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By Andy Mouncey, May 11 2021 01:08PM

Are you still doing this silly long distance running thing? They asked.

We’ve not heard about any for a while….


That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been any, of course – though I think my last post on a silly long distance theme was way back Feb 2020 when I had a little jaunt around Lands End The Arc of Attrition post

Before the world changed.

So you’d be forgiven if you thought that was just a phase I had to go through.

Pause.

Nah.


There has been plenty of running but not any silly long distances of note – until last week.


I’ve had a very consistent year or so of training while we’ve been in-out of semi-lockdown and inevitably have taken the opportunity to change some stuff.

It’s a boredom-samey thing and a willingness to keep poking the bear.


This has mainly involved doing more sustained running on the roads. That took some serious conditioning work to get the soft tissues ready for the battering and then 3 months on top of that before the lower leg muscles adapted enough to handle said battering without having me shuffle around for 3-5 days after a run.

Because fitness is specific.


Then back in November I got serious by starting a measured progression of two key sessions. One is an old favourite – well, favourite is a bit strong but it bloody works – that I used to do on the trails and am now doing a road version, while the other is new to me and is brutally simple: Run at a sustained best possible pace – usually without taking on anything to eat-drink – for way longer than you think you can on your tod.

What that means is as fast as you can for the target duration holding everything else as consistent as possible i.e. no slowing down.

It’s quite a balancing act.

My goal is to do 3 hours – and be OK the day after.


Six months later I’m up to 2 hours 15mins which I’ve now hit twice.

And been perfectly fine the day after.

While this means nothing to anyone else except me, my 54 year young self is quietly chuffed.


So it appears my (road) running is fine – but how did that translate to this silly long distance usually over some mountains stuff? With Lakeland 100mile race www.lakleland100.com now 3 months away I figured I really ought to find out.


‘How would you feel if I had a trot round the Lakeland 100 route?’ I said to Mrs Mouncey.

(The race is pretty much a lap of the Lake District).

Raised eyebrows aside she went with it along with a few safeguarding must-dos if husband insisted on doing the whole thing solo (sigh).

Our boys didn’t bat an eyelid: Normal dad-shit as far as they were concerned.


Which was why I found myself walking away from car – yes, I know I locked it but I’m just going back to check, OK? - at the race start point in Coniston southern Lake District at 11am on a glorious and chilly morning. I’ve done this race five times now: The inaugural year 2008 when 30 people started and only 11 of us finished,


then 2010,


2011,


2018,


So it’s a bit like pulling on a favourite jumper that’s been hiding at the back of the drawer: It still fits, it still makes me smile – just some bits chafe a little after all this time…

I’ve decided that today is a day to practice the skills of FLOATY – focus on what you want, and all that. I’ve no idea what my climbing will be like, and while my descending has always been good I’ve not exactly being hammering down mountains recently – and the bit in the middle?

I dunno.

So the goal is economy of energy for as long as possible and how that plays out will be how that plays out.

But I’ll know where I’m at from a proper field test: No guessing, no positive spin and no bullshit.


As I drop into Wasdale around the 20mile point being battered by a hailstorm some things have become apparent:

My climbing’s OK even if there’s no real power.

My descending is smooth enough.

And the big revelation is that the diet of sustained road running is translating very well to chugging along very easily on anything remotely runnable.

Which is nice.


Apart from texting Charlotte the race checkpoint name as I pass, (Agreed Safeguarding Rule 1a) I keep my phone off and watch hidden. At 26miles I do my only café stop* for tea, cake and sausage roll – I could race all day on tea I’m sure – and then head up to the final (by now chilly) high point and my first view of the northern Lake District town of Keswick in the distance and the race 35mile point. Sometime later I’m trotting down the high street having come to a number of conclusions:

I am under-prepared to go through what will be a very cold night solo in remote terrain – and while I have emergency/bivvy gear I am just not prepared to run the risk.

Aspiration to do the full distance was clearly just the beer talking.

With some sneaky adjusting I can still do half this thing, and half distance I’ll take as the goal here is to see where I’m at re race readiness – and I have most of that answer already.


The sneaky adjusting takes the form of a taxi ride south to Ambleside: I’d missed the last bus and on reflection was very happy to put a considerable fare into a local taxi driver whose income had all but disappeared in the last year. Pick up the race route here and follow it back to the start/finish in Consiton.


So that’s what I do arriving back at the car around midnight and 50miles to the good.

And just because it would be rude not to, a few days later I head back out and do the other 50miles I didn’t do first time around.

This time not a taxi in sight – just plenty of snow, sleet, hail and rain.

Which was nice.



Everything’s Relative

Someone will always trump your stuff – and I’m pretty certain that on my first Friday out I saw in the distance one Sabrina Vergee and support runners out on their little run round the Lakeland fells https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-VDvYqzXPA

Well, make that 214 summits to bag in around continuous 6 days if you want to set a record. At least, I know of no other reason that a small group of runners would be following a pathless fence-line if not to avoid unnecessary height-gain while linking summits as efficiently as possible. And the time and place fit with what I knew of her schedule.


Anyway, what’s remarkable is not so much as what she was doing this week and what she has racked up over the last year (see video in the link below). A year that started with setting the third fastest time for this Round - and then declaring that she wasn’t happy with that and her mark shouldn’t stand as due to leg problems she had to lean on some folks coming down the last few mountains.

Holy shit! Went quite a few people.

Then a few short months later she was back for another shot.

Holy shit! Went quite a lot more people.

And with good reason: Take a peek at this:

https://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2021/05/03/sabrina-verjee-still-ahead-of-wainwrights-schedule-after-brutal-day-of-blizzards



*Comparing like with like of long self-propelled exploits is tricky so in an effort to do just that – essential when records are at stake - The Fellrunners Association have laid down some definitions.

Solo Self-Supported

You may have as much support as you can find along the way but not from any pre-arranged people helping you. This can range from caching supplies in advance, purchasing supplies along the way, to finding or begging for food or water.


Solo Un-Supported

Carry all you need from start to finish except water from natural sources. Public taps along the route are acceptable. Do not collect anything from a cache or leave anything for collection. Do not meet anyone on route. Accept no external support of any kind nor any contact where moral support is offered.


(Which means that the one brief café stop on each of my trips took me from SUS to SSS – though I suspect the taxi break during my first puts that one into a special category of its own that sounds a lot like Derision).









By Andy Mouncey, Apr 27 2021 04:19PM

I had a little cry the night I finished the work at HMP Brinsford.

Which was a bit of a shock.

Mrs Mouncey and I went for a walkie-talkie when I got home that evening and, well…

Waterworks.

She took it rather well, I thought.




Here’s the thing: In the 8 years I’ve been in this kinda work nothing else has provoked a reaction like this – which begs the question why this and why now?


Not an insignificant number of easy biking and running hours later – this also doubles as my Making Sense of Stuff time - I arrived at some conclusions. Then I tested those conclusions with someone who knows me enough, has been in this line of work for way longer than me and who, I believe, really knows his onions.


Most of my group of young men were in their early 20’s but there were also a good number who were 19. My eldest son is 14 – which is only 5 short years away.

And as a parent that’s way too close for comfort.


Now I have done work with this age group previously but that has been with ‘at risk of offending’ groups in the community: This is a first for me to work with this group in a custodial setting.

And here’s the thing about a custodial setting in the Spring of 2021: While covid restrictions ease in society in general prisons lag behind. For the last year there has been no education, no work-based training, no organised physical activity – and no family visits.


There are reasons for this and I’ve written about those reasons previously - and the fact remains: My group have been mainly in their cells with very little to do and very few people to do it with – and a few were still experiencing the most basic version of that regime.

And to my eyes they’re still just kids – just with a very particular model of the world.


Not exactly master criminals either: Most are – to my mind anyway – doing time because they couldn’t control their emotions. They are in prison because of a crime of the heart in a moment in time – or two moments in the case of a second offence.


I’d argue that’s not a crime of the head – it’s not thought-through and it’s not organised.

You want to know what organised crime looks like? Try this:

Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France.


This was a deception that was meticulously planned and executed over multiple years that spanned continents, cost millions, emmeshed thousands and left broken people and livelihoods in its wake - oh, and all covered by the elaborate smokescreen that was his charity work.

Where is he now?

Still got his house and family and some people are still giving him employment.

What’s he lost? Seven yellow T-shirts, a few sponsors and not that much of his fortune.

(He also settled a few things out of court, a few folks quite reasonably took their awards back and he got stuck with a life ban - but seems to have fared considerably better than your average 19year old at HMP Brinsford).

Though I do very occasionally wonder what his kids think of it all.


So yeah: That’s organised crime.

And a justice gap the size of the Grand Canyon.


That’s just a particularly high-profile example from the world of sport. Other examples from business and politics are also available. If you really want to depress yourself you can come up with your own list – though I figure you’ll throw in the towel in disgust long before you run out of examples.


And that, right there is what I think got me: I experienced what I experienced with my group AND I’m aware of this other sh**.


They’re just kids.

Not a million miles away from mine.

It’s not fair – and it’s not right.





By Andy Mouncey, Apr 1 2021 11:54AM

This work at HMP/YOI Brinsford is funded by HM Prison & Probation Service through Clinks Covid19 Winter Support Grant Programme.



We’ve just set a bomb off.

Or opened a sack of boiling feral tomcats and released them into a confined space.

Take your pick.


That this is part of the plan is no comfort to me at all – it’s just that no plan survives first contact with reality and in this case reality has smacked me in the kisser as well.


One week later and it’s Day 3 & 4 at HMP Brinsford and the plan said we grow the first group of 4 and add another 6-8. So we took nominations and made final selections and brought a new 8 to meet our original 4…our original 4 all of whom if not exactly on the same page as me with this work are at least looking at the same book – whereas it looks and sounds like our new 8 would take those pages make a tube out of ‘em and use that to smoke the contents of a teabag.

(Sigh).


It actually started well because we started at pace with some fizz outside (physical activity) that had them moving and doing and grunting and gasping and grinning. But as soon as I loosened the leash and we moved onto some of the essential head stuff the cohesion and compliance slipped.


I’d positioned our original 4 as informal mentors to the new lads – we’ll be looking to you to look after ‘em - but they weren’t stepping up and I watched in growing despair as peer pressure/expectations worked its insidious sabotage into our carefully constructed group dynamics from last week.

Bollocks.


Somehow we vaguely kept it on track-ish through the morning but it was guerrilla warfare the whole way. My staff support G had a face like thunder and was clearly plotting ritualistic slaughter as retribution. You could say he had cause: Many of these lads had asked – politely and repeatedly he’d told me – to join us. And he’d done the grunt work for them so it could happen.

So he was pissed.


I’d lost it twice through the morning and said things I just shouldn’t have said.

That I knew it right away, did an internal cringe and did my best to salvage was of no comfort: I’d f**ked up and that was bad.

So much for being cool under fire then.

This Is Not The Way.


Lunchtime was an Emergency Summit: We had a frank exchange and changed some stuff. And thank goodness it worked: By the end of the day we finished with the same number of lads that we’d started with – and retaining is a big win with this stuff – and we were all in a better place than we were a few hours earlier.

And we knew that ‘cos we’d checked and asked.


‘Must’ve been quite a day though because even after a chance to decompress during my two and a quarter hour drive home, Mrs Mouncey later informed me that Husband returned wearing a nice shade of Haunted and Hunted.

Which she normally sees at the end of a particularly traumatic 100 mile race.


Other Eyecatchers

Pants & Pockets

Hands are typically carried one of two places: Down the front of pants or in the pockets. This applies even when trying The Floor Is Lava for the first time (see below). If pockets it’s probably not to play with personal parts but to facilitate…


Vaping

F**kin’ vaping.

All but two of my 12 vape and most of them seem compelled to partake almost unconsciously on average every 77 seconds. They’ve all mastered the Reach & Draw action to the point that it’s almost unseen by the casual observer. Unfortunately (for them) that doesn’t apply to the smoke. Now we did have this with our first 4 but to nowhere near this level – it’s like there’s some sort of herd mechanism accelerant at work.


I’ve chosen to give them the chance to manage it by having periodic breaks – I got them down to 4mins from a starting ask of 15 (go me) - making a written agreement with me (they sign) and then burpees in front of the group when they break it.

Except they’ve all given the finger to that and just giggle and take the burpees and the point-scoring among their peers that comes with it.

It’s an absolute bastard nightmare and a source of total and utter sabotage to the work.


One of the staff remarked to me: ‘If this was a few years ago they’d be on cigarettes and that would be way worse.’ Except I don’t buy that because there’s more faff factor with a fag and a lighter and part of the problem with vaping is it’s too damn easy to do: One item and one action.

Almost as if it were designed that way…


I’m not generally given to violent urges but this makes me want to scream and smash things. I figure there’s got to be some rules about this somewhere but I’m f**ked if I can figure out what they are.


Time

Most are preoccupied with Time:

What time is it?

What time will it finish?

What time is lunch?

Repeatedly.


Now logically I know that at least part of the reason for this is that their lives are normally driven by structure and requirements to be escorted to a certain place for a certain time. And Certainty is a currency in here: The familiarity of something happening at a certain time is something to grab on to.

But I’m like:

Really?

You have other places to be at the moment?

Other more pressing engagements?

A packed social calendar?

???????!!!


My self-indulgent verging on incredulous monologue rarely gets more than an embarrassed shrug. My Level Two repost then kicks in:

‘It’s time to be here with me and everyone else enjoying this thing right here right now: That’s what time it is.’

‘Fairly sure that’s not the response they’re looking for either.


The Floor Is Lava

Is a raging hit with a 5 star review.

Who knew?

We set up an inside course, an outside course, did team and solo challenges and everyone threw themselves into it and even had hands out of pockets by their second lap.

I thanked all gods great and small that I’d perfected my TFIL methodologies with our boys as part of lockdown PE – so I wasn’t short of ideas.

Nobody broke anything either – utterly remarkable: ‘You ever seen a pocket rhinoceros do TFIL?


Everyone Gives A Shit

There were moments that afternoon when we were given a glimpse of the real inside.

Guerrilla warfare went on pause and the real stuff came out.

I’d wanted to test some of the headlines about life inside during lockdown and to check our Big 4 issues from last week and so had been building up to questions along the lines of:

What do you do all day if you’re in cell for 22-23 hours?*

(Watch TV, use the phone, write letters**)

How do you cope?

(Get my head down, get on with it – it’s not that bad***)


Which brought us round to those people who choose to cope by fronting it out – the ‘I Don’t Give A Sh**’ brigade – not just during lockdown but in prison in general.


And suddenly right there all my 12 were on the same page – their replies showing maturity beyond their years and the hurt of experience:

That’s bollocks: Everyone hurts – everyone gives a sh**’


It took me a few days reflection to realise that I’d been wrestling with my own inner conflict that day too – and the nature of my day was therefore at least in part due to bits of my inside popping up on my outside.


Without knowing any more detail than I know already through my work, I know that being in prison during a pandemic is – for want of a better phrase - a pretty shitty experience.

And it’s still going on for my 12 and it ain’t over either.

So I just wanted to be kind.

To cut ‘em some slack.

Because everybody hurts.




*A handful of my group were

**This is less common that you might think as many struggle to read and write fluently

***Which begs the question ‘Compared to what?’





Timeline RFYL CIC

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face) from Kebbell Homes

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.

2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown

2020 June: Start an online service supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut

2021 January: First funding awarded for Covid19 response work HMP Brinsford


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 37

Funding Bids Successful: 1

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1



By Andy Mouncey, Mar 25 2021 11:08AM

This work at HMP/YOI Brinsford is funded by HM Prison & Probation Service through Clinks Covid19 Winter Support Grant Programme.


The chickens stole the show.

Who knew?

My 4 twenty-something lads spent endless minutes seemingly captivated by the clucking pecking ground-based beasties that were roaming around in their enclosure 100 yards from our base of operations.

And then there was the pond – full of exotic fish if you believed the exclamations.

Again, endless minutes spent crouched at the edge…


I’d clocked the garden during my warm up visit and added it my list of ‘Must Do.’

Dr Michelle Baybutt has spent countless hours building the case for gardens and growing to be an essential part of rehabilitation in prison under the delightfully titled banner GOOP (Greener On the Outside for Prisons) https://www.uclan.ac.uk/research/activity/greener-on-the-outside-for-prisons

I just know that being outside in the green stuff is good and I take it for granted – except that’s my privilege. If all I do is bring my lads outside I know I’ll be ahead on the scoreboard: GOOP: Get Outside Or Perish.


This was the morning of Day 2 (of 2) and the green and pleasant land had wrapped my little group in Nature’s equivalent of a comfort blanket.

Calm had descended after a somewhat fraught start.


We’d started the day spending frikkin’ ages persuading our pocket rhinoceros Luke to stop throwing smokescreens and make good on his commitment to see the two days through. He’d worked on a wonderfully creative set of reasons/excuses to hide the underlying theme: ‘Just Can’t Be Arsed.’


We were actually treading a fine line here. I had our other 3 lads with me – yes, for those of you that read the previous piece that does mean I have a group of 4 not six, and a slightly different 4, and a member of staff but a different member of staff. All fairly normal so far – and the longer we spent with Luke the more pissed off they were becoming.

Because bless him, he was not exactly class favourite after yesterday’s attention-seeking performance (sigh).


Except I knew it was all bullshit and my staff wingman G had been clear that one of the measures of a good day today was that Luke see it through.

And the value of turning him and keeping him would be huge – for him.

So he was coming – whether he knew it or not.


Eventually we had a full roll again and I made straight for the garden where we lingered – and allowed uncharitable thoughts to drain away through the soil.

We lingered and I watched what could have been toddlers exploring a farm.

For the first time?

So I checked: ‘Have any of you been here before?’

No.

That would explain it then.

Start again.


The crown jewels moment had come right at the end of Day 1. I kinda knew I’d be up against the Clueless Shouty Dickhead test and they’d clearly decided that I wasn’t because at 7 hours in they were where we wanted them: speaking freely from the heart.


Consistent with my operating model of ‘Just do it – learn, then do it again’ these first two days were all about giving them some of my stuff to test drive and giving them reasons to open up about what they needed so I could be clear about how I could help them help themselves and each other.


One week later we’d have another pair of days where I’d be older and wiser, we’d adjust the content from Day 1 & 2 and be confident enough to add more men to the group.

And the same again for Day 5 & 6 Week 3.


I figured I could anticipate well enough what they wanted – interaction, blow the cobwebs out, just get out and have something different for chrissakes…

And probably cake: Lots of cake.


But what did they actually need? That was a different question the answers to which would come after we’d ticked the Want boxes well enough.

Give ‘em what they want first so the need becomes apparent.


‘Thing was, I’d no idea how long that would all take and what exactly would need to happen to get there. That was more a stretch for the prison used as they were to operating a controlled environment with no surprises. And here’s me coming in pitching a modus operandi along the lines of I just need to do some stuff to figure out exactly what I need to do for you – but I’m not exactly sure what that stuff is – yet.

You Ok with that?

Blless ‘em, they were.


So in front of the lads I’m doing my best projected ‘ Yes I’m here because I give a sh** about you’ (through a mask) keeping them going and getting heading outside more often than not: Being genuine and trusting my process and content.


And towards the end of the day we got their The Big Four:

1. Physical activity outside – team challenge format please

2. Care of self and cell

3. Time and space to talk about the sh** we want (and need) to talk about

4. Advocacy: To be able to reach others with this


It’s been tougher than I thought and on reflection I home in on two reasons.

One is the obvious practical one that has affected much of the delivery while the second has taken me by surprise:

1.Doing this with mask and Covid restrictions

2.The lads have actually got comfortable with lethargy – and breaking out of that is hard


But break out we did and the morning of Day 2 was Physically Active Learning turned up to Number 11 https://www.naht.org.uk/news-and-opinion/news/pupil-support-and-safeguarding-news/physically-active-learning-key-research-and-resources/ I was a happy boy ‘cos I’d got my crown jewels and we were all a bit more relaxed together: everything else was cream on the top. There was just one last request before we finished:

‘Can we see the chickens again?’




Timeline RFYL CIC

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face) from Kebbell Homes

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.

2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown

2020 June: Start an online service supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut

2021 January: First funding awarded for Covid19 response work HMP Brinsford


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 37

Funding Bids Successful: 1

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1

By Andy Mouncey, Mar 12 2021 02:51PM

This work at HMP/YOI Brinsford is funded by HM Prison & Probation Service through Clinks Covid19 Winter Support Grant Programme.


‘So…’ projecting big smiley face from distance with big wide arms for added fill-the-space--ness - ‘everyone be up-standing ‘cos we’re gonna go in 3-2-1 GO!’

Nothing happens.

Nobody moves.

The 10 young men around me may as well be made of stone and they’re all telegraphing the same silent message:

Your move, smartarse.

F**k.


This is not as advertised:

‘We’ve got you in front of the prison council,’ said the staff. ‘There’s some good lads there – we’ve talked to them about this and they’re up for it.’


So I’m a happy boy: I’m here to do some focus group stuff – to involve the lads in the program design bit – and to get ‘em engaged in a teeny tiny bit of physical activity (fizz) so I can see what I’m gonna be working with.


I’ve thought carefully about my opening remarks, scripted them and rehearsed them as I always do – that vital first 30second ‘Land ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em window’

And this should be top of the intellectual food chain: 2 representatives from each of the 5 blocks or Residences, as they’re called.

Break the ice – warm ‘em up.


Only half an hour ago I’d walked my staff hosts here at HMP/YOI Brinsford near Birmingham through everything I was about to do – and not a hint of a red flag was waved.

And that included taking them through this same fizz challenge in their office space in full uniform that I’ve just set up now.


Meanwhile back in the real world I know full well what’s next – and sure enough…

Here come the rocks.

Objections-excuses are lobbed into the middle while nerves are hidden in ridicule.

I can spot the gym-bunnies a mile off and sure enough we have one here – and Biceps bless him, could look more affronted if he tried.

Gonna have to do this the hard way then (sigh).


It takes many minutes of round the houses from me and the staff and in the end I resort to getting 3 staff to complete the 3 x 17 second challenge as a way of throwing down a gauntlet and reassuring the lads that I’m not about to turn them into an onion or get them to do something they really can’t.


And trust me I know how to pitch this stuff by now: The challenge I’ve set them is to stand up, lie down face up on the floor then stand up again. They can use both hands to do this, or one hand or do it no-hands with hands on head. How many times in 17 secs? Match it then beat it.

(Hey – you can join in a home too!)

FINALLY the cracks start to appear: we get one up for it – as long as everyone else does, of course – then another, before I declare an away win and get it done with 3.


I don’t have to be a mind reader to see that the staff are pissed and embarrassed (for me) in equal measure. But I have one of my three boxes ticked and sure enough ticking the second – getting some of them to contribute to programme content – proves a little easier.

Everything’s relative of course, and there’s still only 4 out of 10 playing.

Now for number 3 and I go for the blunt approach:

‘Stand up if you want to work with me next week.’


And that’s how I end up with a 5-strong first cohort and to my relief they’re not all white. Gang culture is real here on the inside because it is real on the outside and some of those divides are indeed skin color.


As the lads start to disperse with their escorts the one closest to me - and one of my 5 - catches my eye and leans in. And that’s how right at the end I’m given a glimpse of the vulnerability behind the façade that peer pressure has created:

‘Thanks for coming in and trying to do something – we all really need it.’


Locked Up In A Pandemic: What’s It Really Like?

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has published a report that includes voice transcripts from people who have spent 22hrs/day in a cell for the last year. Please look & listen

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/what-happens-to-prisoners-in-a-pandemic/



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