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2016: wow what a year

I’m in a reflective mood

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My year started as always with birthday celebrations, yes my birthday is 1st January.

I also took up a new role as the Chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP/YOI Hollesley Bay. I had fulfilled many of the duties the previous 2 years as Vice-chair but now having the title of Chairman I noticed there was more respect.  Little did I know what was in store for me just three months later.

On 1st April I accepted an invitation from Mark Leech, editor Prisons Handbook, to write my personal views on the IMB from my experiences for the 2016 edition. My reasons were not to elevate myself in any way but to get the message out clear and concise that there must be changes as the system was not fit for purpose in its current form. A monitoring system within prisons is vital but it must have independence and it most certainly needs to have a voice, a loud one, it had neither.

Almost as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard the backlash began. Not only did the whole of my board turn against me and demand my immediate resignation but the IMB Secretariat and the National Council began behind the scenes to plot my downfall. I have been unable to reveal all as I have been ‘gagged’ threatened bullied and ostracised by them. I have had to face 2 investigations by the Ministry of Justice who have tried in every way to depict me in a bad way through a character assassination and attacking my honesty and integrity.

Yet I have refused to resign and have with the help of some very amazing people continued to stand and face everything including a disciplinary hearing.

So what was I accused of?

I wrote an article on prison reform and in the eyes of the MoJ this was misconduct

I continued to write about prison reform and in the eyes of the MoJ this was gros misconduct.

For those who know me either through social media or who have met me in person will know that I am passionate for prison reform and have worked hard getting the message out that “our prisons are in crisis and prison reform is taking too long”.

But I will not end the year with my head in my hands or with a heavy heart, I plan to celebrate as my birthday draws near.

Here are some of my highlights, photo memories and amazing people from 2016

Neil Barclay (Thameside)

Librarian with a difference and a Butler Award winner, I invited him to HMP/YOI Hollesley Bay for the 6 book challenge presentations. We then met up again in Thameside for an event with Sir Lenny Henry.

lenny-henry

No I’m not sitting on a chair, Neil, Lenny and Peter never felt so short!

Trevor Peel (Chairman National Liberal Club Commonwealth Forum)

I have frequented the David Lloyd George room on many occasions and the afternoon tea was delicious, thank you Trevor. Discussing the Commonwealth and Human Rights and meeting HE Norman Hamilton, Malta High Commissioner was a highlight.

Christopher Moore (CEO Clink charity)

At the Restorative Practice Awards I was privileged to share a table with Chris, Peter Jukes, Jonathan Robinson, and Alison O’Regan. Such deep and important conversations we had!

christopher-moore

 

It’s been good to stay in touch and encourage each other. See you at the next awards ceremony.

Mark Leech (Editor, Prisons Handbook)

You have helped me shout louder than I have ever before. You believed in me and stuck by me. Daisy Mallet will be forever grateful.

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Jonathan Robinson (Author)

Well what can I say, we have bumped into each other on so many occasions this year anyone would think we both want prison reform! A tireless prison reformer and friend.

Ian Bickers (Executive Governor, HMP Wandsworth)

Memorable conversations this year. Thank you for inviting me to HMP Wandsworth to talk about prison reform. A man I admire with a very difficult job. Remember Ian I am behind you.

ian-bickers

Yes, I really am. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. This was one of my many times at the Justice Select Committee.

 Juliet Lyon (PRT)

Lunch together, your kindness and compassion will stay with me

Ruth Armstrong and Amy Ludlow

Learning together: Prison and University Partnership Conference in HMP Grendon and St Johns College Cambridge. One of the most fascinating and enlightening conferences I have been to. Great to catch up with you both.

Richard Rowley

You have been there day and night, always ready on the other end of the phone to encourage support and offer advice. I can’t thank you enough.

Audrey Ludwig (Suffolk Law Centre)

An amazing lady who has supported me throughout this year and named me as one of her Suffolk Human Rights Heroes of 2016. Thank you, Audrey, and all in KOHRS.

The Tartan Con

We have met twice this year and both times have been profound and engaging, thank you for your friendship

Ian Dunt

Your interviews with me this year certainly caused a stir in Petty France

Paul Sullivan (InsideTime)

Endless cups of coffee and tea together and an interview that reached so many and the feedback from those in prison kept up the momentum of speaking out for prison reform.

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There are many, many more people I could write about but I will save them for another blog.

The most important person and my best friend who has stood by me, held me up when I felt I was falling and has always believed in me should have the last word.

 

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I think I’ve learned to be a pretty good judge of character and have learned to give fair and honest critique as much as take it. If I’d thought for one minute that Faith was somehow incorrect in what she wrote about prisons and monitoring, then I’d have chimed in with words of caution. She wasn’t. Instead she told it like it is – they do that “up north” you know – and she was entirely correct in what she wrote and the way she wrote it. Nothing could have prepared her for the reprisals or how she has been lambasted for the stand she has taken since. She’s paid a high personal cost, trust me I know the woman. But I also know that the friendships and expressions of support she’s received as a result of it, many from people who are unable to even be named, have helped sustain her. It has been enough to show me that the changes she’s calling for are precisely what needs to be changed. I’ve been truly amazed how a department of HM Government has conducted itself. I had expected better. But I’ve not been surprised at all how Faith has retained her integrity despite it. That’s who she is.

 

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