Evans Tries An O-Level describes the need for professionals, especially prison officials to develop a culture of professional detachment especially while handling prisoners. While we condemn crime, we sometimes develop sympathy for the criminal. This is exactly what happened with Stepehens, Jackson, and the Governor of H.M. Prison Oxford. Evans was a shrewd judge of human character, and he was able to exploit this sympathy in the prison officers to make good his escape from the prison. Emotional attachment, or a tendency to sympathise with prisoners can only develop a weakness that would make the official vulnerable to manipulation by the prisoner, and at times dereliction of duty!
When Jackson and Stephens visit Evans on the day of the examination, they converse in a manner that shows excess familiarity, a closeness that borders on intimacy that is unprofessional. Evans greets his visitors with cheerfulness (which doesn't have to be reciprocated) and says, "Morning", Mr Jackson. this is indeed an honour." The prisoner and the prison officers then enter into a banter which is not only unprofessional, but also borders on flippancy.
'Buried somewhere in Jackson, was a tiny core of compassion; and Evans knew it.'-that is the crux of the whole topic. Jackson had a feeling of compassion for Evans, and the latter knew about it. This sympathy or softness towards the prisoner forced Jackson to let Evans continue wearing his bobble hat. If Jackson had insisted that Evans took off his hat, then the secret would have been revealed, the closely chopped hair underneath the bobble hat would have aroused Jackson's suspicions. Later when Jackson puts in his final appearance before the commencement of the exam, he says to Evans, "Behave yourself, laddy!" Evans turns and nods, as if he is going to obey his prison officer's . A degree of familiarity between the prisoner and his prison officer does not guarantee that the prisoner will not try to escape! Just before he leaves, Jackson says to Evans, "Good luck, old son" knowing little about the latter's intention to escape. Would Jackson have wished Evans success in escaping if he had known about his motive behind appearing for the exam in German? It is ironical in its implications!
Familiarity and compassion for prisoners can lull a prison official into a sense of complacency and carelessness in matters relating to the secure custody of a prisoner. The Governor of H.M. Prison, Oxford becomes a good for a giggle gullible governor because he allowed his familiarity and sympathy for Evans to weaken his alertness. When he catches up with Evans in his hotel room, the Governor is filled with a sense of accomplishment and he pities Evans for having made a slip! The conversation which turns into a friendly banter, diverts the Governor's mind away from the possibility that Evans might still have a trump card up his sleeve. Later while a prison officer silently handcuffs the 'recaptured Evans,' the Governor calls out to him, "See you soon, Evans." It was almost as if the Governor were saying farewell to an old friend after a cocktail party.' Evans makes good his escape a few moments after leaving the Governor. The Governor had been too comfortable, complacent, and confident that Evans had been 'recaptured' - this was all because his sympathy had dulled his alertness. The take away after reading 'Evans Tries An O-Level' by Colin Dexter is that one should maintain a professional distance with prisoners lest they should exploit your emotional vulnerability!