Friday, 16 December 2016

How to be an Inmate?

Michael Burke must prepare his own narrative for cell-mates

by Brian Bamford – a former inmate at Strangeways HMP
IF Michael Burke, who was yesterday sentenced to 15-years jail having been found guilty of raping his own sister 'Selfie Queen' Karen Danczuk as a child, and sexually assaulting two other girls, is to avoid himself being brutalised and possibly raped in the British prison system, he must now be carefully preparing his own narrative to relate to the prison community on the wings. 
Only yesterday the Manchester Evening News (MEN) carried a story by a prison officer at Strangeways notorious Victorian prison in Manchester in which the unnamed source said 'staff are living in fear of violence and nothing is being done to stop inmates using drugs and mobile phones'.
'Out of Sight, Out of Mind'
English people tend to adopt the view of 'Out of sight, out of mind!' with regard to their own prison system, and the anonymous source told the MEN that 'It is clear the home secretary does not understand the issues staff face daily'.
The prison officer is reported to have said in a letter that 'prisoners have no respect for authority, are violent to fellow inmates and staff and take drugs such as spice.'
Furthermore, he wrote:  'There have been several incidents at HMP Manchester where staff have been threatened by prisoners and governors have done nothing to protect the staff.'
'Notoriety' of Defendant and 'Fame' of Complainant
Defending Burke, Nicholas Walker QC said Burke had suffered a downfall of a 'very public nature'.  And Mr. Walker added:  'It's a feature of this case he can't enjoy the luxury of anonymity as the others may enjoy'.  
The judge, Mr Justice Gilbart, told Mr. Walker QC that he was not sentencing Mr. Burke on the 'because of his notoriety' in the media but based of the evidence presented in Court.  Mr Justice Gilbart said of Mrs. Danczuk that though she was 'well known' the Court will protect those in the media, and she had been active as a Councillor. 
Karen Danczuk, the estranged wife of the disgraced Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, had claimed her mother was distant, that her her father worked nights, and that her brother Michael had begun grooming her from the age of six for sex, before getting into bed and raping her from the age of nine as other siblings slept. 
Mr. Justice Goldbart, handing down the sentence to the defendant:  'Whether she (Karen Danczuk) was nine, ten or 11 at the date of the first rape is not clear, but on any view she was a young girl who not reached puberty.  After she had endured your attentions up to the age of 11 she stood up to you, you didn't touch her again.
'You have shown not a shred of remorse in your defence you spent much of your time claiming she had orchestrated a conspiracy against you, a claim I regard as entirely absurd.  Your second victim was a naïve 12-year-old ... you did not care whether she agreed or not, (went from heavy petting to) forcing yourself on her just as you had your sister.
'You ejaculated within her and you persuaded her and she persuaded herself that it was normal.
'You made (the third victim) submit.  Here too you alleged she was part of the conspiracy.' orchestrated by your sister.'
Mr. Justice Goldbart told Mr. Burke:  'You have an attitude to women that reveals a self-justifying lack of insight.'
Meanwhile, we must wait to see if any British newspaper carries another exclusive insightful interview with Karen Danczuk who claims to have suffered 'severe psychological harm'.
On the wings of a Total Institution
As Michael Burke goes into the cells to begin his sentence he will be entering what sociologists call a 'total institution'.  He will be striped, showered and searched before he gets to the cells on the reception wing.  He will be questioned as to any special dietary requirements.  I normally lie and declare myself to be a vegetarian in the hope that it may enable me to get more choice when the food is dished-up.
Once on the wings he must have a suitably convincing narrative to explain his predicament to his fellow cell-mates and other prisoners in the jail community. 
In Court Two of the Manchester Crown Court yesterday, Mr. Justice Goldbart, educated at the  University of Cambridge, may have preached to you about you having 'shown not a shred of remorse'.  That may well be the case, but the prison community is an entirely different jurisdiction from the Crown Court, and he will soon find out it applies its own rules and posses its own hierarchy and standards. 
Rule 43!
Michael Burke needs to prepare himself skillfully if he is not to end up segregated serving his ten-year sentence on Rule 43.*
To establish his status in the prison hierarchy Michael Burke will have to present a story which will  be acceptable and will gain him respect among the inmates.  To do this and survive on the wings, he needs to reaffirm his defence that a 'conspiracy' was 'orchestrated' against him by a group of people who had malicious intent.  In the context of an all-male community the idea of what the novelist Henry James called a 'capricious woman' would not be difficult for the average prison inmate to understand, (see 'The Princess Casamassima ).
For Mr. Burke to now suggest to his fellow prisoners that he is the victim of a 'conspiracy'  by an ex-girl friend and a former partner would not be something that the male prison community would find hard to understand, especially when one of the complainants has given an exclusive interview to the press.  Though it is not yet known if she will be paid for this.
Some substance may be given to this account by an exchange of e-mails in September/ October 2015, when Northern Voices was given a name of someone who had approached some women previously associated with Mr. Burke.
At that time we put the forward the following question to this individual:
'I have been given information from two separate sources that you were in contact with a number of Michael Burke's former girl friends or partners, some of whom subsequently went to the police.  'Could you confirm if this is true, and if it is, explain why you did this? 
'Look forward to your early response'
A reply came back to NV two days later in the form of a threat:
'These allegations are completely untrue, defamatory and may constitute a malicious falsehood if published.'
Considering this response and in the dangerous prison environment as described by the Strangeways prison officer above to the MEN, a conspiracy narrative could save Michael Burke's life.  Karen. Danczuk may have secured what she now calls 'closure' but she has done so by using the criminal justice system to deliver her own brother into the human jungle of the British prison system.  Meanwhile she can now get on with her life like she has been performing on 'Bear Grylls', or being paid to appear on 'Loose Women'.
As a sociologist/ ethnomethodologist as well as a former prison inmate, for practical purposes in prison I would advise Michael Burke to stick to the defence he presented in the Manchester Crown Court: that he is the victim of a 'stitch-up' by what the defence described as an 'attention seeker' and what the press call a 'Selfie Queen'.
Rule 43 states that any prisoner can apply to be taken into solitary confinement on a Vulnerable Prisoners Unit, for his own protection. Jailed police and prison officers, sex offenders and showbusiness celebrities often apply for this.

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