On 6 November, SL5's Emma McClure ran The Green 26.2 Mile, a marathon inside decommissioned HMP Shepton Mallet in aid of the National Autistic Society. This involved 78 laps with each one involving the exercise yard and 165 steps up to the 3s, along the wing and back down again.
Running a marathon within a prison and ending up exactly where you started will not sound like much fun but it is an excellent analogy for how hard it can be to navigate the prison system at the best of times. If you are also autistic it can be close to impossible.
On the face of it, you might think that autistic people would survive well within the prison system. It's very structured and rules-based. You get up at this time, you eat at that time, you exercise at this time, lights out at this time, and so on.
However, prison rules are also often a byzantine mess, inconsistently applied, poorly related and understood. Within the prison community itself, there can be an especially complicated social dynamic which autistic prisoners are more likely to fail to understand and therefore they can find themselves more likely to be targeted and/ or in trouble.
Then there are sensory processing difficulties, such as harsh lighting, loud noises, raised voices and slamming doors.
Emma is acutely aware of all of these difficulties through her work with autistic prisoners and through her experience of being autistic herself.
The National Autistic Society have developed an accreditation scheme for prisons and other resources to make navigating the prison system more manageable. Emma is keen to try and assist with this work.
Any and all donations are gratefully received: