I wonder what New Year’s Eve was like for Oscar Pistorius, the athlete, now notorious for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

I am currently reading Behind the Door by Mandy Wiener and Barry Bateman. The book was recommended to me by a friend who is mentioned in the book and is a high profile pathologist. I have yet to settle the ‘did he mean to kill Reeva?’ question in my own mind.

I feel sorry for Oscar, for more than obvious reasons. Yes, he was sentenced to five years in prison which could technically be reduced to ten months and the balance under house arrest, or extended if the State is successful in appealing.  He has lost the love of his life, his career, his property, the respect of many and will live with his conscience until his death. These are some of the sad consequences of Oscar’s crimes.

There is a more obscure reason for my empathy. Oscar is incarcerated without the means, other than prayer, pen and paper, to keep in touch. Technology instantly places one into the minds of others; a live communication with beating hearts. It can make the invisible visible and transport a user to a friendly face or into a world of learning beyond prison walls.

I have night and day-mares about being without my phone, a signal or my laptop. The thought of my computer crashing and leaving me without years of inspiration and history could potentially send me into a mindless frenzy. Not being able to Skype my family or Google would be a horror of note. Consigning me to a jail cell with a few pieces of writing paper and a pen would be like amputating my fingers.

According to my research, first time prisoners, in the UK (http://www.firsttimeinprison.co.uk/what-you-should-take/), Ireland (Irish Prison Service http://www.irishprisons.ie/) and Queensland, Australia (Daily life in prison/Your rights, crime and the law/Queensland Government), https://www.qld.gov.au/law/), can prepare themselves for the ordeal of imprisonment by reading guides placed online for that purpose or taking a course! (Know What To Expect and How To Survive! – Prison Reality Information Sessions run by a former prisoner, http://www.prisonreality.com/).There seems to be nothing out-of-whack about this; you could be reading up on how to pack for a holiday, or prepare for a camping trip, a hike, or a package tour.

Lists of things to take include toiletries, pens and pencils, underwear, books, stamps (for posting snail mail), writing paper, envelopes, comfy shoes and cash. Conspicuously absent from such lists are mobile phones and laptops.

Try as I might, I could find no helpful hints for South African prisoners-to-be.

According to Behind the Door, there were three iPhones, two Blackberries, two iPads, and one MacBook computer at the scene of the shooting (belonging to Oscar and Reeva). Judging from tweets, messages and a website, it is safe to assume that the Blade Runner was fond of, if not semi-dependent upon, social media. There has already been a hoo-ha about inmates promising to obtain a phone for Oscar’s use inside (Times LIVE article by Graeme Hosken – Oct. 17 2014 – We will look after Oscar, say jailbirds).

Losing your freedom is punishment enough, but losing your connections? Now that could be a terminal disability for the best of us who don’t know how to pray.

 

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