Saturday, 17 April 2010
HMP Brighton Open Prison
Jason Evans is free...apparently. George, Diane and I went to pick him up from Lewes Prison on Wednesday. He looks well, having been inside for 9 months. He's been getting three square meals a day, resting, working out, learning a few skills, like cleaning and looks much stronger than he did when he went inside, albeit that he was convicted in a most underhand and corrupt manner by a system rigged against him, a system which criminalises his illness and his behaviour and which persecutes him while offering him no support whatsoever.
This is a rather clumsy photo montage, as you can see, but I wanted to produce an image of what an ASBO actually looks like, though it looks much more wicked in its true effect on an individual, and so you could read just how draconian and absurd is the law that the wretched Labour Government, that revolting 'Party for the Poor,' that the shambolic and vacuous 'People's Party' enacted in order to curb 'anti-social behaviour' and generally to persecute poor people.
I don't really care for what side of the 'political divide' readers fall upon. I shall not be voting either Tory or Labour this election. They are equally as shallow as each other. I understand the public's desire to see people 'like' Jason kept in check and the public's desire for 'law and order', but I am telling you now that this ASBO crap does not work. It just continues to criminalise those with illnesses and addictions. Neither, in Jason's case, does prison work, since the poor man is very much left to his own devices upon his release back into a society that rejects him pretty much constantly. If any good has been done for Jason while he is on the inside in terms of care, all of that work is destroyed within 2 weeks of his return to society and it is by no means all his fault.
George, Diane and I spent the morning with Jason having met him at Lewes Prison. His mentor from Sussex Pathways, a volunteer, helped him with accessing a place at a hostel and tried to assist him in accessing his benefits. He is at a hostel in Grand Parade which is full of men and women with drug and alcohol addiction. It appears to be no better than the hostel where my friends George and Diane stay. His room reportedly has nothing but a bed with a plastic mattress. No sheets, no bedding, no radio, no kettle, no lamp, no toilet paper, no spoons, knives, forks, no pans, no pillow, no duvet, nothing. Whatever Jason receives, and he has already received a generous donation from the Brighton SVP group today, he receives from charity - not the so-called 'hostel' which is meant to be providing some kind of care and shelter to the homeless of Brighton. They, like the Percival Terrace hostel charge him £10 a week as a 'top up' for their services to him. Meanwhile, they give him...that's right! Nothing! Not even some toilet paper.
I don't know if anyone remembers that 60s/70s programme, 'The Prisoner', set in that Welsh village, but that is very much how Jason lives when he is on the outside, nevermind on the inside. The Council, not having, it seems, any adequate housing for released offenders stick Jason where he was, in the same hostels he always gets put in, with the same people, with the same addictions as him, on the same road, Grand Parade. From this life there is no escape, since his ASBO restricts him to the London Road and Grand Parade. It will expire, apparently, in 2012. What is Jason's crime? Jason's crime is the crime of begging, sometimes aggressively and street drinking. That is what gave him his ASBO. That ASBO will not be rescinded until at least 2012 and so therefore Jason will continue to live as a prisoner on the London Road.
The great irony of Jason's treatment by the authorities is that they fail to wish for, or even to hope for, or endeavour to work for, his redemption. His criminilisation means that he is unable to go to St Mary Magdalen Church because he is banned from Brighton's town centre. He is banned from that road. He is condemned to hang around on Grand Parade with all the other ghettoed homeless, poor, drug dependent and rejected of society, with the same people, who offer him the same temptations.
The first question that was asked of Jason on his return to Brighton was this: "Do you want to score?" This question was asked by a young man near the drug misuse service, otherwise known as the Crime Reduction Initiative (CRI). As soon as Jason was released from prison he was offered his temptation. He maintains that he said, 'No.' He does want to stay clean but the authorities most assuredly do not help him to overcome his addictions. They condemn him to poverty, squalor and the fraternity of all the drug addicts of Brighton in one, ghettoised street in Brighton. He cannot even go past the Pavillion and walk to look at the sea. This man is a man who has done his time for his crime, yet he is still held prisoner, condemned to live the same life he lived before he got put inside for a crime which was engendered and set up by Sussex Police!
This town is sick to the very core. Nearly everybody judges Jason and those who live like he does. Everybody condemns them. I expect that nearly all of the individuals who are in and out of prison like Jason have been abused in their childhoods in some form or another. Nobody wants to know their stories! I have talked with more than homeless person who is on the receiving end of 'care' by the local authority who wonders whether, one day, the police will simply take all the homeless and addicts of London Road, shoot them and throw them in a mass grave - such is the level of stigmatisation, woeful neglect, lack of dignity and respect with which they are treated. On top of that they are exploited by crooked hostels such as Grand Parade and Percival Terrace who strip them of their meagre benefits and give them nothing in return!
On the day of his release, we had a party at the flat for him and for another friend, whose birthday it was. We entrusted Jason with around £12. He was gone a while and we were concerned that he may have spent it on a drugs. He returned with food and cooked a Chicken Jalfrezi because he wanted to cook for us and I can tell you now, it was the best curry I've had in ages! Above is a picture of Jason 'serving up'. I doubt, very much, that it is the picture of Jason 'serving up' that those in authority would wish you to see, because the authorities, the police and the council are all waiting to see him fall, literally. I know this because a local advisor for a local housing advice service told George and Diane that she has several 'clients' who have moved here from other towns only to receive a call from the police telling them that "We know about your past, we know where you live and we are watching you".
Let it be known that if ever Brighton gets severely chastised and receives a giant tidal wave and we all perish, it was not necessarily because sodomy was rife. It's more likely that the Lord will have destroyed this city because barely anyone took a break from the party in this town to hear the anguished cries of the poor!
Jason's parting gift from Lewes Prison was a pair of jeans that didn't fit him, with no holes for a belt and with the words HM Prison labelled on the seat of the trousers. What an insult that when a man leaves that prison, he walks out of the gates and is still bearing the name of the prison upon his person like a mark, like some modern Star of David! What a cruel and disgusting irony that he is still walking in those same jeans today! Welcome to HMP Brighton, for Jason, and many more like him, this town is an open prison!
At some point we have to realise that those who have been commended by Christ to His Church, the Poor, those who we are duty bound to harbour and to care for, will not be given dignity, care or respect by the secular authorities. It is not a great leap of the imagination therefore to wonder whether, in fact, given that every State agency fails men and women like Jason time and time again, whether we, in fact, are the ones called to take in and care for these individuals ourselves because, as far as I can see, nobody else will. Whatever Brighton and Hove City Council tell you about Brighton, don't believe it. It isn't a place of abundant love, peace, diversity or in any way easy-going. For a great many people, Brighton is a living nightmare. Nice Pavillion, sure, but across the road from that Pavillion is a ghetto of men and women who this society have failed abysmally, abjectly and with almost insatiable cruelty. The hostel don't allow visitors, by the way, nor do they answer the door. At least in prison, Jason had visitors...