term used to describe the relationship that we, as individuals have with each aspect of our life. It lists our parents, and what our home-life was like. It discusses our extended family; Did we have contact with them? What were their influences on us? Who did we associate with? What were our friends like? It does list our education, and how well (or not) we coped with, and got on at school.

Looking at myself from this perspective was new. I thought of myself as an island in a mass of other islands. I was small and insignificant as a person, and what I did (criminal or not) did not matter. The spotlight of offending behaviour work in custody changed that. Not only did it show me as Mark Humphries the individual, it showed me as part of something much bigger; and it went on to say that my ripple of behaviour (good or bad) has an effect around those that I am connected with, and those that are connected with my connects and so on.

Self-realisation and self-reflection caused me to change who I was and the way that I saw myself. I was part of a community (a collection of people with a common unity); I had a worth and a valuable input into those around me. In prison this became deeper when I started to write.

Writing started off being cathartic; and I would use it as a person therapy. It is where I learned poetry and other forms of this life-giving craft. When I then found that I could write openly about me, and my experiences I found that healing was taking place. Then I found that I had a voice in getting my work published.

That changed the way that I saw myself. I was no longer a prisoner that could write; I was a writer in prison. This is important because it showed me in the ‘real me’ light that I needed to see myself. I was able to share and then my words were having positive effects on the community.

I then started to study, firstly a course with the Writers Bureau, and now, English Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University. Who knew that I enjoyed studying? My educational record would not have shown this. Who would have thought that I would go on to teach Creative Writing? Not me. I have writing a course that introduces prisoners to this craft, and that is available via the in-cell learning channel Way2Learn.

I hope you can now appreciate why I say that getting a life sentence was the greatest day of my life. This isn’t going to be the same for everyone, and there will be those that enter the custodial system with no desire to change. I have met them, and have met those that come out of prison and still offend. I guess that is always going to be, but it doesn’t have to be THE way things are.

I hope that my blog has given you some food for thought. Prison is a negative place, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

 

 

 

Norwich writer, Mark Humphries, talks about life in prison and ministry.

In February ordained minister, former prisoner and writer Mark Humphries, who lives in East Norwich, was invited to address a reception at the House of Lords. Coinciding with the 12-month anniversary of Mark’s release from prison, it was a fitting end to a year of remarkable opportunity. Jenny Seal reports.

Mark Humphries_Jenny SealMark Humphries seems to fit more into life than most. In his 51 years he has trained as a chef, been ordained as a minister, set up a small enterprise selling vegetable boxes and served two terms in prison as part of a life sentence.

Mark, a well-built man with a soft Welsh accent and down-to-earth manner, tells his story openly with a sense of awe and plenty of superlatives. He describes the last twelve months as “a massive year”.

Making the Most of Life after Prison
Since being released from his second term in prison in February 2018, Mark has started work for an educational TV production company. He has also become a newspaper columnist in the Bury Free Press, begun preaching again, developed a blog, continued his studies with the Open University, turned an award-winning piece of writing into a novel and been invited to sit on an advisory panel for the Prison Education Trust.

On Tuesday, February 5, he addressed a reception at the House of Lords talking about the importance of education in prison.

Some of this rapid success he attributes to Val Dodsworth, “a massive friend, influence, supporter and mentor.” Since leaving prison, Mark has been living in accommodation in Norwich owned by the Christian homeless charity House of Genesis.

Val, the founder of the charity, has become a close friend, introducing him to people and opening doors for him. Mark said: “Had it not been for Val I think I might be in a totally different place.”

This is no doubt true, but it is Mark’s openness, positivity, humility, talent and hard work that enable him to make the most of the opportunities he is given.

A Life Sentence 
Mark was already a chef and a pastor when he committed the 13 incidences of arson that led to him being given a life sentence. He was 25 and had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder. Thankfully no one was hurt in the fires.

“I guess it happened very abruptly,” he said. “It went from the real high time of enjoying everything; being Rev Mark Humphries, Pastor of Eastside Christian Fellowship as it was at the time, to nothing. To not actually caring about my faith, not actually caring about my life, not actually caring about going to work.

“And so, I set the fires. And then a month or two months later I walked into the police station and handed myself in.  There was a realisation, ‘actually, Mark, what have you done?’”

He served 10 years including three years in a therapeutic facility, “a wonderful prison called HMP Grendon”.  He came out in 2003, settling in Norfolk where, with his partner of the time, he rented a smallholding, growing and delivering vegetables and tending pigs.

The relationship ended, and in 2014 Mark got into an aggressive confrontation for which he was recalled to prison.  “The World Cup had just been on and it was a stupid, boy argument. We were really vociferous and shouting,” he admits. “Because we were in an approved premises at a probation hostel it didn’t go down too well.” He ended up in HMP Wayland for four more years.

“Even though I say I was annoyed about the recall, I think it was actually a good thing,” he said.  “It allowed me time and space to repair what I’d left undone when I came out of prison in 2003.”

When he talks about his time in prison it is always in positive terms. “It’s an amazing place prison,” he says. “I got to know myself so deeply that it was life changing. In fact, it changed my whole outlook on life and faith.”

Mark’s Life of Faith
Mark became a Christian when he was 14 at a summer camp on a beach in South Wales. As a teenager he was part of a strong youth group in a charismatic church.

After leaving school he trained as a chef and moved to London where he got a job with Eastside Christian Fellowship feeding homeless people in a church-run makeshift hostel.

His pastor saw his potential and encouraged him to go into ministry.  After some persuasion, Mark enrolled in a Distance Learning Bible College and received ordination.

His time in prison opened Mark up to other faith traditions. “I came in as a staunch Pentecostal believer, very charismatic Christian,” he said, “to now understanding that this broad church of Christianity is massive.” Now as well as attending a local  church he also worships at the Norwich Quaker Meeting House.

He describes prison as “a real powerful place for a Christian to be”. He continues: “I’ve had big, big bodybuilding men in tears in my cell because of whatever. But they wouldn’t show that to the rest of the community.  In prison people get to know about your faith whether you preach it because you talk to them or whether you preach it because you show them.”

A Bright Future Forming New Sentences
It was in prison that he also discovered a love for writing that has now become his passion, and the reason he is a wholehearted supporter and campaigner for education in prison.

“When I went in in 1993, I understood a sentence had to have a capital letter and a full stop,” he said.  “That was it – semi-colons, colons, commas and the rest of it, forget about it! At Bible College my work kept coming back with red grammar marks and punctuation marks in it, and I’m thinking ‘I have no idea what they mean’. So, I went to prison and thought ‘I’ve got to find out what they mean now’. So, I gained the GCSE in English which was fantastic.”

“And then I wrote a story because I was bored one night. I thought, ‘you know what, I actually like this’. Someone then told me about the Koestler Awards that run an arts prize every year in prison.  The story won bronze in its draft form. And so that was it, I was off – I wanted to write now.”

Now he writes crime fiction novels, poems, blogs and is a newspaper columnist writing on behalf of charity Greener Growth.  Mark is also studying for a Degree in English and Creative Writing with the Open University and has recently taken on the job with an education provider to the Prison Service.

“All prisoners need to learn up-to-date skills,” he said.  “It’s great that you went in as a builder, but if you’ve been in prison 20 years as a builder, stuff has changed.  So, let’s just keep refreshing those skills, renewing them with new ones.”

It is certainly an approach that is working well for Mark.

 

This article appeared in Good News Newspaper earlier this month. It was written by their journalist, Jenny Seal. (https://www.networknorwich.co.uk/Articles/545130/Network_Norwich_and_Norfolk/Partners/Good_News_for_Norwich/First_chance_to_read_the_Spring_Good.aspx)

A Blog on the Prisoners’ Education Trust’s Website

Mark left prison in 2018 after serving a Discretionary Life Sentence. Now he’s heading back inside as part of PeoplePlus’ Wayout TV – delivering educational content through televisions in cells.

I wanted to change my path through life. I needed to find something that I could get my teeth into while in custody.

Who wants to end up behind the high walls and razor-like topped fences that surround our prison estate? It would be my guess that not many of us would want to go to prison, let alone want to return there after serving a life sentence. Let me take this time to explain why I am going back.

When I came to prison I had what I would describe as an average education. I had at least gained some qualifications, and built myself a career; I had cooked in pubs, restaurants and for students at Cambridge University and for royalty. In 1992 things changed and my mental health deteriorated. I slipped into a downward spiral which ended with me being given a Discretionary Life Sentence and I served my time at a variety of prisons including HMP Wormwood Scrubs, HMP Grendon and HMP Sudbury.

I left prison in 2003 and by 2011 I was a father to two young boys, a business owner with my then partner and working too many hours. Between us, my partner and I clocked over 175 hours a week at work, and this was taking its toll on my mental health, and on the relationship I had with my boys and their mum. I committed a crime that meant I was recalled to custody.

It was at this time that I wanted to change my path through life. I needed to find something that I could get my teeth into while in custody. I knew that I was good at telling stories, and I knew that I did not want to return to kitchen work. I sought support from PET to help fund a course. I studied with a distance learning college that specialised in training freelance writers, and I went on to have work published in Inside Time, The Friend and other media outlets.

When I moved to HMP Wayland I came across a project that was to have a significant role in my life. Wayout TV – owned by the prison education provider PeoplePlus – was in its infancy, but it was effective. It streamed two television channels into prison cells, and yet the programmes were being made or edited on site. I eventually joined the team as a compliancy editor. It was my role to watch the bought-in material to check that we did not breach HMPPS guidelines. It was at this time that my learning journey took another path, and I enrolled with the Open University on a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. At the time of writing this piece I am almost half way through.

I left prison on 14 February last year. I kept in touch with Wayout TV and soon after they commissioned me to write a Creative Writing course. This is now presented as a workbook and three videos that are broadcast on the Way2Learn channel.

This time I am going back to be part of a system that can be life-changing if prisoners want it to be

PeoplePlus then invited me to speak at their conference. This was an amazing opportunity for me to thank the tutors for the part that they played in recreating Mark Humphries, and to also encourage them in the work that they do. I guess that it isn’t always easy turning up at a prison day in and day out to teach and then not see an end result.

Earlier this year, I was also invited to speak at a House of Lords event for PeoplePlus, to mark Wayout TV reaching 25,000 prisoners daily. The celebratory event was attended by people from Government and Parliament, prison governors, Open University representatives and PeoplePlus staff. As the Managing Director introduced me, he announced that PeoplePlus were offering me employment within the Wayout team.

I have to admit that, even though I knew some moments before that the offer was going to be made, it was still emotional, and my talk changed as I spoke about why I believed Wayout was important, and what education means to prisoners. So you see it is with a glad heart that I am going back to prison. Only this time I am going back to be part of a system that can be life-changing if prisoners want it to be.

Prison has proven that people can pick up whatever labels they want, but they do not have to keep them

I am also part of PET’s Advisory Group – a group of ex-prisoners that have been supported by the Trust and are now living in the community. We meet to discuss different aspects of the charity’s work supporting prisoners in their education. I’ve also been able to attend several training sessions as part of the group.

Prison has been an emotional rollercoaster for me, it has been a time of searching and changing. It has proven that people can pick up whatever labels they want, but they do not have to keep them. Like the mythical phoenix, rehabilitation can cause people to emerge afresh and become the real person that was hidden inside them.

Help champion learning in prison by sharing your experience of studying inside. If you’re interested in telling your story, get in touch with our Communications Manager on katy@prisonerseducation.org.uk

Whose English is it Anyway?

In these mad times of discussing #Brexit this blog thought that it would muddy the waters further with this this piece that the blogger wrote sometime ago. The titular question came from a quotation that he read: “[t]here is no such thing as the Queen’s English. The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we (Americans) own the bulk of the shares.” (Twain, 1989 [1897]), and also from reading an article in Quest, ‘Americanize’, Comments on a Queen’s English Society meeting that discussed how American terms were finding their way into the British English Language (Ward 2017). In light of these two pieces this writer will set out to answer this question by using disciplines and perspectives from Language Studies.

Ben Johnson argued that our languages are an aspect of life that makes us human; he tells us that mankind uses their languages to express themselves above the animal world (1947 [1641]). Think briefly how you have used language today. There are many tasks that you might have carried out. This blogger has emailed his boss, spoken to his children, gave a talk at a meeting, sent several SMS text messages and a couple of Tweets. All of these conversations would have also projected nonverbal messages; they would have informed people about him, his education, his social background etc etc.

Language variation is an acknowledgement that the way in which we speak English is variable. We are all unique human beings and so the way that we structure our language use is also unique. English is often described in a single entity perspective, but this description is incorrect. Our rich language has many incarnations: students can study English as a foreign language, works of literature such as Pride and Prejudice is written in English, and all of the conversations that Humphries mentions above were carried out using different levels of English.

Language diversity happens in all walks of life, and at all levels of communication. The production meeting with his colleagues was held in a different realm of understanding to the conversation that Humphries had with his children, and that was different again to the way that he spoke with those in his Creative Writing class. This diversity also happens in the way that we recognise people known to us by the sound of their voice, or the turn of phrase that they use.

Accents and dialects are also part of our language diversity. Accents refer to the way words are pronounced, and contrary to popular belief we all have one. Accents reflect our background, and most of us only realise that we have an accent when we move away from our home (Esling, 1998). The Sociolinguist, Peter Stockwell argues that accents can also inform the listener to the age of the speaker (2002). Dialects act on the grammar of our vocabulary, and broadly speaking they can be identified as regional and or social. At this point, it should be noted that much of the ordinary talk of dialect refers to a non-standard pronunciation of words; a moving away from what is called the Standard British English.

Standard British English is the language used by broadcasters, education and for the most part, official documents. This standard language is considered to be the correct use of English, but Sociolinguists argue that any variation of language should be accepted. They go on to say that all dialectal variations are equal. One consideration of this is the word which is now used to refer to both the singular and plural subjects.

Let us take one example here: You in Standard English, 2nd person singular it is pronounced as you. And in Liverpool it is pronounced as you. In Second person plural, in Standard English it is pronounced as you. In Liverpool it is pronounced as youse.

At the close of the 1800s Twain made the comment that fed our titular question, and since then the use of the English language has grown in popularity. It is now an international language with users spread around the globe (Crystal, 1988). This has caused the English language to be spoken by more than three times the amount of people that speak English as their native language (Crystal 2006).

Rosma Lippi Green argues that the use of standard dictionaries to define English words is based on the power and influence of one section of society – the educated-mother-tongue speakers. Lippi-Green’s book, English with an Accent argues that written and spoken language should have an equal weight in how they are used. Her power and influence argument of the educated argument means that the languages are defined by a minority (Lippi-Green, 1997). One this theme David Crystal argues that Standard English is a language that was constructed some time ago (Crystal 2005)This then suggests that it has been allowed to grow and develop which disagrees with Humphries’ argument elsewhere that ‘Language is powerful; it should be allowed to shape our thinking as it grows and changes meaning’.

 

Crystal, D., (1988) The English Language, Harmondsworth, Penguin.  (2005), The stories of English, London, Penguin. (2006), English Worldwide, in Hogg, and Denison (eds), A History of the English Language Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Jonson, B, (1947[1641]) Timber or Discoveries, in Hereford, and Simpson (eds) The Works of Ben Jonson Vol 8,  Oxford, Oford University Press.

Esling, J.H. (1998), Everyone has an Accent Except me, in Bauer and Trudgill (eds) Language Myths Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Stockwell, P., (2002), Sociolinguists, A Resource for Students. Abingdon, Routledge.

Twain, M, (1989 [1897]), Following the Equator: A Journey around the World Vol 1. New York, Dover.

Ward, R., (2017), Americanize, in Quest 126.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Language

As a Freelance Writer the topic of the English language is of some importance to me. This is why when I read Susanna Rustin‘s piece, Why Study English? in the Guardian (10/03/2019) that there is an lack of English teachers I was intrigued because I was also aware of the lack of literacy levels among adults in prison.

On recall to prison I was shocked to see that there levels of literacy among my peers was at its lowest level,  but was pleased to see that there was help. Another prisoner, some years before me had had enough of the poor literacy levels that he mentioned in a letter to his penpal that something needed to be done. The prison community has a whole owes much to Tom Shannon and Christopher Morgan for the setting up of The Shannon Trust; a group that I am pleased to say, I was once a mentor.

As people that follow this blog will know, I am an avid fan of Creative Writing, in all its forms. I have even written and helped to produce a Creative Writing (which is now broadcast through the in-cell TV channel) course for prisoners because I want them (and others) to find both joy, and freedom of expression within our wonderful language.

I am not sure historically if there is a link, but certainly from what I read in Rustin’s piece we have cause for concern. If prior to this article there have been good numbers of English teachers, and that the decline has been slow, then with this now being highlighted, I have got to ask the question, are we going to see further declines in literacy skills among adults of future generations? If so, what are we doing to halt that decline?

Practical literacy lessons need to be concentrated around vocabulary, spelling and grammar; but they also need to be relevant. The tradition of starting with these basics, and knowing your nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs has been one that has stood the test of time, and one that we ought to get back to. It is interesting to note that prisoners that do not have English as a first language study these are part of the ESOL (English for speakers of Other Languages) courses, and end up with a better grasp than native English-speaking prisoners.

Once we have this in place the prisoners can go on to study further subjects. Our language skills are not confined to the study of the Humanities subjects, but used further afield. The sciences and Mathematics use English language to explain their theories and arguments. We also use the language in all of our workplaces, which is why I believe that there ought to be a level of education within the prison workshops and other places of employment.

I think that we have to look at language versus literature for this argument, and for me, language wins. Our language shows much of our human endeavour, it shows our achievements, and it is full of the details that we go on to use in literature and other subjects. As a writer I am always interested in the current language usage, and how that informs society around us. As an example, it always intrigues me that something that once was ‘cool’ is now ‘sick’. Recently social media even taught me the original meaning of ‘deadline’ recently, and as an ex-prisoner it is of note. Deadline was the line drawn in the earth around a prison and is the inmate stepped across it their were liable to be shot. Now think how often we use this word in our everyday tasks.

I have wandered through the use of the English language and how it changes on purpose. In answering the question posed by Rustin, Why Study English? I think the reason that we ought to enhance this subject and ensure that it is continued to be taught and studied is the English language is so rewarding, and as an ex-prisoner it was the key to my freedom.

The Legal Regulation of Illegal Drugs

Recently I attended the Quakers in Criminal Justice Conference held at Hinsley Hall, Leeds. I went for two reasons: firstly I was to be appointed as the Editor to their Newsletter. I had been co-opted into the role some months ago, but this conference would make the appointment official.

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Photo by Brandon Nickerson on Pexels.com

The second reasons that I went was to discuss, learn and discern matters relating to the current drug policy, and how we as Quakers can assist in moving this forward. There was a very good selection of speakers who gave us up-to-date information from within their field of speciality. I will share some of what each speaker said in the following sections:

Professor Alex Stevens:Professor in Criminal Justice at the University of Kent. Professor Stevens talked through the issues surrounding possession of illegal drugs; and that while there is some tolerance towards small quantity of drugs in possession there is still a risk that they will be prosecuted. We looked at the models in use in some of the countries that have decriminalised drug use. These models fell into a few categories: make the drugs so boring that it is nothing special – we all know where to get them from, make drugs a health and not a criminal matter, and bring them down in price – which would deter the black market and those involved in organised crime.

Our second speaker was Peter McCall, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria. He gave us an overview of the work he now does after describing his army career. During his talk Peter focused on the town of Barrow in Furness, a place that is divided into two classes by the employment available there – you either took the highly-skilled, well paid work for BAE or there was very little else. In Barrow the Cumbrian police have bought a flat and it is now run as a community hub. Peter went on to say how he justified spending the £98,000 against the cost of keeping an offender in prison – save two people from going to jail and the flat has returned the monies spent!

 

Danny KushlickHead of External affairs at Transform Drugs Policy Foundation gave our final talk. The group that Danny founded is concerned with the uncontrolled drug supply, and campaigns for their legal regulation. In his presentation he shared lots of information on why the current system is not working, and why there needs to be regulation that allows drug use to happen.

As a whole conference decide that we would adopt the phrase legal regulation as opposed to decriminalisation. We want changes to happen and that all drugs should be available through approved outlets as some drugs (tobacco and alcohol) are. Conference went on to write a final minute to our weekend, and I want to share that with you here.

The Final Minute of Quakers in Criminal Justice conference: (February 2019). We met to discuss, learn and discern matters relating to drug policy. The conference concluded having discerned the following Minute:

We feel strongly that the present drug policy causes harm as it is based on the criminalisation of people who use illegal drugs. We learnt that criminalisation is ineffective in reducing illegal drug use and that systems used to control drug use make no impact upon prevalence.

We understand that doing nothing is to condone the status quo and the harm caused by the current policy. Quakers in Criminal Justice understand that legal regulation will provide greater protection to people who use drugs. We need a health based system which encompasses harm reduction, health, social care and community resilience.

We consider that drug problems must be addressed alongside the problems caused by an unjust and unequal society. We believe it would be beneficial to have a regulated and licensed supply of all drugs. Public education is essential to convey that legal regulation would safeguard people who use drugs and the wider society as a whole – preventing deaths, drug related crime and reducing the involvement of organised crime.

We appreciate the deepening of this subject and we encourage Friends to explore how we can influence public opinion and political decision making. Friends can be in touch with the Quaker Decriminalisation Network about actions that can be taken.

This is a moral issue and Friends can  be a force for change. We call upon Quakers in Britain to gain clarity on how to end the ‘war on drugs’.

Broken Picture Frame

Besides the open door

Lays a broken picture frame.

A thousand words shattered

As history is paused

With fragments of a photo

Fluttering on the winds of change-

Laying on the threshold of opportunity.

The past is done,

The future hangs in the balance.

We stand at a cross roads

As conversations go on

Like circles in the sand.

Voices on voices clammer

All wanting to be heard

On the state of this union.

The marriage is over

And no one is listening

As voices shout

About a broken picture frame.

man-couple-people-woman
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

 

This poem was written as a response to write something about #Brexit. I think that we are all missing the bigger image here. Whilst we will always have differences surely we are #strongerasonevoicewithmanyaccents.

blue and yellow round star print textile
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com