Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Indeterminate Sentence


from chapter 6 of Indeterminate Sentence, by Allan Handyside, published by Philip Garside Publishing 2005

Des, one of the crimos, had been constantly picked on and provoked. Then he was charged with making an insulting remark when showering, even though it was somebody else who actually made the remark. This fact Des asserted when defending the charge. However, the warder who reported the incident swore that it was Des. The warder’s report was accepted instead of the testimony of other prisoners who spoke in defence of Des, so he had his tobacco ration cancelled for a while. Then another false charge was made against Des and again several witnesses said a mistake had been made. The tobacco ration was cancelled once more and Des was put to work in the gang.

Seven of us then refused to work by way of protest. The Visiting Justice sentenced each of us to three days bread and water, saying he had no other option, then adding that the warders were reasonable men, telling us how long he had known them and why we had to abide by the regulations. After three days of solitary confinement Hugh lodged a complaint to the Visiting Justice about the conditions imposed when under punishment among other things he had requested a particular theological book to read during his punishment and the refusal of this request was used as a test case.

Hugh wrote a description of the interview with the Visiting Justice and sent it to his Hautu friends, reporting, "As soon as I laid my complaint, the Officer-in-Charge took over and told the Visiting Justice what was normally done and why. The Visiting Justice said, ‘I can’t interfere with the arrangements of the prison." I said a prisoner was supposed to have access to a Visiting Justice for protection, but I found it difficult to make the point because of the tirade by the Officer-in-Charge. Finally the Visiting Justice said, ‘I’m sure if you applied to the Officer-in-Charge he would give you what you wanted." The Officer-in-Charge said, ‘No, I want to have this out’ and on he want again. ‘I’ll look into it,’ the Visiting Justice concluded, which was all that was ever heard about the matter."

Hugh’s letter went on to say that the tyranny and absolute power of the local Officer-in-Charge was disgusting and the inevitable corruption appalling, that the arrogance and pride of warders, and the Chief Warder in particular, made you sick, and that treatment of the men as so many dogs was very disturbing. He concluded this letter by saying that when contrasted with the warders and general administration at Mt Eden Prison the difference was surprising, Mt Eden being 100% better.
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