Brighton's Heart of Darkness

I've already posted once on Jason Evans, a 40-year-old man in Brighton who is on an ASBO until 2012. Here he talks more about his personal struggle with the Police, life in hostels and Highdown Prison where he has been for about 4 weeks for breaching his ASBO.

I expect that there is a book in Jason, a story that would make you weep. My knowledge of his personal history is sketchy, but I know that he suffered tremendously as a child, shunted from care home to care home with little experience of what we would call love or paternal or maternal care.

He has been alcoholic and and drug addicted for a long time and I expect that for many men and women in Brighton in Jason's situation that the pursuit of illicit drugs is rooted and cemented in a deep emotional trauma from childhood, the coping mechanism for which becomes hedonism and drugs.

It is odd then, that a society which throws its hands up in the air in outrage at the abuse scandals which have hit the Church, in Ireland especially, shows such little compassion to adults who were most likely treated shamefully both by parents and by the State care system in their childhood, adolescense and youth. Jason is a victim of what the Prime Minister would call our 'broken society', but the current legislation that exists serves only to imprison Jason, rather than to steer him towards some kind of freedom. Sussex Police, in particular, target him in a most unjust manner. You would think that when Police know that someone is on an ASBO, they would let 'walking on the wrong side of the road' go and show Jason a little leniency, but they do not.

You would think that the Social Services would assist Jason to find decent, supportive accommodation to help him to recover from drink and drugs, or that the Probation services would steer him towards supportive accommodation, counselling, therapy and detox, but they do not. You would think that when a punitive, stringent, almost Kafka-esque policy of policing Jason and controlling his movements, stopping him from begging, pouring away his drinks in the street, banging him up in jail, has been an abysmal failure and doesn't seem to work, that a new approach would be considered, but it is not. You would think that when Lewes Prison is so full of men like Jason that Jason himself has to be put in Highdown Prison, because other addicts are clogging the jail in Lewes, that a new approach would be considered, but it is not.

Jason, of course, has personal responsibility for his actions, but he is absolutely right to say that he is sick of "this society". It is very difficult to pull yourself out of 'the gutter' by yourself. He is no worse a person, nor any greater 'criminal' than many so called law-abiding citizens, certainly not in the eyes of God, who protects the Poor. He may be 'no Angel', he may have his vices, but he is persecuted by the authorities who, it appears to me, rather sadistically, toy with him, bully him, hound him and imprison him for even the smallest of breaches of his anti-social behaviour order. Meanwhile, on Gay Pride Day, Brighton is swimming with Class-A drugs, street-drinking and the rest while Sussex Police actually preside over the day and celebrate with the revellers.

The gross injustice of the persecution and hounding of the Poor is as old as sin. It is certainly described in the Old Testament as one (though we know not the only one) of the chief sins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah before those cities were destroyed. The State's policy towards Jason stigmatises him and makes him an outcast. The policies which he experiences daily are oppressive, dehumanising and demean his human dignity, his fundamental human rights. Sentencing is seen as punishment, often for no real offense, with absolutely no aim of rehabilitation of the individual whatsoever, so that he can contribute and participate in wider society. Jason is evidence of the many poor and rejected men and women who are not invited to the party in the 'city by the sea', despised, with few if no advocates, in Brighton's heart of darkness.