Every few years we get an enthusiastic group of individuals with brightly coloured rosettes stapled to their chests promising change and a better, brighter future. My reply is always the same. I do not register to vote, and until there is an option to vote for none of the above, that will not change, adding nobody was interested in my opinion when I was in prison, why are you interested now?
The problem is, being a registered sex offender, nobody is interested in my opinion anyway. Every waking moment clearly has to be spent finding ways to commit further offences. Well, that seems to be the popular opinion amongst the upstanding members of society I occasionally brush shoulders with, although not whilst wearing my "jim'll fix it" badge or my Fred West t-shirt.
I was an infrequent visitor to the Prisonuk blog. At no point reading any of the posts did I have to concern myself with what his conviction was. Whether guilty or innocent he had paid his debt to society. He had served his sentence and was now spending time in a constructive manner trying to show that the public perception of prisons full of fifty two inch flat screen TV's, Xbox ones and take away's is a lot further from reality than the media and the government had worked so hard installing as the truth.
Penny's "take" on the matter seems to be based on a few facts padded out with the usual self-vindicating bullshit that is far too common. To start with the hierarchy which does exist to some extent quickly goes out of the window depending who you are stood talking to at any given time. Or anyone being transferred to the wing from the main house blocks, finding themselves outnumbered, would never express the views they would have had before arriving. Penny also seems to omit his/her own crime/crimes. If Alex's opinion is now null and void simply because of a crime he has served his time for, it's only fair for Penny to come under the same scrutiny?
I have had an uphill battle since my release. Organisations and charities seem happy to advertise the fact they will offer assistance of various kinds until you have to explain convictions and restrictions. A recent example is with the local council, they have a partnership with a business start-up programme. Initially happy to help someone who had a military background despite the conviction, after a phone call where I explained everything regarding the conviction, they fell silent.
Attending the job centre one day, they read out a message left on the system that after consulting with the local constabulary and reviewing my restrictions, they would be unable to offer any kind of assistance at this time, but wished me luck in any future ventures. This follows my time on a Work Programme where I was only able to be seen by one advisor, who told me they were specially trained to "deal" with people like me. In two years, the only advice they could offer me was to get a bank loan and start my own business.
I think I am luckier than most in my circumstances, after my probation and public protection officers actually making an effort to get to know me. With their support, I have a large part of my life back. My children stay over at the weekends and on holidays, supervised by, well.... me, their dad. I have a review and visit from the Police each year. The PPU are happy for me to start my own business should I ever get the help to do so. But to the majority I am not a dad, a veteran. not even a person, just a registered sex offender. Trust me when I say this, there are PEOPLE behind that label.