2 Mar

“Got any burn?”

“Got any papers?”

“Got a light?”

“Got a ‘spare’ tuna?”

“Can I borrow some coffee?”

“You got a milk?”

“Have you got something;

Have you got something else…………..?”


It drives me round the bend.

Other’s inability to manage their own affairs, their own supplies, just ration once in a while, yeah? It’s my push button. VENT -> venting

A ponce is someone on the take. This place is chock full of them. Say no and they totter off, some who fancy themselves might try a little harder but generally they’re no harm, only to themselves. These lads perhaps don’t have the same self control as others, but they’ll borrow for double bubble and quickly slip into trouble. ‘Double Bubble’ is the act of paying back twice what you borrow. So for example, if you borrow a 1/2 ounce of tobacco, you’ll need to pay it back next week as an Ounce/two packs. You fail to pay it back that following week and you’ll need to make an interest payment. If you can’t meet the required interest payment (often half of the original repayment amount) you can expect physical retribution, theft, intimidation, or the lot.

Those with insufficient prison earnings to feed their addiction and liabilities, quickly get into debt with a multitude of traders and begin robbing Peter to pay Paul. When it all comes on top of them and their flawed little system crumbles beneath; they face serious physical harm and generally end up on the ‘Numbers’*. Vulnerable prisoners, they’ll be marginalised, earmarked as vermin by others, always fearful that one day maybe not on this sentence but another, they come face to face with a man they took a liberty of and then it begins again. Vicious cycle, bad idea.

*The Numbers: The act of requesting to be put under protective custody using Segregation Rule 43.

One or two pop by in the afternoon, they aren’t there to see if you’re IN, they are on the nose to see if you’re OUT. I go for a stroll to check the bins on the landing which we clean are empty, coming back down the stairwell I see Darren dragging a man out by his collar, legs splayed behind him; an unwelcome visitor. Darren standing behind his door, was not immediately obvious to today’s ‘Have a go Zero’. The stranger heads straight for his playstation on the desk, an item he’s spotted on an earlier loop around the landing. Darren’s caught him red-handed, he exits via the hard surface of the toilet bowl. Not a words’ said, this coming together represented the two ends of the professional criminal world and in this domain, the victor is nothing short of justified. No screw will waste their time here.

It’s not mentioned in the yard when I run circuits with the fitness master, I doubt it even registers as an event in his world. He introduces me to some friends, Kaz and Julio. One’s just got a 20 year sentence and it’s water off a ducks back, I since little sadness, at least overtly, as one would expect. Funny and polite they welcome me into their conversation but reject our offer to join us for a jog. Julio is one of those sporadic gym users, I get the impression Kaz would rather smoke and tell jokes. I hear later a sad tale about Julio, sworn to secrecy, it will stay that way. I’m shocked, it’s a tale of inhumanity, the type nightmares contain.

After exercise, there’s a little time for the workers to have some time out of the cells uninterrupted by the population. Upstairs there’s a small laundry room, with a real washing machine and dryer, we can use it to our hearts content. Fresh socks and boxers, it’s only laundry but it’s a luxury.

I take a shower, chat to some of the lads getting their hair cut by the barber and speak to Rachel again for a minute maybe two. Fractions of time in comparison to what I truly crave, but every word feels me with as much intrigue and excitement as an entire letter.

I’m stopped by the barber, a born-again banking barber, I’d say we, but it’s really he, who talks to me about his religious beliefs. My eyes dart about hunting for a conversational exit, It doesn’t come, I’m trapped. I listen, I don the best polite face of ‘receptivity’ I can muster, it’s a bad move….

The lay-preacher (How was I to know!?) begins his movement toward that inevitably uncomfortable moment of the awkward silence. I know how this is going to end, I just wish he did. I’m really not prepared to fully accept any theory for the origins of the universe, over some small talk on a prison landing. Fortunately, the awkward silence comes quicker than I feared and I get the chance to hear more about this man, who seems the complete opposite of someone who worked for years in Banking. He tells a good story and it IS a good story…..


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