Thoughts

Having not spoken to my former colleagues for various reason since I left to move abroad, I’ve only just found out that one of them has since died. “S” was a manager at the prison who I respected deeply, and whose calming persona and mannerisms were just what the role needed. He was very articulate and the type of person you could rely on, if given enough nudges. I never saw him do outright teaching, but I saw how he interacted with prisoners, and I dealt with him on a personal level as well as in meetings.

Oh how the mighty fall.

S was arrested a year ago having assaulted his wife who’d had an affair. He later breached a bail condition, became a voluntary patient at a mental health unit, and later, in the spring of 2008, committed suicide.

There are two quotes reported by journalists that stick with me. S apparently said to his daughter “You know what will happen now – this is Armageddon”. The over-the-top statement seems a little out of character from what I remember of S, but then this whole series of events do too. Perhaps he knew what sort of trouble he was in, even in his seemingly disturbed state of mind.

The other quote was by his wife, who having been told that S had been found dead, replied that “we were kind of expecting this”. More than likely she knew how out of character S had been over the last few months, compared to their 27 years of marriage, but surely you don’t expect someone to commit suicide? Not without doing everything in your powers to stop them.

S had lost his job, his marriage, shamed to his peers by the newspaper reports, and the perfectionist within him wouldn’t allow that. I don’t think he was given a custodial sentence even being found guilty of the assault, but perhaps he knew that he was likely to do something that would ultimately warrant a term inside, and having worked there, knew that he wouldn’t cope, especially as he knew people in most prisons in the area, on both side of the bars.

The coronor returned an open verdict on his death, though I can’t see how it could be anything other than suicide. Hanging from a tree with no evidence of anyone else being involved, leaves little scope for discussion.

I don’t know the full story, his family, or how the events really unfolded, and it’s not my place to start attacked people for what they should or should not have done. Ironically though, S was on the welfare and negotiation team for when major incidents happen in the prison – it seems no-one could do the same for him.

My former colleagues were obviously very distraught at the time, and one of my good friends, L, who worked closely with S has since left to work elsewhere. I know that she would have taken this very hard. You all have my thoughts.

In a mannerism that those who knew S would recognise: “Question. What went wrong and what can we learn from this?”

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Gary Jones

Gary Jones is a UK-based WordPress Engineer, code consultant, and father of extremely premature twins. Driven by a passion for excellence, he creates elegant WordPress plugins and theme solutions for clients, and provides services, including code audits, for other designers and developers. Gary is a key contributor to the Genesis Framework and has contributed to all except one major branch of WordPress Core since 3.3. He has contributed to many open source projects in the community, and is a co-host on the UK Genesis podcast. A former teacher in schools and prisons, Gary's goal is to educate WordPress professionals on how they can improve their code. His motto is knowledge is power.