The 42nd day of my incarceration

20 Apr

“A sunny start to the day”

Says the fella on the news. Breakfast time and billet cleaner Sean is already on his chair out the front basking in the sun’s energy. As you gather by name, every weekend morning starts the same. Breakfast followed by gym queue. Still recovering from a bout of illness, I choose the cycle with a book for an hour again.

I write to the Open University and put the letter in the mailbox. I use a few hours waiting for a visit from my friends, to read a little more.

It’s been a while since I last updated you all on the unedifying stupidities of the prison system. So here’s something new happening this side of the fence.

Latchmere House – the beacon of D Category Prison and Resettlement. A former stately home, grandiose and housing over 200 long term/lifers approaching their release dates; runs well and with a good deal of support and opportunities to occupy the minds of Satan’s little helpers. It is now being closed and sold off to property developers. Right…

What property developer wouldn’t be tempted by the riches thrown at is for a piece of inner London real estate. Particularly something as magnificent, as a usually poor value deal for the taxpayer. It is quite ironic that only days after the Ford Governor spoke at lengths about the difference between the law-abiding and criminal; the importance in understanding that sometimes  one must ‘go without’ – that her own masters are only to keen to flog the family silverware at a time of overcrowding and high re-offending rates.

With the forced relocation of 200 plus lifers comes a whole new set of problems that is absent when one discusses the management of a shorter term offender. These are fragile situations, men who have been carefully managed for a decade plus. They have been expensively treated, though this does not imply luxury – and they have worked their way through the risk categories; from maximum security and it’s volatile isolation to the relative tranquility of a quiet but sociable environment of an open establishment. Some are learning new skills, others are undergoing counselling recognising sources of angst and others have a little job – helping them to reintegrate, properly this time.

Now consider Inmate X.

He has served 12 years behind the door.

He leaves a well run (Privately) category C Peterborough Prison and is driven 4 and a half hours in a Serco mobile prison to HMP Ford.

On reception 8 inmates step out into the bright daylight from a light restricted chariot.

Only 3 beds exist.

Inmate X is left waiting in the reception room for hours. The room is stifling, and the experience is as exciting as scratching your nails across a blackboard. After 3 hours, he is put back into a Serco van. A different one this time (More cost to HMPS) and driven to the nearest local/court’s prison: B Cat Lewes.

This morning he had a single cell, clean, clear and able to access a social network and purposeful activity. Tonight he sleeps in a noisy, hot, Victorian style disorderly remand prison, with 23 hour bang-up and armies of drug addicts to observe.

This is a scene he would not have witnessed for a decade. The memories of first being sentenced will come flooding back, the memories of a time when the mood was a shade or ten much darker. This awful attempt at resource management can undo many years of work and trust built up in the all too often emotionally fragile and mentally stunted Lifer.

Ford is over capacity – November 2010, HM Inspectorate of Prisons noted that shared cells were too small at Ford and unsuitable for dual occupancy or even for a D Category prison. With Latchmere closing; the government cancelling the order for two new prisons; as well as the failure to look at alternative punishments – overcrowding and disturbance are just around the corner.



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