Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Quick Win or the Long Game?

I haven’t blogged for some time now and while clearing up in my office earlier this evening I found this brief anecdote written a couple of years back and recounting something that happened over a decade ago

I’m sure some of you will tell me that things have moved on since writing this but unfortunately I work in the drug field and am still relatively close to the criminal justice system (professionally not personally) and often see first hand the choices that different parts of the system make, which are often short term and characterized by the “quick win”.

So here’s the anecdote:
Some time ago I had a conversation with a police Superintendent who was the in the role of Area Commander (AC) that went something like this.....

AC - as a result of a test purchase exercise we have solid Intel and evidence on numerous drug dealers in the area

ME - and what next?

AC - dawn raid, arrest the drug dealers, get the drugs / cash / weapons etc, court, jail, pub. Job done

ME - and then what?

AC - then nothing, drug dealers gone, the place is safer, move on to the next problem...why

ME - because after the enforcement the drug problem remains.  You'll get a few weeks of instability (violence etc as new people replace those arrested) as the market shifts / re-forms and then its business as usual with one key difference

AC - what’s the key difference?

ME - only now you don’t know who any of the main players are because you cashed that hand in when you went round kicking off doors and arresting everyone

What the AC said to me at that point has remained with me ever since, he said, "I’ve got to kick off the doors".

I realised at that point that the police's job was uncomplicated, if a tad inefficient.  Their job was to make arrests.  That’s their target.  To put it simply, find and arrest the bad guys. Round em up, ship em out.  Then it’s the courts job to prosecute them and then it’s the prisons job to hold them safely away from the public and then it’s the probation services job to rehabilitate them (well, those that qualify e.g. sentenced prisoners serving over 12-months)

A more disjointed system with built in conflict you could not design if you tried.  In fact I'm not sure this one was designed, I think it sort of grew like topsy, one wobbly bit on top of another

What’s interesting to note is that sometimes they seem to be pulling in different directions based on the targets they have been given or set for themselves?  

We don’t have time in this blog to do a through analysis of the criminal justice system and its deficiencies / conflicts and conundrums – although that might be an appealing distraction one rainy day!

Take the drugs issue for instance.  The police, instead of using the Intel and advantage they have in the community they commit to large scale clean ups, dawn raids etc as described above.  They cash their chips in, in one go and after the press photo shoot, off down the pub for a celebratory beer.

Once in prison, usually on remand at this stage, the arrested "dealers" (some of whom are really users caught up in the fray - another inconvenient truth that is often overlooked) are not segregated, their calls are often not monitored, in fact very little joined up or coordinated work happens between prisons and police.  

Suddenly you have a load of drug dealers (and some extra users) deposited into a few remand prisons where there is a ready market of existing drug users and a ready supply of drugs, which is about to get a whole lot worse - after the obligatory violence etc, as the prison market shifts to accommodate some new ‘faces’.  As well as violence there may also be a hike in drug purity and a drop in price, as the marketing men go to town and try and get their supply into a cell near you.  A sort of sinister version of the brand wars

Once in prison, the prison service target is not to identify and arrest the ‘bad’ guys, like the police, instead its to meet a % drug testing target, the random mandatory drug testing target - its all in the 2008 Centre for Policy Studies Pamphlet (Inside Out) so I wont bore you with the details all over again but essentially, if the prison can meet a target showing that the % of positive drug tests is below some arbitrary figure then all is well with the world and the prison goes up the fantasy football (prison) league table - job done, shift over, down the pub.

Post Script
More recently (last six months or so I think) I read that Chris Grayling MP seems to be introducing policing type tactics and maybe even targets into the prison service

The prison service has a fundamentally different outlook to the police and their drug strategy, such that one exists, mirrors a community approach in terms of treatment, e.g. lots of methadone as the backbone of an opiate substitution approach, and watching prisons balance yet another role will be interesting given the cultural divide between prisons and the police (I know, I’ve worked with both groups)

Also, many of the prison drug coordination roles have been dismantled; there are very few dedicated drug roles in prisons, and not much going on between prisons locally, regionally or nationally (still!!)

Colleagues tell me that if anything things have just deteriorated further.  Since the 2008 CPS Report  resources have been systematically pulled out of prisons; Opiate Substitution Therapy is resulting in methadone queues and the trend for non-drug treatment related prescribing e.g. the use of Tramadol / Gabapentin / Pregabalin etc have also increased.  So much so there is a roaring trade in prescribed meds and in regurgitated methadone, a new symptom of the methadone rich approach. 

What hasn’t changed in many prisons is the lack of purposeful activity.  The lack of a viable and credible alternative to the boredom that drives the desire to use drugs to get through each boring day

The Criminal Justice System should try rehabilitation before trying to ‘transform’ it.  It could learn something from the rehabilitation principle of delayed or deferred gratification (meaning to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward) rather than going, it seems, always going for the quick-win or instant gratification, much like the AC that just had to "kick off doors" in the anecdote above

Best regards


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sibling Rivalry or Just Poor Parenting?

I don't know whether the title to this blog will make sense to you or whether my sometimes-abstract style of communication will just produce a confused look?

The title alludes to a conversation that I have regularly with people in the drug & alcohol treatment field about Recovery.  I have been told, and I sometimes see it for myself, that the biggest threat to the development of Recovery in the UK is in-fighting about which 'brand' of Recovery is either the best or most effective.

Is it AA, NA, one of the other 'A's.  Or is it Smart Recovery, often pointed to as a sort of secular alternative to the 'A's (although I think its quite different really).  What about Recovery Communities, often manifest in specific geographic locations e.g. where there is a longstanding rehab or groups of rehabs.  What about faith based communities, predominantly (but not exclusively) Christian in nature - does any of this really matter?

Anyway, I thought I was being quite clever with the title, "Sibling Rivalry."  Portraying the various Recovery groups as siblings, members of the same family, fighting for primacy, elbowing their brothers and sisters out of the way to get noticed and avoid being the runt of the litter.

In reality, this is not the case, Recovery groups tend to try to get along, they collaborate and try to do something useful, good even (mostly).  While I believe we must try to guard against faction the "sibling rivalry" conversation is often more complex than two Recovery groups squabbling with each other as there is good evidence to suggest Recovery groups can live and let live

In my experience the context for a conversation about Recovery orientated sibling rivalry is often a a partial smoke screen by those that have a vested interest in capturing the Recovery zeitgeist in a particular area, usually as part of a commissioned service, struggling to remain relevant or seeking to expand influence in the context of an evolving commissioning landscape which demands a more Recovery orientated approach.

Or it’s a commissioning led dash for some signs of visible recovery to satisfy a need by the commissioner not to get left behind in the rush for Recovery.  There also seems to be little coherent organisation behind the development of Recovery in the UK currently, this partly reflects the age of the Recovery movement in the UK and partly its peripheral location in-terms of the existing treatment infrastructure, for now at least (although people like Mark Gilman and others are changing this.  Lets also not forget those that have campaigned for some time, even when it was very unpopular and unfashionable to do so e.g. Kathy Gyngell et al).  

If, as in most trends, we follow where America leads, then we might glean some lessons from our cousins over the pond.  They seem to have thriving Recovery communities that are growing and no sooner does a person find recovery, they in turn are found a role in helping others.  They seem to have a strong rehab sector, residential and community based.  A good Recovery infrastructure that puts people back into productive, worthwhile activity - (maybe more on this another time)

We on the other hand have residential rehabilitation sector which is in decline as it has fallen foul of the commissioned treatment system or should I say national treatment policy, which after all, are the rails on which the local commissioning train runs so to speak.  While millions of pounds are still spent on community based prescribing and harm reduction services there is precious little left over to spot purchase residential rehab places and even less being spent on the development of Recovery communities, again with some notable exceptions acknowledged.

With this backdrop we now see the spectre of legal highs on the horizon, rushing at the treatment system and threatening to derail national policy and the local commissioning system.  Faced with a 'legal highs' onslaught our target-focused, admin orientated, clinically led, still quite opiate based treatment system with its coercive style of engagement is ill equipped to respond.  Gone (or in short supply) are the ex-addict drug workers from the formal treatment system, driven out by the need for degrees and enhanced DBS/CRBs and a flawless CV required for the now corporate, and largely risk averse treatment system.  

Our compliance testing regimes for those coming into treatment through the criminal justice system are useless, unable to detect some of the illegal, never mind so called 'legal' drugs.  Safeguarding vulnerable adults and children that often rely on a testing regime to trigger action are rendered obsolete and worse may see a lack of a negative test as a sign of progress rather a deepening of addictive & problematic behaviours that put dependents at further risk because the social workers and drugs professionals are just not sighted on the latest developments relating to 'legal highs', sadly something I see all too often, and don't even get me started on the police, seriously! (Maybe another time we'll explore the police response to so-called 'legal highs')

So in one direction we have a treatment system that still costs millions and yet is struggling to re-balance itself so it can get people better, because the main vehicle for doing this historically (resi-rehab) continues to waste away like an unused muscle, and the slack cannot yet be taken up by the developing Recovery communities as they are largely unfunded and are often being developed by those in recovery, service user groups and concerned professionals in their spare time and on a shoestring.

In the other direction we have an assault on the same treatment system by the emergence of legal highs users which won't go any where near existing drug & alcohol treatment services as they don't see themselves as addicts in need of help and the treatment system has lost (save for one or two amazing exceptions) its ability to reach out and connect with this new cohort because their primary skill is not service user engagement but administration of a large, well funded and complex system of targets, linked to ever larger and more costly contracts which commissioners and providers are seeking to consolidate to save money in the most efficient way possible, usually the reduction of overhead through merger (of contracts and in some cases of service provider organisations too)

I'm not saying get rid of harm reduction, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water, most of the money currently goes into community prescribing anyway, so this is where most of the rebalancing needs to occur.  It’s also not just a question of getting rid of prescribing either; what we need is a quality clinical component as part of a well functioning national response to addiction that helps people get and remain stable for varying lengths of time but that is less dominant than it currently is.  All of the above needs to tee-up Recovery, the ultimate harm reduction measure.

In short, it seems that if we want a more functional, balanced treatment system, and less sibling rivalry, then we need better, more visible and responsible "parenting"

Best regards


PS - now for a bit of shameless Recovery orientated promotion!!

So here’s the advert:
As part of a local Recovery initiative in Henley-on-Thames a group of us in (or affected by) Recovery started a Recovery café in December 2012.  We have opened monthly since then and seen the beginnings of a Recovery community start to grow in and around this area.   We are now intending to put on a Recovery conference in November of this year (23.11.13 to be exact).

You can get details of the conference, which is free by the way, at: www.towardsrecovery.co.uk where you will also find dates for the monthly Recovery café that is also free to attend as are the coffee and cake.

We are dedicating the conference to the following aims:
 The continuing development of a Recovery community for Henley and the surrounding areas, to highlight the need for more funded residential rehab places for those dependent on drugs and alcohol, and to raise money for 2 local charities that have been providing treatment that leads to long term recovery for decades


Friday, April 12, 2013

Treatment & Recovery or Taxi Rides & Train Journeys?

I heard some time ago, from Mark Gilman at the NTA (now Public Health England) that if Recovery were a train ride from Manchester to London, then the treatment element of that journey would be the taxi ride to the station.  A good analogy I thought at the time, and still do

I've used his analogy several times (and always give him credit for it - see link)

On one occasion I was consulting with the clients at a community based substance misuse service and they developed the analogy further.  What they said was that they had had many taxi rides to the station but had never managed to make it onto the train for that elusive onward destination (Recovery).

They said that having got in the taxi, sometimes under duress, they started their journey.  The skill of the taxi driver (let's say drug worker) often lifted their mood, improved their motivation, and helped them to start believing that the journey ahead would be a good one and hope started to rise in them.

In the taxi they were given all they needed (as far as the taxi driver was concerned anyhow) for the onward journey.  They left the taxi confident and ready to move on.  Reaching the platform however, often for the umpteenth time, was confusing.  No one was there to help them navigate the hustle and bustle.  Trains were coming and going but their tickets weren't valid.  No one to show them the way!!

Eventually, after surviving on the platform for a while, visiting the public loos for a wash and eating at the overpriced coffee shop where the tiniest of snacks seem to cost a fortune, they decided to leave and go back to where the taxi had picked them up from.  They turned up their collar, faced the night and the long, often lonely walk back into the place and the life they knew before the latest taxi ride fiasco

Often, they felt so hurt and let down that it would ages before they ventured into a taxi again, but eventually, circumstances would expose their need for help, and even though they knew it was useless going back to station, they got into the taxi, once more under duress.  Once in, the cheeky cabbie would win them over........ And on and on it would go

It seems we have replaced one revolving door with another.  Or rather we've added an expensive treatment merry-go-round to the existing revolving door of drugs, crime and other personal, familial, and societal problems linked to that life by paying for a series of expensive taxi rides that end up being fruitless 

We are paying for services to find people (the drug and alcohol clients) whom we then force into taxis (other services) and then we take them to the station again.  We measure the numbers found and forced into taxis, we measure the number of taxi rides to the station and we measure how long someone stays on the platform and in some cases we pay for taxi rides that never seem to get a station and that stay parked down a side road with the meter still running.  We justify this by saying that as long they are in the taxi, we know where they are, we are reducing the trouble or harm they can cause to themselves or others, while conveniently forgetting that their lives are effectively on hold while in the taxi.

We never buy any train tickets and we never employ any platform helpers.  We have no information about the many possible destinations and everyone in the system gets paid for the status quo - do you think the taxi drivers want the system to change.........

Treatment and Recovery are often used as interchangeable terms in certain circles and I hear so much about treatment as if were Recovery and so much about Recovery trying to be treatment, credible, evidenced based etceterarara

The world has changed and in the face of that change lets not stay the same Discuss……

All the best

ps this is my first blog in ages and it felt really good, lets hope I can stop dodging taxis long enough to put finger to keyboard again soon

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Recovery or Rhetoric

The Recovery rhetoric is reaching epidemic proportions!  Service User representatives are adding Recovery Coordinator to their titles, Drug Workers are becoming Recovery Workers or Recovery Initiators and the definition of what constitutes Recovery is getting ever wider, including those still in treatment and on substitute opiate medication.

Soon, maybe active addicts, on illicit street drugs will be defined as being in a Recovery of sorts, maybe if they attend an assessment, who knows what will happen next.

What then is a viable definition for Recovery.  Typing "Recovery" it into MSWord and engaging the dictionary function came up with the following:

  • A return to health
  • A return to a normal state, and 
  • The gaining back of something lost, or
  • In the process of recovering from an addiction or other destructive habit
These are just dictionary definitions and I'm not one of the new wave of clever academic types running or developing the UK or Global Recovery Movement(s), I'm just someone that has been in Recovery since 1986 when I entered rehab and stopped taking drugs and am still trying to hustle a living by being in the drugs field but not taking or selling drugs

Personally I try not to buy into the polarized arguments that try and make Recovery exclusive.  For instance I dont buy into the view that recovering addicts need to recover near their home location and show others the way into Recovery, we can do that where ever we are and its not location dependent.  I can see why commissioners want to ensure that they keep those in Recovery nearby, so that they can use them within a specific geographic location, because usually those that go to rehab (often out-of-area) that do well, re-settle near the out-of-area rehab and the only ones that go home are the ones that maybe didn't do so well and I have heard some commissioners coining the phrase, "we dont want to export success and import failure" (not my words)

This, like the pseudo-academics and payment-by-results advocates, that are adopting a Recovery rhetoric, it is still about treating the addict as a commodity and not a unique individual with choice.  Choice to define their own Recovery, in their own way. 

With this in mind, I dont care if your recovery is opiate free, nicotine free and/or alcohol free or whether its a process that is moving toward this or is stopped at a particular point along the way.  I dont care if your recovery is near or in your home town or miles away from it - my own journey meant I had leave where I grew up and start again somewhere new

Its none of my business and yet, the current Recovery Rhetoric being adopted by many professionals is more about engaging the addict as a commodity and exploiting them for personal or professional gain (get them on my committee, get them to start a recovery community or mutual aid group for tuppence, get me a payment by result etc).  We used to have a drug and alcohol sector that operated as a cottage industry; small, diverse, fiercely independent and successful (if a little dysfunctional from time to time - I must admit)

However, the success generated by the cottage industry was highjacked and led to promises of greater social benefit if only investment could be forthcoming to scale up drug treatment, not least a reduction in crime.  Drug users were marshaled into treatment and the corporates gradually moved in.  Professional standards were developed and we saw minor league charities become major league players, some moving from a turnover of tens of thousands to tens of millions, literally over a few years

Drug treatment was something you used as a platform for getting better (Recovery) and it became an end in itself (a script for as long as you required it).  Drug users tip-toed between the dealer on the one hand and the state or state representative (NHS or Charity treatment provider) on the other.  As I said in my 2008 piece (inside out)  "both wanting control and neither offering freedom" (sorry for quoting myself!!!).

And here we are today, another twist and turn down the road and the new mantra from above is Recovery.  Something I and many others advocated for, at a time when advocating it meant getting shot down by the harm reductionists, and being labelled 'the new (and slightly mad) abstentionists'.

As Jimmy Greaves used to say, "its a funny old game" and its "also a game of two halves" so I wont try and call the score at what feels like half time but low and behold, the harm reductionists have highjacked Recovery and bent it to fit their definitions or should I say bent it to fit their existing contracts - I know, I'm being cynical so try and screen that out if you can and look for the hidden nugget of truth, its there somewhere

The truth is, we all move toward all sorts of addictions for all sorts of reasons.  In my experience it was an answer to problems and it was a while before I noticed that my solution to my problems became my biggest problem and I was fortunate enough to get help.  The system we had back then (1986) was based on residential rehabilitative care, accessed via the Dept. for Health & Social Security (DHSS) and I was welcome for as long as I needed to be there (the programme was 11-months but this wasn't seen as a maximum).  Detoxing was the main reason for using methadone but I, like many others back then, came off heroin without the use of opiate substitutes, (we"clucked", went cold turkey) and most of the people on substitutes were blagging scripts to get by and self medicating on-top with whatever they could get

Going cold turkey seems really inhumane by todays frivolous prescribing standards but was the norm back then.  I'm not advocating going back to those days but I do believe we need to get some perspective because we have gone too far the other way, otherwise lets not pretend that the rhetoric is reality but often a convenient staging post to delay the onset of recovery by continuing with our addiction

All the best


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sentencing guidelines or a perverse incentive to take or sell drugs!

On the 24th January, while the rest of us were still trying to shift the January blues, the courts in England and Wales were issued with new guidance for sentencing drug offenders - click here to see the press release

The stated aim being to, "bring sentencing guidance together for the first time to help to ensure consistent and proportionate sentencing for all drug offences that come before courts in England and Wales" - if only everything in the criminal justice system was so uniform.

"The publication of the guideline follows a public consultation on the Council’s draft proposals, which heard from nearly 700 members of the public, criminal justice professionals and other interested parties"  

So it seems that 700 people and a few special interest groups can change sentencing policy and yet 100,000+ people recently asked for a referendum on Europe but were refused

This is a policy that is designed to keep Tristram and Porsche out of jail for being in possession of so called small amounts of all sorts of drugs and sharing it with their friends in the student dorm or in mum and dads holiday home.  Its for the city trader and the North London set that need a whiff of danger but want to remove the risk of going to jail as it just wouldn't do - dont you know!! - I feigned a Noel Coward accent for the underlined bit of that sentence

Do the sentencing geeks really think that the dealer that sells to Tristram and Porsche, the North London set or the city trader is somehow disconnected from the major or mid level importer or dealer?  Do they think that these are somehow, responsible dealers, that don’t get involved in other crime, like transforming replica guns into real guns that fuel gang and other violence in our towns and cities - I wonder, are they "green or ethical" dealers, do they eat Tofu?

If the guideline allows a defence that there was no intent to sell, make a profit etc and if the amounts allowed are as described in the Guardian newspaper e.g. 100 grams of cannabis (nearly 4 ounces), 20 tablets of ecstasy or 5 grams of heroin or crack, then its quite worrying,  5 grams of a class A drug is quite a lot (as is 4 ounces of cannabis and 20 tabs of 'E').  

5 grams of heroin or crack/cocaine, bought wholesale at £50 per gram would be the same as buying £500's worth retail (i.e. in individual £10 bags) as 1 gram yields at least 10 x £10 bags.  

Drug users will probably pool resources and buy wholesale and split the savings.  They will in effect be able to get £500 worth of drugs for £250.  This may increase individual use?  If users pool resources they may use more in company with others, as occasional use becomes addiction they may move from smoking to injecting, and on and on we go.  

Is this about keeping Porsche and Tristram out of court, or is it sanctioned drug use, protecting the middle the class – whats the real story here

Any half serious criminal would look at this policy shift as a business opportunity and decide to get into drug supply – within the parameters of the policy guide – of course

They would organise supply to stay within the allowed limits, give it away or sell at a loss to create dependency (thereby staying within the guideline) and to ensure control of the newly created addict for all sorts of other possibilities, criminal of course

Organise the runners to have just enough to have the 'gear' taken off them but not to go to prison – not having to do long sentences takes away a vital intelligence gathering tool when low level dealers get arrested

These people, the MP's, the Judges, the so called Advisers are meant to be clever people and yet they come up with the most stupid ideas.

The current health response to class A drug use is substitute prescribing.  Recovery from addiction is a recent feature of state policy.  Methadone prescribing has got so intense that it is now a contributory factor in drug related deaths!  The cure, in some cases, is killing the patient.  Lets get proper treatment for drug users – I had proper treatment (rehab) and 28 years later I am still well, not using any drugs, Im working, contributing to society (working in the drugs field in fact).  I want people to get help but I also want a credible deterrent

Rehab is dying on the vine while we spend millions on handing out methadone, and all sorts of other ‘treatments’ that do not result in the user stopping their use.  I caught a short clip of Richard Branson on TV and he said we should have a policy that helps people rather than imprisoning them.  We should treat people as we would treat our own family.  I cant disagree with that.  If my family or friends needed help with addiction I would do all I could to help them.  I would not use the current system mind you, I would pay for them to go to rehab somewhere, I'd mortgage my house, take a loan, whatever it took. 

Richard Branson needs to know that the health system as it is currently configured is found wanting and these new guidelines wont help as all they will do is undermine the Restricting Supply strand of the current drug strategy.  Treatment in prison is more available than ever but it also mirrors the community substitute prescribing system.  Addicts used to use jail as a break, a breather, somewhere to get clean, get healthy, go to the gym, put on some weight; it was like a break from addiction and a chance to start afresh, but prison is like the community now, and too many prisoners are on methadone.  

We need a fair and balanced drug policy, which includes enforcement as well as treatment.  

This sentencing guideline, I fear,  will create perverse incentives to take and sell drugs

Friday, January 6, 2012

Meeting Doreen Lawrence

Two of the people involved in the murder of Stephen Lawrence have been convicted and sentenced and as they start their sentences we hope that any others with blood on their hands will be identified, arrested and sentenced as well

The recent news coverage jogged a memory I have of meeting Doreen Lawrence in person.  It was March 2004 and I had been working for the Prison Service at their London Area Office since April or May 2003.  My line manager had informed me that I was to attend the Stephen Lawrence 10th Anniversary Dinner at the South African Embassy along with other HMPS Staff – my first official function in my new role as Area Drug Strategy Coordinator for the London prisons.

It was a formal occasion so I had to rent a dinner suit and I think it was a Friday night so I stayed on after work, got changed and started making my way from John Islip Street (where HMPS HQ was at the time), to the South African Embassy at Trafalgar Square

There was no public transport and no taxis that night as, unfortunately for me, it was the night there was a major protest against the Iraq war and I felt so self-conscious in my ‘tux’ walking against the tide of thousands of people protesting that night.  I must have said sorry a thousand times as I bumped and jostled my way through the crowd

Finally I got to the venue and the crowds thronged as it started to drizzle.  I couldn’t get in the front door so went round to what I can only describe as the tradesmen’s entrance where I showed my invitation and was met by a rather tall and quite glamorous lady in a fantastic African headdress.  She took me into the embassy and everyone we met stopped and addressed her, respectfully and reverently, and at each meeting she introduced me as Huseyin, from the Her Majesty’s Prison Service.  Unbeknown to me, I was being accompanied by the host, the South African High Commissioner!!

It was in this context that I met Doreen Lawrence; we exchanged pleasantries and business cards (I still have hers) and I must say, for a small woman she was mega.  She had a quiet forcefulness, tempered with a motherly grace that was very evident and very humbling amongst the cut and thrust of career types and all the protesting going on outside.  I’ve never forgotten the meeting and never forgotten her and it is good to see the Lawrence family finally getting a measure of justice, its long overdue

The other highlight from the night was seeing Rio Ferdinand but for completely different reasons.  My son, Harry was quite young and supported Man Utd at the time (I’m from north London and an Arsenal fan).  Anyway, I went up to Rio, (who was serving a ban for failing to turn up for a drugs test) took a deep breath, and with pen and invite in hand said, “much as it breaks my heart, as an Arsenal fan, to ask you this, can you sign my invite for my son, Harry”.  He was very gracious and duly signed, although he did give me a funny look for the Arsenal fan comment

Sadly we have misplaced Rio’s autograph but I still have Doreen Lawrence’s business card from The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and still treasure the memory of that very inspirational evening when I walked through the protesting crowds, to get to a post-Apartheid South African embassy, being introduced to everyone by the High Commissioner, getting Rio’s autograph, and the highlight of the evening, meeting Doreen Lawrence

All the best

Huseyin Djemil 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Drugs in Prison

I've just had a piece on drugs in prison published by the think tank, The Centre for Policy Studies

Its always nerve racking doing a piece that points out a flaw or offers criticism, particularly when attempting to speak truth to power.

Have a look at the blog on the CPS website and make your own mind up.

I'll be doing a follow up piece here in a few days

All the best