Cannabis – The Facts

Cannabis is extremely controversial. There is a growing argument that cannabis should be legalised for a number of reasons from health benefits to the state being able to control and regulate as opposed to illegal dealers. Some may be for the legalisation, some against and some may not have an opinion which fits either of these brackets. This blog post is facts, pure and simple facts.

Cannabis is the most widely used drug (illegal) in Britain. It is made from a naturally occurring plant, which contributes to notion of some that it is an entirely harmless drug. The main active chemical in cannabis is commonly known as THC – the ‘proper’ name for this is tetrahydrocannabinol. There is evidence both for and against cannabis being addictive and material surrounding the short and long term effects of cannabis can be rather vague. When cannabis is smoked, and individuals mix it with tobacco, all of the risks associated with smoking are then something which affect the individual. Cannabis is currently a class B drug in the United Kingdom and dependant upon the quantity you are found with possession can result in up to five years in prison, whilst supply of the drug may lead to up to fourteen years along with a fine. If you are found with a small amount of cannabis on your being police can issue a warning or an on the spot fine, which currently stands at £90.

Effects: in general cannabis makes users feel relaxed, chilled out, happy and for many it brings on the feeling of hunger! However it is worth noting here that many users also experience hallucinations (these can range from mild to in some cases rather severe), a feeling of being faint, slightly sick and an alteration to your senses – in some cases serious paranoia may occur. At the time of using cannabis is effects how the brain works.

There are a number of street names, or slang terms, for cannabis and some are dependent upon the strength of the drug but the most common are:


Postgraduate Loans

I’m sure by now many have heard the great news that from 2016/2017 there will be loans of up to £10,000 available for masters students. This is great news for many however it does exclude those who are over 30 and is for masters programmes only – therefore doesn’t include postgraduate diplomas or those wishing to do a PhD. Although many will miss out in the near future, does this indicate a step in the right direction when it comes to postgraduate study and funding?

What I am Currently…

‘Naming Jack the Ripper’ by Russell Edwards. I have been busy reading bits of other books and so I haven’t made huge progress with this book since it featured in a previous post but I am still finding it an enjoyable read! I am also enjoying reading sections of the ‘Oxford Handbook of Criminology’ along with many other books I have yet to get around to reading!
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Being on maternity leave I have found myself watching more television than usual – particularly in the evenings! I usually watch programmes on catch up and as always have been enjoying Question Time, a number of programmes on the Crime and Investigation channel and I have found the recent series, 24 hours in police custody, extremely interesting. I have also enjoyed watching Russell Brand’s YouTube videos.

Although as mentioned I am currently on maternity leave I am still continuing my voluntary work as a mentor to male offenders who have served sentences no longer than 18 months upon release from HMP. I have been involved in this particular project for a number of years and thoroughly enjoy it. I think that support during and after prison is vital in the rehabilitation of those who find themselves involved in the prison system and I see myself being involved in this for as long as possible. I have just been involved in the interviewing of potential new mentors which has given me a great opportunity to reflect on my (nearly) three years with the project.

I am really enjoying being able to spend time with my little boy whilst having the freedom to read and research everything of interest now that I have finished my degree. It’s also December now which is my favourite time of the year and I am looking forward to Christmas! I will be treating myself to a new book at Christmas as I haven’t bought a book for myself in months as I have been trying to get through some of my many unread books!
Christmas 2013

I understand that, where appropriate, strikes are important. However I am slightly disappointed that the Open University seem to have released exam results for those who undertook exams in October however DD307 results have been affected by the recent strikes and, as of yet, there is no official date as to when we will receive these. I was unimpressed that results for the other modules were released and then DD307 students received an email stating that we are probably aware other modules have been released but ours haven’t.

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice (RJ) is argued to have begun around the 1970’s and is derived from mediation techniques. The aim of RJ is for all of those involved in a particular offence try to resolve issues through a discussion process talking about what will occur now and planning for the future. It aims to aid in the prevention of cases going to court where appropriate, and places great focus on the community. The hope is to rehabilitate offenders through the introduction of the victim of their crime and giving both the victim and offender the opportunity to give their opinion, share their grievances and discuss whatever they feel appropriate in a controlled environment and supervised by a trained professional. Although the majority of cases where RJ is implemented occur before an offence comes to court, and so is used as an alternative to attending court, it can also be used at any stage of the criminal justice process – even after conviction. At the moment RJ is most commonly used with young offenders but also is used in cases of low level offending and where the public is not seen to be at risk.

It is an opportunity for victims to explain to the offender the result and impact that the crime in question has had on their lives as a whole and is a healthy and safe way to express feelings and thoughts that many victims of crime wish they had the opportunity to say which often is unable to happen in a court setting.

Do I think RJ is useful? Absolutely! I think more clear, concise and simple information about RJ needs to be available to the wider public and anyone who may be involved in the criminal justice system, be it an offender or victim. This would allow for more people to fully understand the process of RJ along with all of the benefits – particularly at a time when saving money is high on the agenda! The current prison system isn’t working and in my opinion more alternatives to incarceration need to be utilised, where appropriate, such as RJ. Listening to both victims and offenders and involving them in the process as much as possible is surely a more appropriate way for us to move forward?

Waiting for results and final thoughts…

I started this blog mainly to document the journey through my degree in criminology and psychological studies. I am now in the position of waiting for the results of my final module to come out. They should arrive by December the 5th and it will be the result for the final module, DD307 Social Psychology: critical perspectives of self and others. In theory, I can then enter all of my module results into the degree calculator on the student website and find out the classification of my degree however I think I am going to play it safe and wait until I receive my classification officially! This is most definitely the most nerve-racking wait for a result so far as, providing I receive over 40 for my last exam, that is my degree finished. Over. Done.

It’s such a strange feeling knowing that there is nothing more I can do and it’s now all out of my hands. I thoroughly enjoyed the criminology modules I completed and always felt pretty confident with my work however with both of the psychology modules I had to complete, DSE212 and DD307, I found it impossible to even guess if I was on the right track with essays but even more so with both of the psychology exams. I did in parts really struggle with these modules and I know my final classification won’t be as strong as if I had done solely criminology but nevertheless I have really enjoyed the four years I have spent studying and I feel that the voluntary experience I have gained throughout my degree is just as beneficial if not more so with regards to my career path.

I have learned that with regards to psychology it is criminal psychology I have a passion for rather than psychology as a whole and my interest in criminology has only grown stronger throughout. I am still determined to go on and complete a masters and I now know that I will focus on criminology and criminal justice rather than take psychology to the next level. I do however want to have a break before embarking on another educational journey as I would like to put my knowledge and voluntary experience into practice and hopefully move on and gain employment in an sector I am extremely passionate about.

Where to find housing?

As a mentor to male offenders upon release from HMP I would estimate that out of every 10 who come to us 9 need help and support with accommodation. Some rather urgently. In the past we have worked alongside individuals who have been released at 2pm on New years eve with no accommodation – not the best situation to find yourself in!

When we find ourselves working alongside an individual who is released with no conditions, probation officer, curfew or in many cases a place to stay, our first port of call is to head down to the local housing office. In the majority of cases temporary accommodation, usually in a hostel, is found for the individual which gives them a roof over their head and time for us to support them in applying for more secure and appropriate accommodation. In some cases bed and breakfast is provided for the individual usually on a night by night basis and for a very short period of time.

The majority of individuals who we work with come out of prison and go straight into an approved premises which are approved under section 13 of the Offender Management Act. NAPA is the National Approved Premises Association and these premises were formally known as bail hostels (and often still are!). They provide accommodation and are managed, in most instances by probation, but in some cases by voluntary organisations. They enable, in most cases, 24 hour surveillance of those living within the premises and aim to aid in the reduction of further offending behaviour from individuals residing there and helping in the protection of the public. Usually support is provided through key workers and outside agencies whilst living in the premises which supports individuals to move on and secure further accommodation when the time is right.

Shelter, Crisis and the Citizens Advice Bureau are charities which we use in all other circumstances.

Below I have listed some useful websites:

Neuroscience and Psychopaths

In numerous posts I have talked about TED talks and thought I would share with you the latest talk I have been enjoying.

This talk, given by Daniel Reisel, discusses his work at Wormwood Scrubs high security prison. Reisel was part of a team of researchers from University College London who were studying a group of individuals at Wormwood Scrubs all who had been clinically diagnosed as psychopaths.