Mrs Carleen Bryant, being interviewed
by Mary W Maxwell
If you were running the world, that is, if you were a member of the cabal of sick-o’s that presently runs the world, how would you treat prisoners?
First of all, you’d want to be sure each of them is as powerless as possible. This should be easy to accomplish. On arrival at a prison (in many American states) each man should be raped. He will never be able to tell his family or friends about that, just by the nature of it.
After sexual humiliation, the man will be more adaptable to the power structure in the prison. Indeed there’s nothing like the loss of freedom and the sound of doors locking to remind you of your inability to pursue your own free will.
As Martin Seligman discovered with dogs, “learned helplessness” develops in an animal that cannot control its fate. If you devise an experiment in which the dog cannot use either fight or flight to increase his chance of avoiding pain, he will stop trying. He accepts that he will be hurt. He has learned that helplessness is his lot.
However, for those males who still have some aggression left, the best thing (for the cabal, that is) would be to stimulate an increase in that aggressiveness. After all, the prisoners can be used later on the Outside when their sentence comes to an end.
Families of Prisoners
A potential source of trouble for the cabal is the family of any prisoner. They not only haven’t got the restriction on movement or communication that the prisoner has, they are powerfully motivated to get some relief for the prisoner.
A dad, a brother, a husband, or a son usually has relatives geared up to be his advocates. The job, then, for the cabal, is to make life difficult – on any basis – for these helpers.
The prison regime itself can be of use here. “We must make sure the prison officials know that the families need to be hurt as efficiently as possible.” An excellent way to do this is to cause frustration in regard to “the visiting privileges.” (Q. How did visiting one’ nearest and dearest get categorized as a privilege?)
So the visiting hours have to be kept secret. This is accomplished by changing the hours — and not notifying the family. Or, preferably, notifying them when they show up at the door, having just had a six-hour journey from their home at no small expense.
Another way is to make the phoning privilege all one-way. That is, the family does not get to ring the man inside, but he has to do the phoning out. This will be set up in a way that is as financially prohibitive as possible. All calls will be charged at an exorbitant rate, including unanswered calls.
Let it be noted here that by law a person convicted of a crime can be punished in only one of the following two ways: by fine, or by imprisonment. The latter punishment consists of the loss of his liberty. That is, being incarcerated is itself the allowed punishment. Nothing further is legal, such as multiplying the price of his phone calls.
That Prisoner in Tasmania
Carleen Bryant’s book, My Story, mentions many of the heart-rending experiences she has had in regard to having a son in prison in Australia. Here are three.
At Christmas she brought her son Martin a parcel (left open for inspection, of course) that contained soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, plus a box of jubes. She was told it could not be given to the prisoner because those were things he could buy at the prison.
The gentleman told me those would not be acceptable, and they wanted only underwear or clothing. That was a bitter disappointment as I was not able to see Martin or leave a parcel. (p149)
One day on the radio she heard that her son had attempted suicide. Can you imagine that on top of all the worry that this would bring, there was the anger that she had not been phoned by the authorities to inform her, the nearest of kin?
But as she later found out, Martin, when first imprisoned, had been asked “Do you want the family notified if you have a major difficulty?” He had ticked the box “No.” Most likely he did this out of consideration for his loved ones. That is, he would not want them to learn of sad things.
It was a shock to note how much weight he had lost. He seemed happy that I was there, and asked about family and friends. He showed me the wounds on his neck.
…Martin phoned and spoke with his sister. This was the first time they had spoken in over 10 years. It was very reassuring for me that they told one-another that they loved each other. After every telephone call to me he says the same. (p 156)
As each prisoner is somehow reckoned to be a Bad Member of Society (unlike, say, the cabal men who are apparently Good Members of Society), it seems natural in the prison setting that family members are also part of the bad set. They must not “interfere” with the staff.
Martin spent a couple of days at the Royal Hobart Hospital being treated for burns before being taken to the Risdon prison hospital. When I was finally allowed to see him, I saw my son, badly burned and still in great pain, bound to his wheelchair by leather straps.
Martin told me that he had asked to have the restraints removed, but this was refused. When I asked Martin who refused, one of the prison officers leaned towards me and told me “You cannot discuss the staff.” (p 132).
The Effects on the Families
Learned helpless, as mentioned above, is a major cause of depression. A dog that cannot use either flight to escape, or fight to even out the power between itself and its attacker, becomes listless. The administration of an anti-depressant drug may have some lightening value for the depression but it does not get at the problem.
It is likely that families of prisoners become depressed. This could be simply out of empathy: one hates to see one’s relative in trouble or in pain or belittled. But it may just as well be that the family member, who has more freedom than the prisoner, is frustrated at every turn.
In her 2010 autobiography, My Story, Mrs Bryant briefly alludes to the fact that she has heard of various theories of the Port Arthur massacre and is aware of books by Andrew MacGregor and Stewart Beattie.
She knows there are conspiracy theories saying the government did the whole thing — and that maybe the baddies exited Seascape “on the water.” She knows that Ted Serong, OBE, expressed disbelief that Martin could wield a gun so expertly.
Carleen then drops that subject to go on to say she tries her best, especially with the help of her parish, to go about her life. The reader does not know if she has ever become aware of efforts being made to exonerate her son.
Did she know, for example, that two years before she wrote that book, an Australian lady named Salalma Shaquana had collected 300 signatures proclaiming the innocence of Martin Bryant? Does Carleen know of the 2016 book Port Arthur: Enough Is Enough that clearly outlines his innocence? She can find it here on the Internet.
A Mother’s Suicide Attempt
Mrs Bryant says that her son often refuses a visit from her (although he often accepts one). During the visit there is not much conversation. If she asks How are you? The answer is “just average.’ If she asks “How is the food? The answer is “Just average.”
Carleen has described her son as extremely depressed, and admits to almost continual depression herself following the 1996 event (not to mention her having been widowed in 1993).
At one point a few years ago Carleen became so depressed that she tried to end her life (for which she is now very sorry). She wrote, in 2010:
I took 35 sleeping pills and cut my arms. I needed 40 stitches and the paracetamol in the pills harmed my liver.
On recovery, her thought was:
I figured that the Lord had kept me alive for a reason, to “set the record straight” and correct the many lies told about my family in the media.
Goodonya, Carleen. Set the record straight as much as you can! The whole nation needs to get this right – and not just for the sake of people involved on April 28, 1996.
— Mary W Maxwell will be speaking on the Martin Bryant case at Launceston on July 27 at 7.30pm. Email: email@example.com
Photo credit: resources2.news.com.au/images