Day 5 – Prison Strike

16 Feb

The doors unlocked for Medication.

I need to drop that note from under my door last night, back into the medical cell. (I really can’t think of any other way to describe it) The woman behind the barred door hasn’t got a clue what the paperwork is. Well that makes two of us. Is this important? Can I bin it? Ode to share that enlightened ignorance that so many others here live by.

Rather than cut back to my cell, I see a phone is free and seize the opportunity. I surreptitiously pick the phone up, softening the button push and hoping I’m not seen.

“OFF THE PHONE!”

I’m seen. I head back to my dungeon.

I post my diary entries en route.

Anthony, is still trying to sleep, its half 8, he stays awake late, its  a habit of many in prison. Staying up late watching rubbish on the tv, getting up late or sleeping during the day and making the days drag more than they need to. Its well-known, the only time you feel truly free in prison, is when you’re sparko. 8 hours a night sleeping, means I’ll spend 2000 hours in prison in bed. (If I had  a Sudoku, I’d not need to do such irrelevant calculations)

I heard last night that Rachel has received my first diary/letters home. It’s a relief to know that she has had some contact with me. We worked out an arrangement for her receiving my messages before she went away. I send home to my mother who then scans the letter and emails it on. It’s a bit second-hand and at times a little worrying in whose hands the letter will pass, but beggars can’t be choosers I guess! It certainly make me vet my letters a little more carefully. Mum’s aren’t known for their ability to avoid private information.

Last night an inmate, most likely a first nighter banged his cell door constantly. He was told in no uncertain terms by those in the cells near him, today won’t go well. There is only one ‘Get out of jail free’ option here. It involves bed sheets and a basic knowledge of knots. You’ll only get out of this place early in a body bag. At Wandsworth the rate is one a month.

I hope he was alone in his cell. Could you imagine being stuck in a confined space with an inmate who:

a.) Speaks no English

b.) Is an addict; and

c.) Has mental health problems

Now withdraw those drugs. Things will take a little turn for the worse right?

Now, accept that this happens every day here.

You can hear those having withdrawal seizures on the landing above. The 4s on E-Wing is where they stick the problem cases, it’s furthest from the staff office and above us one level. Chairs get thrown around, beds trashed and throats screamed to injury. God knows what’s going on in those cells, let alone their heads.

Through the gap in our cell door, like nosey children, Anthony and I listened on last night. Jockeying for viewing space I thought afterwards how quickly the human mind adjusts itself to its surroundings. I’m in prison and laughing at zombie like junkies, clucking on the Wing. The unsleeping, the undead, the grey pallor, the hollow stare, Zombies fill cells across the UK Prison Estate. Its tragic and we as a society haven’t got a clue how to fix the problem.

There’s no Heroin Chic here, the Dandy Warhol’s put it best.

“Heroin is so passe”

The cells’ are locked down for a few hours and no association today it seems. There’s a General Worker’s Union strike ballot on. HM Prison staff are deciding whether to take part in anti-cut protests. All I know is it’s another day I miss a gym induction. I do some push ups and a little shadow boxing.

A spectacled eye stares in through the peephole. It’s owner moves on.

Lunch comes and to my surprise they give us a little time out of our cells late in the day. I spot Ian, ask how he is getting on with his cellmate. He is winning him round he reckons, in fact he spent last night learning how to cook crack.

Ian was a property valuer on the outside – a new career perhaps?

Andre, is in Wandsworth on remand, accused of involvement in a cannabis cultivation ring, he is pleading not-guilty. He’s a perfectly ordinary, late 40s family man, who reminds me of a teacher I once knew. His job here while he awaits trial at the Bailey is the ‘Activities Clerk’. This job involves finding new orderlies and updating the names on cell doors. 🙂 (My cell door still isn’t up to date) I pester him as to what the time horizons are for new appointments, I’m eager to be seen as different from the rest of the population here. I want the opportunity to get out of my cell for a few hours more and more importantly I want some control over my cell movement, something that is a perk of working on the wing.

I do some exercises on the railings of the landing outside my cell. Push ups, calf raises etc, a call home tells me that my Uncles and a good pal James are trying to sort out visits. No-one has given me any advice on how to sort out a visit. I just smile at the thought of seeing some familiar faces after yesterday’s crap. My family, my uncles massively, have been steadfastly loyal to me throughout this mess, they’ve been great for my folks and I will always be indebted to them for standing by me.

I can pick out the turning point in my positive transformation, over a few words delivered to me sternly in the front of an Uncle’s van. My life has and my outlook has changed ever since. Thank you guys.

I draw a picture of my cell and send it home, I know Rachel likes to know the details.

I find a landing officer and remind him that I’ve lodged an application to work on the wing. He can’t find the application in the log book, he suggests I fill another in.

While I’m in the office in the middle of the landing, a cocky London fella, a couple of years my junior tops, is chasing up his categorisation. He’s wearing his prison joggers with leather buckled shoes. He screams salesman. A bit lairy but normal enough I intend to chat to him. I spot him a few minutes later two cell doors down, he begins to ask me a question, but I’m drawn into a conversation with Anthony. I blank him and feel a little guilty for doing so; its important to expand your network inside, life’s easier when you make friends. I’ll apologise at dinner.

The cell door closes and Deal or No Deal takes over. I pick up my Art History book and marvel at the works of Bacon and Van Dyck. May I be the only resident here who cares to consider their merits. I’m told to expect a knock from a cleaning officer – it never comes.

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