I will never forget my time in prison, no one took courses, there
were no classrooms, and no library. I remember being desperate for
some intellectual stimulation and after a thorough search of the
limited spaces that I had access to I realised that the only printed
material that was available to me was the Bible and pornography.
I must confess, I read both, but I was desperate. When I visit prisons
now and talk about those times I get two types of responses. Some
say it must have been tough, and that things are much better now,
whilst others say its worse or nothing has changed. Its impossible
for me to say which is closer to the truth, I would have to be an
inmate to qualify as an expert, and even then I still wouldn't get
an overall view of all the country's prisons. From my limited experience
as a visiting poet I know that reading opportunities differ from
prison to prison.
The statistics don't really matter, if you need a book, you need a book. And it doesn't matter what you need it for; to pass an exam, to learn to read, or to keep your mind exercised, they are all important to you, at that time, when you need a book. I am tempted to say how liberating books are, and how they allow you to travel to wherever you want to, but I won't, there are lots of other people who can say those things better than me. I do want to say that I became a patron to Haven Distribution at a time when I was overloaded with work, but I felt it was my duty as an ex-prisoner, a writer, and a reader, to support work which had real value to people, work that really mattered. Let me be honest, as patron I don't actually do much, so I want to use this opportunity to 'big up' those who are doing the real work. An Annual Report cannot measure the amount of love, dedication, and passion that goes into this work, and I cannot express how truly proud I am to be part of this liberation movement.