ONE 10 prison states of mind contributions from Polmont Young Offender’s Institution Writers
Guns or Knives: a Difference?
“This innocent country set you down into a ghetto, in which, in fact, it intended you should perish.”
—James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
When I think of a gun, death, murder, power, fear, and prisons come to mind — what, would the slums of Scotland be like if gun crime was as prevalent as knife crime?
What if you could get a gun as easily as you could get a knife? What if you could get a gun in the slums of Scotland as easy as you can in the slums of America? Would the UK government have to bring back capital punishment? Would that be the only way to control the new gun crime? There would certainly be enough murderers each day, especially the teenagers who are always gang fighting…
The prison population would certainly swell, so would it be capital punishment, or new and bigger prisons? And when a murderer gets sentenced to life behind bars, does it really mean until their last breath.
And what of capital punishment? Would that be the government choosing the easy and cheapest way to tackle the problem? But, what is the difference of somebody being killed legally or illegally? If that’s too tough a question, we can build new prisons to house murderers for the rest of their lives, but for most, especially the bulk that go in at a young age — it would not only cost thousands upon thousands of pounds each year, but would also put the authority under stress so what’s to do? New prisons mean more prison wardens, officers and governors. Would prison wardens also have to be trained to use guns to keep prisons under control?. That would cost more money.
And when I say the ‘authority’ and the system under stress, that includes the N.H.S, would the public have to pay for their own surgery? All the nurses and doctors would have to be retrained to treat gunshot wounds, how much would that cost? Although, knife wounds are already an equally lethal killer.
And what about all the police officers? They would have to be trained to use guns, supplied with guns and bullet proof vests — it wouldn’t be safe for police officers to patrol the slums of Scotland without them.
Would police officers jobs be more dangerous than they already are, so would they still risk their life’s for the same price as they already do? Would they want a pay rise? Would there need to be more police officers patrolling the slums of Scotland?
Also it wouldn’t only be the government struggling to cope. What about the families and friends of the people being shot? Would they need counselling? Would they want to seek revenge? If they did, but couldn’t get to the murderer, would they seek revenge on the murderers family and friends?
So, what if you could get a gun in the slums of Scotland as easy as you can get a gun in the slums of America?
In my mind, my thoughts hold me prisoner
‘How’ is clear; ‘Why’ is not
Why eats away at me like a cancer
How is like a cure
But they always meet halfway and call it a draw
I’m back to square one
Just wish I could disappear
Light candle! Light in the wind!
Quiet, but fast, into the unknown
For there, they might not have how or why
Just free to be whoever you wish
With no questions that must have answers
But I’m not in the unknown
I’m here, looking for answers
And until the day comes I find them
I’ll be their prisoner
Teddy on the Time Train
So where did it all go wrong for me? The day I was born? At school? I don’t know. I’ve heard that in order to solve a problem you must first seek its roots but I think differently. People say ‘the glass is half empty’, others say its ‘half full’. I say if you fill a glass half way its half full; if you fill a glass to the top and empty half its half empty.
I’m kind and considerate, possibly a good judge of character…on the flip side I can be arrogant. Sometimes I tell pointless stupid lies just to keep a conversation going or to fit in … but I can’t ever stand to see anyone in pain, crying or down… I always feel a need to comfort them. When I was 14 I was on my way to my residential school, and sat on the seat of a train just across from was a beautiful, dark haired woman. It was winter — she was wearing a white gloverall duffel coat, white matching gloves, and a cream woolly hat with bobbles hanging down the side of her rosey cheeks. Her eyes were filled with tears, just about to overflow. She was holding a teddy bear. I looked at this woman, in her mid 30s or so, and I felt a fraction of her hurt. A tear began down her pale face, over her cheek, and finally off her smooth chin. I watched that first tear intensely, and as I looked back up others followed until there was a steady flow. She caught me staring and quickly wiped her hazel green eyes with her gloves. I looked away quickly, as did she. I didn’t look too friendly. I had on a tracksuit with a hooded top underneath and scarf pulled up to my nose.
I lowered my scarf down to my neck. At this point my mind was full of questions about this woman’s pain and I didn’t like it. I wanted to ask her what was wrong. Eventually, I worked up the courage… “are you all right there?” She responded with a look of disgust and turned to the blank darkness of the window. She tried to compose herself as we came into Paisley Gilmour Street Station. It was the last train of the night and surprisingly empty. As we pulled away she broke down again and let out a subtle moan. I looked over and said “are you sure you’re OK?”
“I’m fine…” she sniffled, while franticly wiping her face as the teddy dropped out of her lap and rolled along the floor, finally resting at my feet. I picked it up. The texture was quite solid and the fur was all tatty, I could tell this teddy was quite old. I passed it to her. She thanked me and I sat back down. Her accent was clearly from Glasgow’s West End. “No problem…” I replied, trying to sound a bit more up-market.
“If you must know, I’ve just lost my father.’ she offered. Now I’ve lost my dad too, but I never really knew him. I met him a couple of times and when I was told he was dead I didn’t really care. I was eight years old and was more interested in playing army with my cousins. But on this night I could relate to the woman’s pain “I know how you feel.” She replied “Have you lost your father too?”
“I never knew him, I lost my Nanna earlier this year and she brought me up. She was an alcoholic and the booze killed her.” This conversation went on to her explaining that the teddy she had was given to her by her dad and that she was going to bury him with it. I suggested she should keep the teddy, because it would comfort her in times of need. She agreed and gave a slight smile which gave me a warm feeling. Then she asked why I was a n.e.d. (‘ned’ – non-educated delenquent) I said I wasn’t a n.e.d. — that the clothes I was wearing was just what I felt comfortable wearing … but now, looking back I realise I probably was a n.e.d. but not at that point in time, on that train journey. I was a regular down to earth boy. Earlier that day I was out gang fighting and smoking weed, yet on that train, at that point I was a different person. If I’d been with my gang I probably would have made fun of that poor woman. When I walked off that train I went straight back to being gang boy — stashed my lock knife and stashed my weed and went back to my residential and forgot about that woman.
Now, 7 years on I sit in prison and I feel that person from the train trying to come through. I accept him as the real me … I don’t want this anymore this thug life isn’t for me. This is my declaration of transformation: my middle finger up to that shambles I called a life before by filling the glass all the way up.
[ONE] © 2010 Polwarth Publishing LLP all rights reserved
Fitz, Kensington and Kinnear are all members of the Polmont Young Offender’s Writer-in-Residence programme.