“I used PAS’s bulletin to help other prisoners”

An ex-prisoner explains how he first got involved with PAS:

“My initial experience with PAS was through the quarterly bulletin. If other prisoners had law-related issues or difficulties with obtaining something, I was able to help using the information in the bulletin, because obviously the literacy levels in prison are not particularly great.

“Medically ill people within the prison system won’t necessarily know the legal position themselves. If you can point something out and add it onto an application or complaint form or if you can make reference to something then that gives it a bit more weight behind the application.

“People are entitled to the same level of health care in prison as they would be entitled to in the community. However, medication is sometimes taken from them because prisons suspect that it may be traded or that there may be bullying. This issue was mentioned in a PAS bulletin, so I could tell prisoners putting complaints in what the legal position was. Around 80 per cent of prisoners have one or more mental health conditions, and you are just asking for prisoners to fall flat on their faces again by taking those medications away.

“Legally confidential mail is another issue. You hear about prison staff opening confidential mail. One inmate had about six or seven Rule 39 letters stamped ‘opened in error’. Using the PAS bulletin, I was able to help write a complaint, he was eventually given compensation, after he exhausted the complaint system and went to the ombudsman, who eventually took it to the Small Claims Court where he won a nominal sum.”