Psychologists employed by the prison system and based in individual prisons are used as an intergral part of the control armour of these jails in the guise of a “multi-disciplinary” team-based approach to maintaining the status quo and disempowerment of prisoners. Just as prison doctors have sometimes been used to cover up the physical maltreatment of prisoners, and occasionally their murder at the hands of prison staff, so prison-employed psychologists dutifully prostitute their authority to stigmatize prisoners as social misfits, psychopaths and sociopaths, thereby reinforcing their marginilisation and dehumanization and the power of the system over them. In the totalitarian world of prison, system-hired psychologists are encouraged and allowed to vent their innate middle-class prejudices and hatred of the poor and marginilised, confident in the knowledge they will never be held accountable.
In the summer of 2010 the Parole Board informed Glenochil Prison in Stirlingshire that a hearing was to be held to review my continuing imprisonment after 30 years, and as part of that process a psychological report would be required to assess my current state of mind and level of risk to the public. A senior forensic psychologist based at Glenochil, Kirsty Halliday, was asked to write the report. Halliday had no intention of writing an unbiased and impartial report. Knowing what was expected of her she immediately sought out the opinion of prison officers who a short time earlier had transferred me from Glenochil for what they alleged had been my attempt to create unrest among other prisoners. Before ridding themselves of me the same prison officers had been the subject of investigations by the Scottish Prisons Complaints Commission and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, both instigated by me, because of their concerted attempt to undermine sentence planning procedures and the prisoner personal officer scheme at the prison. Halliday writes in the introduction to her report that she held discussions with these prison officers to get their “impressions of John Bowden’s behaviour whilst he was in the prison”. The subsequent contents of her report are an obvious reflection of their hatred and bigotry which she provides with the jargon of forensic psychology.
She describes my propensity to complain and protest in prison as a symptom of “paranoia” and a personality disorder, and elaborates on this in the following way: “His tendency to feel strong feelings of anger appears to be linked to experiences of paranoid thoughts”. “It also appears that underlying paranoid thoughts linked to ideas of conspiracies characterized his attitude to prison authority”. “He has a tendency to lapse into paranoid feelings and thoughts”. “He has an issue with authority figures reflected by his responses in prison”. The image created by Halliday in her report to a Parole Board assessing my suitability for release is one of a border-line mentally ill prisoner with a paranoia fuelled hatred of authority and a propensity for physical violence; she claimed that I had been “consistently violent” whilst in prison. In fact, my prison records show that in over 30 years I had committed just 3 minor physical assaults against prison staff, the last one almost 20 years ago. Of course Halliday omits any reference to my physical ill-treatment in jail, especially that which led to a successful civil action in 1990 following my sustained beating-up by prison officers at Winson Green jail in Birmingham. Her dishonesty extends itself to blatant lies and twisting of facts; she claims in one place that I was transferred from Castle Huntly Prison in 2008 because I had formed what she described as an “inappropriate relationship with a female social worker” at the prison, In fact, it was what the administration at Castle Huntly claimed was my connection to a “terrorist organisation” (the Anarchist Black Cross) that provoked my transfer from the prison. The Health Professionals Council is now investigating the more flagrant distortion of facts in Haliday’s report.
On the 11th March the Parole Board opened its hearing at Edinburgh Prison and began to hear witnesses, but was forced to adjourn midway through the proceedings because Halliday failed to appear. Glenochil jail was contacted and a video link-up facility offered to Halliday via which to give her evidence and be cross-examined, but she refused. It might now be necessary for the Parole Board to request that the Secretary of State for Scotland issues a witness summons compelling Halliday to attend the parole hearing when it resumes in May. Obviously unable to defend the lies in her report Halliday is nevertheless arrogant enough to believe that the prison system will protect and insulate her from possible legal proceedings if she refuses to co-operate with the Parole Board. In the past Halliday has no doubt been rolled out many times by the management at Glenochil to write and lend her authority to psychological “risk-assessments” of prisoners that were little more than lies dressed up in psychological jargon. Probably never before has she had to defend or explain any of those lies, hence her cavalier attitude on this occasion when called to submit herself for cross-examination at my parole hearing.
Halliday’s behaviour is in fact typical of prison psychologists generally, a group that over the last decade or so has been enormously empowered as the Parole Board and criminal justice system’s obsession with the future potential risk of prisoners has increased dramatically. Within the prison system itself the massive proliferation of psychology based and run behaviour modification courses and programmes has become a veritable industry, giving prison psychologists a dictatorial degree of power over prisoners, as well as with enormous career opportunities and financial rewards. Within such a milieu of vested personal and occupational interest and common institutional purpose with ordinary prison staff, the professional integrity and independence of prison-based psychologists is fatally flawed and compromised. The widescale use of middle class professionals like psychologists to legitimize the repression of prisoners of course breaches all ethical standards and should be exposed, challenged and opposed by all those interested and involved in the struggle for prisoners’ rights.