A Lesson From a Most Unexpected Teacher

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“What’s your excuse?”

“What excuse?”

His world had been reduced into four grey walls, and the only person he had for company was this guy he’d been lumbered with. The British prison system is a joke, what is the logic behind grouping petty criminals with serious criminals in a cell? My brother was in prison for four months for a mugging, for which he was found “Guilty by association” – it was his b****rd friends that did it, he was only there because he had fallen in with the wrong bloody crowd, he thought they were going to a party; hence he joined them for the evening. He was no more guilty than I was, and as I remember, at the time it happened I was indoors watching the football and guzzling down a bottle of cheap beer, so that’s that.

“Everyone in here is innocent ya’know? It may be a generic phrase mate, but it’s true. In some way we all are, it was drugs that did me over mate. Don’t touch the stuff now, clean as a whistle. I swear to ya. What’s your story then? The name’s Michael by the way.”

“A mugging, with a group that I shouldn’t have been with in the first place. But the thing is, I’m not making excuses. I got involved with the wrong crowd and that’s that, it was my fault for getting involved with them.”

It was my fault, my brother is the type who will defend me no matter what because of we’re blood. But the fact that I was guilty just doesn’t cut it with him, he needs to realise that he can’t let his morals degrade just because we’re related. I should have told them to stop, told them to think about what they were doing, but I didn’t. At the time I cared too much about image, and that if I had told them to stop I’d look weak. My brother cannot see behind family ties and see that I have done wrong. That’s the problem with family. It’s so bias. How can I turn my life around if all my brother tells me is that I had done nothing wrong, it’s so stupid. As it happens my brother is my main source of advice and friendship, and has been for my whole life. He’s three years older than me, and I look up to him. Though he’s only a few years older than me he’s like a father figure, other than my real one, obviously...

“That’s not gonna cut it in here mate, I’m tellin’ ya. You need the innocent story because it makes it look like you’re fighting the authority, that you’re saying ‘screw this’. If you analyse deep enough, you’ll see that every prisoner has the same story, just in different forms. See that guy over there? Murder. Killed his wife in a fit of rage when he discovered she’d been sleeping around for months. He was victim to human emotion, and what ensued is what he has now, we’re all victims, mate.”

...

The four months went by quickly. Being in a cell with Michael was the best thing about the time I did; he was in a similar state to me. His crime? Armed burglary in an attempt to get money to fund his drug habit, which he told me, had been near fatal twice. We shared similar stories. I was trapped in this social circle that I couldn’t leave, and had got me here. He was exposed to hard drugs in his teens, and had got hooked on heroin by eighteen, exposed in a vicious circle like I was. He too was caught up in the abyss of gang culture. My brother was furious at the decision to have me share a cell with a junkie robber, but like Michael said “every prisoner has the same story, just in different forms.”





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