A little sweat hurt nobody!

For a while now I have not been living, not really, not for what matters.

Been stressed. Lord, been stressed and for what?

Been living like a hermit, not talking to anyone and for what?

The only area that has thrived is my wardrobe.

Been shopping, Lord, been shopping and for what? Got nowhere to go any way. Made damn sure of that.

Yesterday I met two friends which was weird, would I be able to hold a conversation with two people at once? While I got ready I danced. Not the sort of dancing I would dare to do in public but boy did it do me good. I stopped to pant and think when the last time I danced was. When my mind drifted back and back to a place I was afraid it would not return from I realised there was a lot I had given up on.  Now I fancy dance classes, to go loco and get fit in one stupendous go.

There I go making everything have a purpose, give it a raison d' etre. Why can't I just go dancing? And dance without giving it meaning?

When I left the house I ate at three different establishments within a 6 hour period- Portuguese, was it? French and then Thai. Pad thai noodles, the best I have had outside of Thailand. I ate like I hadn't eaten for months. I laughed too and it felt weird to laugh so often and hear the sound of my own laughter. Maybe it was the food, maybe the company, most likely a heady combination that was all too much for the hermit in the new clothes that were a little too big.

I got home thinking, this is it, things have got to change and they have to change now. The thought has an Italian accent in my head.

I dream vividly- not something that happens anymore- and in the dream I am a fighter of sorts rebelling against something or other- so I dropped into the dream midway, what can I do, it happens- and I and a couple of others burst into a room where Muslim women sit on the floor reading. I shout, 'Stop reading and start acting' or some such thing and my father comes out of nowhere(it's a dream give me a break)  leads me by the elbow and marches me to the people I am rebelling against, straight into their machine-gun totting hands.

Cheers, aabe.

The bad guys(cause I'm ALWAYS good) and I are now on a ship. Stay with me. And all around are people, people, people, on the ship and beyond. I am about to be executed.

Cheers, aabe.

I am not alone, the other good guys are also going to get what's coming to them, filthy rebels that they are.

Then one of the bad guys shouts out to the crowd, ' Who wants to save this woman?'

It seems I may have a chance.  I think to myself, this isn't it, you're going to live.  I wait. I don't have to wait for long. Dozens of arms lift into the air- they're all men! One face in particular catches my eye, someone I know. I am safe from execution.

I am overwhelmed. I look around and there are so many people who want me to stay alive.

I awaken and think this is it, you're going to live!

So I wake up, have breakfast- a rarity- and then dance till I can't dance anymore. I go out, return a dress I bought yesterday that doesn't fit and buy a shirt I won't know will fit until I try it later. Then browsing in the bookshop for a book, the title of one book catches my attention- 10,000 dreams interpreted. I remember the dream and think and think what the hell, take a peak, not my usual kind of curiosity but just what does execution mean.

I flick through the Es and there it is-  execution. First line says if you're facing execution in a dream and you do get executed, something big and bad is gonna getcha. Second line says if you're saved from an execution it means your enemies will be defeated and you will gain great wealth soon.

BRING IT ON!!!

Posted on Sun, July 8, 2007 at 05:27PM by Registered Commenterparadise | Comments2 Comments | References1 Reference

Guantanamo Grief

Grief.

From Feltham I have found myself in Guantanamo.

A book is to be published later this year containing poems written by Guantanamo detainees. Here’s one:

Death Poem

By Jumah al Dossari

Take my blood.

Take my death shroud and

The remnants of my body.

Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,

To the judges and

To the people of conscience,

Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,

Of this innocent soul.

Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,

Of this wasted, sinless soul,

Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace".

Article and more Gunatanmo poems.

It not enough, what I do, I am not doing enough.  I have tripped in my own goody two shoes.

Tomorrow I must be at work again. Breakfast will be a Latte, skinny, who wants to be a fat do-gooder? Dressed smartly, who wants to be free and choose to dress in orange overalls, no sirree, you won't catch me dead in one of those! Talking, talking about the progress of the project, the deadline, the politics…a third of the day spent with an absent heart.

In the evenings I release my heart from its prison and read, write, call people and take calls from people who think I have answers. I have facts, let me show you- they look like you, are uninspired, disconnected, turning to crime and returning to their places of punishment with a frequency that makes me wonder if an urban monster roams the streets and chases them back in. Here, let me show you, a person that looks like you is no more likely to commit a crime but more likely… oh Gurbux Singh said it best on the 5th of September 2000 at the Howard League Conference(Look, see, I know my stuff!!) . He said:

"If you have been unfairly treated by the system, charged with a harsher crime than was appropriate, given a custodial sentence instead of community service, given a longer prison sentence than others committing the same crime, and been bullied and victimised while in prison , are you likely to emerge from prison as a sane, sanguine, reformed character?"

You don’t need my answers, the facts they aren’t mine, I carry them and on days like today they bear down on me and taunt me:  More walking, less talking Firdos.

The other day I suggested I write stories, add them to the Ramadan packages we’ll make for the men at Feltham and perhaps beyond. I thought the idea cute, then remembered some won’t be able to read them so there may be need for audio recordings of the stories. Cute, very cute. Would the prison allow it? These are the thoughts that fill my time when I'm not polishing my goody shoes.

Now I think how quaint that sounds, really is that all that I can offer? I am doing that thing everybody does, limiting their reach. My head is filled with the reports, the stats, the names, the deaths, the culture of crime, the apathy, the guilt of.. I can’t write today, where’s that stream of consciousness when you need a sip? I thirst, I thirst too for answers.

I hear the sound of the sound of my own voice.

Am I too full of talk and talk alone?

Grief.

Posted on Sun, June 24, 2007 at 03:45PM by Registered Commenterparadise in | Comments5 Comments

Arif Hussain dies screaming

March 11 2004, Full Sutton prison near York.  Arif Hussain in a segregated unit is pronounced dead at 8am. For hours the night before he had screamed in agony and no one went to help.

Dean Lowe and Kevin Nevers  were witnesses, Lowe in a cell opposite Arif's.  Lowe said, 'I would describe the noise as being a cross between vomiting and growling or crying'.  He says the cries were 'ignored by night staff'.  Nevers claims that Arif was beaten by half a dozen prison officers two days before his death and on the night preceding his death Arif begged staff for help and complained of an inability to see.

Before the police arrived to investigate, inmates claim prison staff emptied the cell opposite to Arif's of its occupier(s), filled it with furniture and locked it. Inmates claim this was  in an effort to make the cell appear unused and hence police would not ask speak to the witnesses in that cell as they would assume there had been none.

Following the death, incensed inmates protested and smashed up their cells. Some, including Lowe were moved to other jails.

The inquest the following year concluded the death was accidental- overdose of heroin he had taken a week before. The prison knew he had ingested a parcel and waited for him to give it up for a week.  Arif, mentally ill and an addict said he would if were given tobacco. The staff ignored his cries that night but kept a log of his activities; here are some:

 ‘Hussain is a total pain in the arse’. ‘There is something seriously wrong with this individual, everyone getting on at him. Could be an interesting day.’ ‘Hussain at it again. Lots of unhappy teddy bears.’

 

An officer claimed he had checked on Arif 5 times that night. The CCTV footage showed that he had not, not once.

Professor Alexander Forrest, forensic toxicologist, said that that if six hours before his death Arif had been in hospital  he would, ‘Have been more, rather than less, likely to have survived.’

Here's what really gets to me:

30 prisoners volunteered to be witnesses. Only 4 were brought along and even those 4 did not include Dean Lowe and Kevin Nevers, Kevin who would have said that staff had repeatedly taunted Arif during his last days, calling him a ‘fat Paki’ and ‘a terrorist’ and Lowe who had by then been released and was willing to travel to the inquest.  As such there was no detailed examination of witnesses' evidence.

To make matters worse the family were unaware of the support organisation Inquest(they find solicitors and barristers familiar with inquests) and requested Arif's criminal lawyer to represent them. The criminal lawyer then briefed a barrister who had little experience of the prison system. He didn't ask searching questions and chose not to speak with the 4 prison witnesses before they gave evidence!

Accidental death- wait a week for a bag of heroin to work through a mentally ill prisoner's system while he keeps other inmates awake with his shouts for nights and call it accidental when he dies.

Posted on Sat, June 9, 2007 at 04:50PM by Registered Commenterparadise in | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference

Paris Hilton have you heard of Shahid Aziz?

She may be free now, released back to her luxurious paradise away from incarceration but she still won't be able to meet Shahid Aziz.  Shahid was killed three years ago by his cellmate, Peter McCann, even though staff had been warned McCAnn was dangerous.

Do you know how they satisfied themselves of McCann's danger or lack of?

They asked him.

Yeah. They asked him.

He said No, he wasn't.

So they put him in a cell with Shahid and within hours McCann had slit Shahid's throat with a razor blade mounted on a plastic toothbrush, then strangled him with shoelaces and battered him over the head with a chair to "finish him off".

The prison had been at the receiving end of racism allegations; the Asian inmates had protested in the past and they were led by one Shahid Aziz.

Shahid had complained to a race-relations officer asking to speak with one and her response was, 'You are looking at one. Go away, not interested.'

The day before his death a probation officer warned prison staff McCann was so dangerous he was a risk to inmates.  They did nothing with the information.

After Shahid's death, they took their time informing his family. The family has not yet had an apology.

Were they racist? Negligent?

 Let's ask McCann.

 

Posted on Thu, June 7, 2007 at 09:52PM by Registered Commenterparadise in , | Comments5 Comments

Enough to fill a book

I don't know where to begin I've left it so long.

When the situation at Feltham crawled into a crevice in my conscience I didn't know how or where or who or what to do with it; it just made itself at home and I couldn't justify shooing away this new squatter. The story has been unfolding and what seemed like a chapter in my life is now more like one chapter in a many-chaptered book.  This might even quite possibly become a book, a real-life book with real-life people and an author. Me. Who would have thought? My first book and this as a subject matter. 

The story writes itself, I only give it voice.

The morning after I flew back from Marrakech I was at Holloway Prison and saw for myself some areas of the prison and some of the Muslim women at a get-together organised by Rukhsana- the Muslim Chaplain. I also saw for the first time the desire of other Muslim Chaplains to encourage the community to support the community of Muslims in, almost-out and out of prison. It is good to be part of the first befriending project for the Muslim women there.  Can you imagine being part of what stops a soul from wronging herself so that she may soar free, untethered by unlawful acts,  to truly be reposnsible with this powerful honour bestowed upon us, this honour called free will?

I've become part of a networking group honing in on the prisoners and their experiences and needs. We've had meetings and get-togethers. I have coached and spoken.  The Imams eagerness to attend these events both encourages me and worries me.  Listen:

At Wormwood Scrubs prison Muslims make 20% of the population and yet there are no Muslim volunteers. None.

The boys at Feltham are now 40 in number. There was a time when the number of Jamaican boys(at the time the majority ethnic group) were seen as high when they hit the upper teens. Now the Somali numbers are twice that. The numbers have been creeping up even in the time I have been immersing myself in this world. When you start hearing the stories, the numbers belie the magnitude of the problem. For each boy there is a family, a neighbourhood, a community damaged. For each victim of a crime another family, another neighbourhood another community damaged.

 Muslims receive less support with accommodation, probation and reintegration.

"They suffer from a serious ostracism from their Muslim community, and sometimes their own families, thus increasing their isolation. The pressure produced by the current post 9/11 climate has also led some mosques to reject former Muslim prisoners because of the fear that the mosque could be accused of extremism and then closed."

..so says Dr Gabriele Marranci. Read this very intersting article on his research here:

Are you still listening?

We are just not there for one another.

How to help: get yourself to an Open Day at Wormwood Scrubs where you will find out how to join the volunteer programme, how to join in Friday prayers, how to befriend, help to reduce the reoffending rates by being there for somebody who has made it out.  Room for one more friend in your life? Surely.

You will need to register with the Imam before the Open Day.  This is where you need to be on Saturday the 16th of June 2007 at 2pm inshallah:

HMP Wormwood Scrubs

Du Cane Road

London

W12 oAE

It ends at 5pm. The Imam's name is Ibrahim Mehtar, his email address is ibrahim.mehtar@hmps.gsi.gov.uk, his number is 0208 588 3250.

Call him. What are you waiting for? The book? The movie? Be part of the story today.

God bless.

Posted on Wed, June 6, 2007 at 08:11PM by Registered Commenterparadise in | Comments2 Comments