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  • An alternative view to the ..... "Lock them up for the rest of their lives and throw away the key" ..... mentality of people like kipper and NODDY.

    "Rehabilited via the Open University while in prison," read the citation to my nomination for an award at last Thursday's inaugural staging of the Performance Awards. Hosted by television presenter Kate Silverton, in central London, it was attended by a throng of successful, talented and determined people, all there to celebrate "outstanding UK achievement".

    My nomination, in the education category, arrived in my inbox several months ago. I had to read it a number of times, sure that there had been a mistake. Did the organisers know who I was? "Of course," said administrator Jenny Gale when I called to discuss the issues it raised. I explained my reservations.

    Twenty seven years ago my vile criminal actions contributed to the deaths of two people and inflicted incalculable pain and grief on two families and many friends of my victims. Undoubtedly, their suffering continues today. Words are insufficient to express how sorry I am for the pain I have caused – and I know that my "success" is still painful for at least some of those people.

    When I went to prison for life I was a damaged, ignorant brute and I could not have conceived of "succeeding" in any possible way. Bereft of social skills or abilities, all I could really focus on was how to survive on the landings. Not until I was guided into education by a wing psychologist did I begin to see possibilities.

    Six years later, with the encouragement of some of the best people who work in our prisons, I was awarded my first degree by the Open University. The governor of the prison suggested a ceremony. "A ceremony?" I said. "Yes," he said, "… to recognise your endeavours and to celebrate the start of a new beginning."

    The six years I had spent studying for that degree, mostly in my cell at night, had been beautiful but heartbreaking. I discovered the writings of Sophocles, Plato and Voltaire, and through it all, had the shocking realisation that the dysfunctional, destructive life I had led outside could and should have been so very different. By then, I also knew that the same could have been said for the majority of the people in prison alongside me.

    I declined the governor's offer of a ceremony. In the light of my past actions any celebration of my achievements, I decided, would be wholly inappropriate. But four years after I was released, having served 20 years, I accepted an invitation to become an honorary master of the Open University and enthusiastically attended the ceremony.

    I did not go to revel but to acknowledge the efforts and commitment of all those in our society who want our prisons to be places where good things happen.

    It was the same reason that in the end saw me accept my nomination for a Performance Award. I was sponsored by renowned educationist Dame Sheila Wallis. "We need to be able to recognise effort and give people a second chance," she said.

    Abused, as it has been traditionally over the years by politicians and pundits, rehabilitation is a word that used to make me want to spit. Although I did not win, having my efforts recognised by the Performance Awards, and by the Open University, has convinced me that rehabilitation for offenders is still an idea worth championing.

    • Erwin James is the author of A Life Inside and the Home Stretch and a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and the Alternatives to Violence Project – Britain.

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    • I'm not saying 'who' conditions people to commit crime, i'm trying to convey that conditioning itself is a factor in crime. Either one conforms to conditioning or one rejects it and in many many cases those that reject conditioning and not having the understanding of 'who' and 'what' they are, commit crime. I agree with what you're saying, i think were looking at the same thing but from different perspectives, thats all.
      I see no hope for mankind really, it appears to me that mankind drops his sense of self or his ego only when there's a disaster of some kind. and all i'm saying is, if this sense of self, this sense of ego were taught, was understood from an early age things would look different.
      But, again as you hiint at, that takes responsibilty, the responsibilty for each of us to be fully aware of 'who' we are, of our place in society, of what society is, to be actively responsible for themselves and for their understanding of their own mind and teach and learn as they go. and it seems to me that this responsibilty, to be an intelligent human rather than an intellectual one is just too bigger job.

    • I didn't say they were impossible, but that it will never happen.

      There is no movement to change the whole education system, even though certain independent schools are often touted as among the best in the world, the majority of people, including the teachers who do such a #$%$ job, will defend the status quo to the end.

      Krishnamurti schools aren't run by ordinary teachers, but by very open minded people as willing to learn as they are to teach, blackboards are for class notes, not for the "copy what you see on the board" brigade of lazy arseholes who couldn't teach my cat to #$%$ in a litter tray.

      There is no mass movement to change the way people think either, because, on the whole, people see nothing wrong with the way they think, such is the ego.

      Crime you say is part of human conditioning, but who conditions people to commit crime? It's not as though it was acceptable in society, but it happens anyway. It's natural for people to take what they want, watch a group of chimps when a bunch of bananas is thrown to them, or a female on heat is about. Animals who break their 'society's' rules are often killed, offhand, territory is taken by the strong from the weak. Rules and laws are there to stop us doing what comes naturally, to keep society as peaceful as possible. Mankind got where it is today on the back of war and conflict, a struggle of the 'good' against the 'bad'.

      I don't see much hope for mankind when I see, in this day and age, a child dying every six seconds from hunger or preventable, treatable, sickness.


    • Knowing something about Jiddu Krishnamurti Butch as you do, surely you're aware that nothing is impossible. Saying or believing that something is impossible is the thing blocks possibility.

      There will always be crime, not because it part of the human condition, but rather it is part of the human conditioning and the knee jerk reaction (in some cases) to that conditioning.

      If my thoughts remain 'unachievable' to you, then they remain unachievable to mankind as a whole and the cycle continues.

      Nothing is unachievable, nothing is impossible, to say they are is a paradigm and part of the pattern, imo. :)

    • Surely Butch what you're talking about here is 'behaviourism', an american invention, works well on pigeons but not so well on humans because not all humans lack the intelligence to understand what's going on. Its preferable to prison sentences i grant you but dont be misled into thinking its an answer or solution to this problem.

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      • This is rehabilitating prisoners IN prison, not an alternative, and no suggestion that it should lead to a reduced sentence.

        I don't know where you get 'behaviourism' from, this is working on prisoners to try and stop them from re-offending by offering them education and, in some cases, skills needed to find work.

        At the moment there is no attempt to rehabilitate prisoners in Australia, I don't know the situation in the UK but I can't imagine it's much, if any, different.

        Prison makes full time criminals out of petty criminals because they learn where they made mistakes, and learn how to do it properly.

        Every criminal you rehabilitate is at least one more person you save from becoming a victim.