Day 13 : Unlucky – I’m in prison :)

1 Mar

7.30 and the alarm on my shitty casio watch beeps like a life-long smoker chugging his hardest on a whistle. It just isn’t happening! I snooze for ten minutes then realise my dream is heavily urine focused, I think it’s time I use the lavabo. (Yes, I’ve learnt some spanish) I jump out of the bed, but sock-less this time, so I’m not following the landing up with a ‘Torvill and Dean’ act.

The door opens for us but remains shut for the rest of the wing, a godsend. Nev and I head straight for the Kitchen we want to use this toaster we’ve heard so much about. Slap on some peanut butter and my morning is as near normal as it can be, location permitting. The 4’s landing gets the once over, bins emptied and the usual evasion of incessant requests for burn, snout, baccy, whatever you want to call it, through the slits in the banged-up inmate’s doors.

I don’t have any and you wouldn’t get it if I did, learn to ration: do one!

I’m on birdshit cleaning duty, whoever said prison is ‘Ghetto Glamour’ has never been in one. Birdshit doesn’t get more urban, street or cool because it wound up in HMP Wandsworth. The reason for this venerable task is a result of an errant pigeon that can’t be caught at the moment. He or she, is perched high up in the heavens and no-one without a set of ladders and a good head for heights is going to resolve this matter just yet.

Today’s kit change day, it happens once a week, but I’m told sometimes it can be 2 or 3 weeks before the weekly kit change returns to the schedule. When let out of their cells, the residents make their way to the top floor of the wing and ‘queue’ for fresh t-shirts, towel, trackies and bedding. Judging by the items handed back out to them, it surprises me why they even bother swapping. Prison’s overfill washing machines, in order to trim costs, it means some items in the middle of the washer, come out bone dry. The dead skin cells, mucus, body hair and other feral substances are preserved for the next poor recipient to add to.

Keeping up the appearance of an eager wing worker, I’m there to help out. Assisting the process highlights what a tough job some guards here have at holding their patience. I’m aware there are those who work here who enjoy confrontation, but observing how this task pans out, tells me even the saintly ones among them must be fighting to contain their darker alter egos.

From an inability to stand in a queue, to lacking the common sense to bring with you your dirty kit to exchange, there are examples a plenty of dysfunctional upbringings. Courtesy is absent and every fifth person (maybe fewer) feels slighted in some obscene and banal way. It’s entirely unsurprising as I survey my temporary peers that 50% of them will return to incarceration in time. Clearly something is not being taught in these ‘Warehouses of Crime’. Forget about managing ‘Offender Behaviour’, some of these guys can’t even administer themselves.

Like the truth or not, WE ARE ALL products of our upbringing. There is always the exception to the rule; a case where a youngster against all odds makes a go of their lives BUT the large majority of these folk here are doomed before puberty. They will go on to repeat the same parenting mistakes and produce the next generation of ‘The Damned’. The common denominator here amongst so many, is a lack of boundaries at youth, the significance of poverty is visible to all but the ignorant; and the prevalence of illiteracy belies an abdication of emphasis upon importance of education and learning within the family unit. As I write this, the belligerent will pen their riposte:

“What about MPs, what about Archer, what about….. ”

What about them? They are the exception. The rest? Well that’s a problem we won’t solve until we get our heads out of our backsides. A middle class, academic supported childhood with extended family is undoubtedly a nicer place to be than a Hackney estate, your Dad on the run and your mum on the jam roll.

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