Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Post 4 - Consequences of Shaking The Trees

As some of you may be aware a few weeks ago we started our own blog as we thought it right that we start to link social media with our website as we are new to the whole Internet/social media promotion game.  We were doing OK on twitter @boltsandbars and we were starting to get the hang of the whole tweeting thing (we learnt very quickly that capital letters = shouting not passion) and seemed to be picking up followers fairly quickly, so clearly some of the tweeters found our comments of interest.  As a result we engaged in talks with direct messaging etc, all tools of the twitter world and during one such chat with a follower he suggested we contact 'Jim Brown' (not his real name I am reliably informed) on twitter and see if he can assist us in progressing our objectives in relation to our website by way of an article or an interview, so we did.

'Jim Brown' also has a blog called probation matters where he reports on all manner of matters probation related.  We spoke, exchanged mobile numbers and arranged to meet, in a Northern Hotel lobby, all very MI5 ish.  We talked for 3 hours or so on mostly Criminal Justice System related subjects with a bit of privatisation of probation services within the UK thrown in.  Following our meeting, (the next day in fact) 'Jim' posted his blog which contained some references to our company, our purpose and our website referring to us as the 'New Kids on the Block' - and then life changed.

We received a text from 'Jim' that someone had posted an anonymous entry on his blog which contained offensive and abusive comments and remarks regarding one of the Bolts & Bars team, and 'Jim' informed us he had deleted the post and also now applied moderation.  Then the games began.

That night one of us received three abusive telephone calls from an unknown number, and thereafter abusive/threatening/intimidating text messages on a frequent and regular basis which continue to this day.  Another member of our team has had his house (where he lives with his partner) broken into and items stolen, and then on a second occasion broken into but nothing taken. Then recently two known offenders turned up at the company registered office intimidating our director and demanding the residential address of team members. 

Now of course we are not suggesting for a second these events are connected or have anything to do with 'Jim' personally, for you could not meet a nicer man.    Some have suggested events are connected with ex-employees (since dismissed) or victims/extended victims disgruntled that we employ ex-offenders, or even potential jilted admirers.  Whoever it is , it's getting 'old' and is creating anxiety and distress for colleagues, friends and family and we are saddened and dissapointed that people cannot see the good in what we are trying to do and support us as oppose to attempt to hinder us at every turn.

So what do we do? We have read the entries on 'Jim Brown's blog, and of course all the negative views expressed therein regarding our company, ex-offenders, 'carpetbaggers' etc, but there are also entries from other probation people who encourage debate, welcome positive constructive comment, change and debate, so therein lies the problem which as we see it is twofold.

One is, who is our ominous, threatening, intimidating and boring observer?  

Two, how do we engage in any meaningful way with those who apparently have contempt for us as a whole (ex-offenders) and contribute in any way to making the situation more accessible for those who find themselves without reasonable access to the law and thus justice by virtue of their circumstances in being incarcerated by the UK, many of whom are not criminals but are asylum seekers, migrants, children, or Mental Health patients?

The answer to one is fairly simple, and we can only say hopefully this will cease as it is causing much anxiety and distress to those in receipt and also our colleagues, friends and family.  

Two is somewhat more complicated.  You see we spent many years in small boxes circa 10ft x 6ft engaging in self analysis, introspection, education, reading, growing, developing and engaging with thoughts and feelings we had not until that point encountered with the exception of many years before when we were very young. We do have opinions about the system that many of us lived in and of course some of us are motivated to engage in a pro-social and positive manner to get involved as it is fair to say, the CJS is facing difficulties and you can never have too much information from which to make informed decisions.  Some would say the perspective of service users would be a very valuable tool indeed.  We are not hear to 'beat up' or bemoan the probation service, or anyone else for that matter, we are simply trying to shed light on certain areas of public life of which the public are unaware.  Our main area for concern is the fact that there are quite literally tens of thousands of people who are unable to share/voice their concerns and fears for their friends/family members/loved ones in a focused manner to bring attention to trends or patterns of behaviour emerging within institutions nationwide.

If NOMS or HMP, or the Immigration Service for example supported our project and gave us access to those incarcerated as they do with other unnamed charities, dot.orgs, publications or private companies then they may not have the amount of discontent, violence, suicide and levels of complaints which they currently encounter which indirectly costs tens of millions of pounds a year to the treasury.  They would be able to monitor, thus note from the posts of those visiting, or corresponding with others incarcerated or detained what is going on, what their concerns are, 'temperature feel' the environment and react BEFORE matters have escalated or deteriorated.  Surely it would be a vital tool?

In so doing that would thus improve circumstances for everyone incarcerated by the UK government, but also for the Staff working in those places, less friction, less complaints, less sick time off, less malcontent, less despair and anguish as everyone will feel they are being heard.  Instead of weeks or months to resolve a complaint, someone in authority has had it brought to their attention by a site observer within hours, thereby saving millions in man hours and paperwork throughout several different establishments and systems.  The site could even be incorporated into the 'virtual campus' loop, and monitored internally by individual establishments?  The possibilities are endless.

I guess what we are saying is if somehow we have shaken the trees and unwittingly upset someone somewhere, it was unintentional, and we are not here to lambast or criticise generally.  We are here to help in a constructive and pro-social way as we believe that just because someone is incarcerated (and remember not all are convicted criminals, some are migrants, children, MH patients) then they deserve to encounter decent standards of care by those responsible for their care, and in our view 'care' encompasses a multitude of ingredients.  When you take away the ability for someone to manage their life and that of their families etc for themselves, in doing that we then have a responsibility to them and society as a whole to ensure when they are returned into life outside the walls that they are able and that 'life' is viable for them.

You may not all agree, but hopefully someone out there does and will assist, support and promote our initiative.  We are extremely fortunate in that some shares in the company bolts & bars are in the process of being sold as the deposit for the purchase of those funds was a huge benefit in bringing us to the point we currently find ourselves in, however as we all know money is tight in the current climate.  We do not claim to be a charity and then receive from trusts directly linked to the charity, we do not request donations or ask people to subscribe to us as a charity, we operate as a ltd company for that reason - to be completely transparent and open about who we are and what we are.  We will donate 15% of our net profit to charities, we still seek charities who are OK with working with and accepting donations from people who have been in prison, oddly they are hard to find despite the number of organisations, charities and dot.orgs making millions on the back of people who are incarcerated.  Many of them have provided invaluable tools over the years such as Insidetime and the Prison Reform Trust who produce fabulous material such as the Bromley Report , but there are many others who some might say have not really affected any real change over the last 30 years, but that is a question for other people to answer, suffice to say if they had, there may not be so many of them today.  Bolts and Bars are here for real change, to bring IT and all it can offer into the field of public life, namely our institutions which fail so regularly and cost so much and appear to have no real oversight in relation to the failures other than a few departments who publish reports/studies and white papers which are in general then ignored and left on the shelf to be brought out at the next crisis meeting, as crisis management seems to have been the norm for two decades within certain elements of the Criminal Justice system, NOMS, Border and Immigration and the MH arm of the NHS.

People (human beings who are still members of society here or abroad and who will one day return to live in those societies), regardless of who they are or where they are detained or what they have done, in any civilised society should be entitled to have their voice heard, our site provides that platform, that is why we are here.

Go to our website and see what difference you can make to the world of those less fortunate than us.