Aitken Puts Brave Face on Prison Life

Article excerpt

Jonathan Aitken's painful task of trying to cope with life as a convicted criminal has emerged in a comforting letter written to his mother from his prison cell.

Aitken, the 56-year-old former Conservative Minister, wrote to Lady Aitken, aged 88, from south-east London's Belmarsh Prison within days of starting an 18-month sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice last Tuesday.

In a cheerful and defiant letter, Aitken - now known as prisoner CB9298 - expresses relief at being away from media attention and the "hurly-burly of bankruptcy," consultant forensic psychologist Mr Ged Bailes said.

"People awaiting incarceration often express a sense of relief because at last they know what they have to deal with when a sentence is given," said Mr Bailes, who works with offenders on all aspects of their mental health from assessment to treatment and rehabilitation.

"Prisons are not pleasant places, prison officers settle people in and people adapt. When people who have never had contact with prison first go in, initially there may be a lot of shock but people can be very resilient."

The persistently cheerful tone of his letter may be a deliberate attempt to cheer his mother up, said Mr Bailes.

And the fact that Lady Aitken has released it to the public may be her way of supporting her son while telling his detractors "you have not ground him down", he said.

However, the letter's "jovial" tone may masking feelings of denial, said Mr Bailes.

"When people are faced with a shock it can take a long time for them to realise what has happened, or even to accept what has happened."

In addition to the cheerfulness of the letter, it is also brimming with an unmistakeable sense of self-centredness, according to Mr Bailes.

"Some people can be a little self-centred. Human beings have an ability to rationalise what they have done and rise above it. …