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A week from Karyn McCluskey’s diary

BLOGS | 18th January 2021

There’s nothing typical about a working week in the life of our chief executive Karyn McCluskey. Many think she works exclusively under the justice remit – but her role is much wider. Here Karyn shares her diary from a recent week before the tightened lockdown restrictions came into force.

I run 5km for the Moira Fund. It’s in memory of Moira Jones who was killed in Queens Park, Glasgow in 2008. I’ve known Moira’s parents for many years and am in awe of what they have done in their daughter’s name to help others so traumatically bereaved.

I visit the Governor of HMP Edinburgh. It’s a stain on Scotland that we have so many people in prison when he and an army of others are committed to prevention.  So many of those coming in through his doors have mental health problems and trauma hidden by illegal drug use.

During the pandemic I see many who are locked up for long periods, but also the humanity and the humour. It’s strange in this environment to see women tending chickens in a hen house.

So many I meet have known violence, neglect and addiction, have experienced the care system and poverty. There are also those who present a real threat. We must reduce the numbers of those whose offending can be dealt with by other services and leave prison for those who would do us great harm.

I’m on the board of Simon Community Scotland, which works to combat the causes and effects of homelessness and I spend part of the day at a new hub in Glasgow for those who are sleeping rough.

I meet friends there, who are oral surgeons from Glasgow Dental School who are setting up a specialist service for people who are homeless. Drugs, neglect, abuse and violence mean that many end up with terrible problems with their teeth. I think about the particular torture that is dental pain, and the judgements that we all make when we see someone with rotten, missing or broken teeth.

I meet activist Peter Krykant in a café. In recovery himself, he’s campaigning to change the law to allow a safer place for people to take drugs to save lives.

We speak about having both seen the work of drug consumption rooms in Denmark and the challenges faced by those trying to change their lives. There is a huge, incredibly supportive recovery community in Scotland and we are lucky to have them but they need more than luck.

I chat with Julie. We originally met through Twitter when she shared her experience of the care system. Whip smart, she lived with me when she started her new job as a trainee solicitor. She is full of imposter syndrome and I sternly try to remind her how good she is.

I also speak to Fiona Duncan who’s chair of The Promise, the organisation charged with making sure the conclusions of the Independent Care Review are implemented. It’s an overwhelming and overdue bit of work. Julie, and too many others, who experienced the care system should have had better lives.

I have my regular virtual meeting to look at practical solutions now that the justice system is starting up again following lockdown. The problems are complex, and the impact on victims and those who are accused is huge.

I’m working with people from all areas including the prison service, local authorities, third sector and the Scottish Government.  We try to chip away at the problems but often without getting to the heart of the solutions. We have to focus on the short term right now – but know that real change will only happen when we address the age-old problems of inequality and injustice . I remind myself every day that I believe we can.

Karyn McCluskey on Moira's Run
Karyn McCluskey on Moira’s Run
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