Last week, I went to the book launch of 'Prisons Exposed' by Michael O'Brien, who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Given that his book gives an in-depth analysis of the prison system and suggestions for reform, I wasn’t too surprised that bullying in prison is a huge element of his painfully unjust story. Michael O’Brien, during a lively question and answer session, expanded on how he’d been bullied by police, prison guards, other prisoners and how, in the process, he’d learned to bully people to survive.
Then he began to talk about a kind of bullying I didn’t expect.
He went back to his school days, when he’d been regularly picked on. Being the little kid wearing the NHS glasses had been tough. So tough, in fact, that upon his eventual release Michael O’Brien told how he was consumed with the desire to track down his former school bullies and confront them. It was clear that even he’d been surprised with his overwhelming reaction to what had occurred so long ago in school, especially in light of the awful chain of events which had taken 11 years to put right.
I wanted to ask him more on the subject, but didn’t want to distract him from the main subject of the book.
I’m left wondering whether he felt as though the prison bars had started going up then. After all, school had been the start of his being targeted and treated appallingly for no reason.
Yet out of this experience, Michael O’Brien is doing extraordinary things. ‘Prisons Exposed’ is his second book. He’s campaigned tirelessly for those falsely convicted to be freed.
After his years in prison, he’s street wise. His friends are tough. His eyes have been opened. There aren’t any quick fixes. The injustice has taken its toll. But he still cares. He’s still got endless compassion for others.
He’s an example for us all that wherever we come across it, whether in the school yard, the workplace or the prison system, bullying must never be tolerated or condoned.