One week in Prison

18 Feb

I’d say it’s flown but it hasn’t, it feels exactly like 7 very insightful days of life. That’s one down and only another 33 to go here before I can leave this place on tag. That’s providing things go to plan. 33 more of these, in the whole scheme of things is a drop in the ocean but right now, with my girl 10000 miles away, it could be a lifetime.

I’ve got a stinking cold, it’s the recycled air here, that and the transient nature of the community I’m now living in. Disease you thought dead, thrives in a place like this.

Exercise is called at 8.30. Sundays usually mean 23 hours banged up in your cell. I drag my sorry sack of a human being out into the yard along with Ian – I take every opportunity for some solace of fresh air before the baking summer heat sends the mercury flying in Wandsworth Palais.

The Yard

Its packed, this is crazy, our wing holds 120 bods, it’s a stretch if there’s less than 500 out here. With little staff and likely one eye on an afternoon barbecue somewhere, those prison officer’s present have dumped, insanely dumped at least three wings into the yard at once. A, B and E Wing from what I can tell are all struggling to move in this pressure cooker environment.

With no searching being done, it’s as good a time as any to pass messages, drugs and weapons between the prison wings. It’s also the best time to inflict retribution on rival gang members.

The flashpoint sparks from nothing, a violent confrontation, appears out the corner of my eye. Ian and I are doing the anti-clockwise circuit that doesn’t deviate, frequently stepping around those in front at a slower pace. As we begin to come within eye-shot of the Chapel recess, the full picture comes into view.

Like a car crash, you can’t dismiss it, you can’t look away either. A wild eyed and rabid gang of five, consume a lad with a body little taller than the Afro hair he wears. Dragged away from view of the screws, in the obvious blindspot; arms pinned behind his back by a man twice his build, the first blows crashed into his ribs and abdomen. A second man, launching himself from behind, swings a closed fist into the lad’s face. It doesn’t knock him out, I wince knowing that he won’t be spared the onslaught.

He’s worked over, head to toe, the four striking points on the human body; feet, knees, fists and elbow; land with brutal effect. Lips split to the base of his nose, eyes shutover and left in foetal position as it’s all he can do to ease the breathing of a battering focused upon his ribs.

I have the pleasure of breaks in the violence as I walk another lap and turn away. Gang related violence in prison is pre-planned and NONE of your business. It escalates over nothing and is why so many young lads in estates across the country are winding up in body bags. In the search for a family that won’t neglect them as their own have; they walk the tightrope of ‘status’ and destruction. Fast money is necessary in these young hands, because the sands of time for them, move faster than yours.

The victim in all of this, takes his beating, says nothing and usually awaits the time for his own vengeance. In this story, the victim long turned his back on the ‘Postcode Gangs’ of the City; in on a driving offence, another crew haven’t seen this retirement and still hold him up as the enemy. Your past sometimes will never leave you. It’s time this Cat found a new home.

I write about this in my diary but discreetly and coded to some degree. Your mail is posted unsealed here and I start to wonder if my diary will get scrutinised.

Ian has a visit at 9.45, so he leaves the yard and I follow him too. Today that sense of comfort has evaporated, the harsh realities of prison has returned to remind us where we truly are.

While he walks off to clean his face, wipe clear his mind and prepare to see his family, I head to the phone, I call my dad:

“Happy Father’s Day”




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