I HOPE WE CHOOSE LOVE REVIEW

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by Alex Valente

Content warning: suicide

On the evening of Friday, 18th October 2019, I attended Massy Books launch of Kai Cheng Thom’s latest book I Hope We Choose Love – A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World, a collection of non-fiction and short poetic pieces that together form a net of radical hope-building for a time – and it has been a long time, as rightly noted in the introduction – when all hope seems lost. I follow Kai Cheng’s work online already, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the event. I’m glad to say I’m still not entirely sure what happened.Continue Reading

TRANSPARENT TRANSACTIONS

by David Breakspear

As an active prison reform campaigner, I have wanted the fences and walls which surround our prisons to become metaphorically invisible. But why is this important to me?

As a former prisoner who, due to sentence and not a conviction, will always have to disclose parts of my criminal record, and who will forever have my life open to scrutiny, privacy is not an option; I had or have no choice in the matter. If I’m asked, I must tell. This despite the fact that I am not involved with the system as a ‘resident’ or ‘service-user’ anymore and no longer considered a risk to society. A reformed character, my new label? Continue Reading

PROBLEMATIC “PEACEBUILDING”: WHEN THE POWERFUL DON’T ASK AND WON’T LISTEN

peacebuilding afghanistan

by Sarah Edgcumbe

Afghanistan, a country that has been in and out of the news since the 9/11 terror attack and subsequent U.S.-led coalition invasion, is once again at the forefront of media attention this month, as a result of Trump’s decision to cancel peace talks with the Taliban on 9th September. The relentless violence and bombings conducted by Afghan state forces, U.S.-backed Afghan militias, Taliban, religious extremist groups, career criminals and other groups are no longer considered to be remarkable events; they happen so frequently that the international audience has become desensitized to them. Continue Reading

THE TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION

computer prison study

by David Breakspear

“ICT and digital systems in prison must support more flexible access to learning that is tailored to the needs of individual learners and enables participation in distance and other learning.”  (Coates, 2016)

People are sent to prison as punishment for a crime they are alleged to have committed. I say alleged as I am no longer confident that a finding of guilt in court is an indication of whether the alleged guilty party, is in fact, guilty; however, this is a separate debate.

Why are ICT and digital systems, and of course education, important in prison? Continue Reading

NATURE OR NURTURE

by David Breakspear

CW: mentions suicide, self-harm

In my previous article ‘Consequence of Conscience’, I mention a work titled Suicide by sociologist Émile Durkheim. In Suicide, Durkheim introduced us to the term ‘anomie’, suggesting it to be a breakdown of social norms resulting in a lack of standards and values. He also used this same term and definition to explain a reason as to why some members of society embark on a path of crime or ‘deviance’ – straying from the norm. Durkheim saw deviance as an inevitable part of life which is needed for innovation and change.Continue Reading

CONSEQUENCE OF CONSCIENCE

prison jail 1

by David Breakspear

CW: mentions suicide

Recently appointed Home Secretary Priti Patel stated in an interview that she wants criminals to “literally feel terror” at the thought of committing crime. In my opinion, to make a statement like that shows how far removed from reality some of our politicians are.

In America, a lot of the States still use the death penalty. I would say that is the ultimate consequential terror for anyone to face. In the UK, the final execution took place as recent as 1964; in fact, the death penalty in the UK was only, totally completely abolished in 1998.

If the sceptre of losing one’s own life is not enough of a consequence to stop breaking the  law, then what is the Home Secretary’s version of ‘terror’?Continue Reading

TRANSPARENT REFORM

prison wall tower reform

by David Breakspear

It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.
N. Mandela

A message I have carried whilst campaigning for reforms in our prison system has been one of making the walls of justice invisible. The walls that ensconce societies; mums, dads, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, other family members and loved ones and/or friends.

As someone that became, somewhat, institutionalised to the safety and comfort of prison, I saw those walls as keeping people out. I also saw this as a good thing. How ironic then, that here I am now, writing an article promoting transparency to those very same walls that were my protectors.Continue Reading