Solitary Souls

A recent poem (finished today) that was inspired by conversations with my psychologist daughter, conversations held with prison reformers over these last few months and which I was prompted to finalise by last night’s film on Channel 4 about violence in HMP Durham. The poem portrays the minority of inmates that I call ‘irredeemable’ for whom prison has become a way of life because they have gone past the point of return to normality. Of course, and the poem starts with this thought, there are many people like me who regard being alone in prison as a luxury. One of the torturous aspects of prison life is to be “banged up” with lunatics, people for whom violence is a means of expression, those who cannot do anything quietly, those whose habits make coexistence a nightmare, etcetera. For those who think that prisons in the UK are soft, let them spend just a couple of nights in a B Cat prison as portrayed in that film before they make their judgement.

Solitary Souls

There are inmates in the prison estate

Who find solace in their isolation

Who may read and write or meditate

Improve their physique or their education

But some solitary souls are unable to cope

They look on themselves and see no hope

And need permanent self-justification

Unable or unwilling to understand

The reasons for the way they are treated

They reject a helper’s open hand

And accept too easily to be defeated

By a system which seems only built to destroy

The officer, the worker, the man or boy

They bow their heads even when they are greeted

As they struggle in their self-made squalor to survive

Once-friendly voices to them seem bleak

No longer examples of how to thrive

 They will not to other inmates speak

In their weird world where all seems unreal

It matters not what the others feel

Nor do they for their understanding seek

As others find the force to have fun

Sadly, they try alone to pass their time

Suffering chemical abuse and lack of sun

For them reality has no reason or rhyme

It shows in their weary, ashen faces

The vengeance wrought has now left its traces

How dearly they pay for their crime

They do not know what they will do

If and when they ever leave that place

Their real-life choices are so very few

Lost are the family ties and the friendly face

They’ll leave their prison, soon to return

If they survive society’s lack of concern

And the wasteful pain that is our disgrace