Searched

23 Feb

Dinner done and I’m needing my medication, I’ve got to be on the weakest form of treatment within these walls, I’m on the Paracetamol, with a cocktail of Nurofen, I’m playing with dice and my life’s on the line ūüôā I queue up with those seeking something for far worse ailments.

I’m handed my tablets, four in total, I don’t fancy taking them now but you don’t have much option when you¬†collect them standing at a barred door in front of a medical officer. Metres away from the apothecary (I’ve run out of descriptive terms for a converted prison cell), I’m called to a halt. Stood against the wall and cornered by two screws, one standing off the shoulder of the other.

“Hold your hands – now open your mouth” I’m asked. Nothing. Obviously, I think, I’ve just taken them. I’m fast beginning to think they must reckon I’m on methadone, when nothings found, I’m walked back to my cell under suspicion and subjected to a ‘Routine’ search. There’s nothing routine about it. Dropping your trousers, then¬†squatting down and doing a bizarre 360¬†in front of the gaze of mistrust.

“He’s clear” One says to the other.

“No shit sherlock” I cop back. “You think I’d go to all this effort to stash a paracetamol I want for myself?”

“Are you a service user?” I’m asked.

This question means as much to me then as it does to you reading this now. Clueless, I ask:

“Whats a service user?”

…………………………………………………….

A service user is a term given to someone receiving treatment. In prison, a service user is someone addicted to any of the wide-range of medicinal products found amongst our society.

…………………………………………………….

Anthony comes back into the cell after being asked to step outside for my own privacy! My privacy could have been really helped if two men didn’t just ask me to get naked in a confined space on their command. No apology for a false accusation, no thanks either for a striptease.

You have to laugh – character building.

Some papers slide under my cell door. It’s the¬†apps I put in for a job on the wing and another requesting information on my lack of a categorisation. Failing to categorise, keeps me and others like me, in a prison space that costs upwards of ¬£50,000 per annum. D Cat prison spaces cost a mere ¬£10-16,000 in comparison. Multiply this tens of thousands of times over each year and you quickly add up millions of wasted funding for the Prison service. This backlog in assigning prisoner’s category, need only a minimum wage worker acting as overspill, sifting through paperwork that otherwise sits in an intray¬†to be palmed off to the next screw on duty. The “Let someone else do it” attitude I witness frequently in prison is both¬†odorous¬†and cancerous to the aims of an effective system.¬†Wandsworth is notorious for slow processing, it can take months here, while Lewes can do it in a day or two. There are inmates here who could be considered maximum security but¬†are as yet¬†unrecorded. I’m sure the local residents would be pleased to find out there are¬†Cat A¬†prisoners being housed in the Cat B prison next door.¬†Usually they won’t find out, at least not until they escape armed and dangerous.

Both forms are returned blank, with no sign of a response. Of course.

Indian Summer

More mail arrives as it follows the arduous route of first heading to a censors office to check for hidden contraband, money or escape plans. I enjoy knowing that the 10 side letters I’m sending out each day add to their workload. The reality is, it’s unlikely my letters out are censored or even looked at. “Cutbacks” and all.

Amongst the mail are 3 letters from my girlfriend, the first 3 letters written from the moment she hears of my sentencing.

I’ve long waited to read these but fear my softer side will give out on me. I love her harmless thoughts and innate kindness, there for me from the start of this, every fear I have about her and these events will be encapsulated within these first letters.

I’m nervous…

What if she can’t deal with it?

There’s butterflies in my stomach…

Will she wait for me?

Anxiety emerges…

How will others treat her?

Acid burns my throat…

Vomit touches my gullet…

I rip the envelope and pull the papers…

My worst fears: She’s devastated…

“2 years!”

The letter starts with negative intent, I pray that I never receive a ‘Dear John’ letter. Her distress is understandable¬†and I read on gripped by a heart-crushing worry, that it may end in a manner our previous stiff upper lip had never envisaged.

Page after page¬†I read, but it reads better with every sentence she’s penned. Reading a letter through misty windows written by a lady with the same. There’s¬†nothing I need to worry about, she’s still¬†there, waiting for me.

My fears evaporate and a euphoria fills the vacuum, the room awakens, grey walls become windows upon future meadows, hard steel becomes a metaphor for the rigidity of our relationship, I lay my head upon my pillow of clothes and exhale with satisfaction.  RESULT!

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