Risk Assessments and Running through Arundel with a Hacksaw

1 May

A stifling warm day embraces Ford today, decreasing the already steady pace of life to stationary.

Still on the carpentry course and killing time; the tutor encourages us to make a 5 minute job stretch out to occupy 3 inmates entire day. This task is more difficult than you might imagine, particularly when stuck in a furnace like portacabin. Using the time to snipe about prison policy, we scythe through the morning eventually.

There are many here who like to spend their days doing nothing. The notion of being asked to do anything that doesn’t fit with their schedule of sleeping or playing on a hand me down Playstation; is simply alien. Malingering inmates enjoy the opportunity to tab through their ‘Burn’; me – I hate wasting days.

You don’t get them back.

It’s a strange thing to see; the ignorance of so many grown men to the fact that time moves by quicker when you are pre-occupied. Constantly being aware of nothingness and the clock, makes time go slower.

Just before lunch I visit the education department to be interviewed for an education orderly role. I am interviewed by a civilian education manager called Neil. We chat for 20 minutes and feel confident afterwards that I should soon be able to take up a role with a modicum of responsibility. I am told that first I need to pass an enhanced risk assessment.

The enhanced risk assessment is to determine my security threat level. At the moment, I am deemed safe enough to carry sharpened chisels and fresh bladed saws across a public right of way and A Road, unescorted. I am however not yet trusted with a pencil and clipboard on premise, such that I am not at this point confirmed as suitable for an Orderly position.

Well, if I get turned down, I’ll run to Arundel with a hacksaw.

The clearance check can take between 2 days and 2 months.

Prior to my meeting over in Education, I join a Veteran’s meeting with the Social Inclusion Officer and a handful of ex-servicemen. Having suggested to the Screw who runs this department, that they hold the meeting during the working day; they see a turn out of 19. A stark contrast to the 1 solitary inmate who turned up last time out, a friday afternoon. The opportunity of an extended work break was it seems, to good to turn down. It says a lot about the apathy of inmates toward work but so much more over the quality of activity available for the majority. To say it is inadequate, would be nothing short of boasting.

Contract Services: Popping making for the British Legion. Admirable but tedious and offering little in the way of employable skills for the future.

Injection Moulding: A department so poorly staffed that it cannot oversee the inmates using the injection machines, but instead has them sat at a bench to the side, making poppies.

Laundry: The chance to do other inmates personal washes in your own time to build up a tidy little sideline business. This is done over and above cleaning bedding, towels etc for the general population. In return, we the general population get to replace our bedding and towels with items possibly less clean than those we handed in. Pubic hair and lice infested; tales are told of washing machines being so heavily packed, that items come out bone dry where water hasn’t touched them.

Horticulture: Filling in holes made by the prison’s rampant rabbit population. The natural type, not the silicone variety. Theft of vegetables is the perk here, but this requires an inmate to have a healthy palate. Another bonus is the chance to linger near the prison fringes and receive packages chucked across the peripheries from loved ones outside.

Kitchens: This works department offers a single cell and a slightly higher rate of pay. £11 per week. Food going missing generally heads in the direction of the workers on the servery. A brisk black market trade in chicken legs and industrial sized tins of tuna goes on here. The reason for the single cell is because…. no – I can’t think of a single valid reason why workers in the kitchen NEED a single cell but then I’m a cynic. The kitchens work in shifts, meaning a good deal of its staff have free time during the core day. Walking around the billets, loud rap music blares out as those who prepare our food are trying to unwind.

No training in cooking is done during my time in Ford, the inmates primarily stuff sandwiches or serve food. Not really going to open doors to Claridges. Incidentally High Down Prison has a restaurant open to the public manned by inmates. The restaurant has won a bucket load of accolades and does huge amounts to prepare these lags for release. It’s sad that the quality of prison management and use of resources differs so widely from prison to prison.

Travis Perkins: The stock market listed business, makes good use of the access to cheap labour and low rates that housing an operation in a prison brings. Prisoners here, primarily clean rental equipment but there is the opportunity to learn to service industrial items, such as Cement Mixers etc. This isn’t a bad gig, but not to everyone’s cup of tea. You’re worked hard and earn peanuts. Travis are known to offer employment to hard workers on release; not awe-inspiring but a chance, nonetheless.

DHL: The final item on this list, involves packing prisoner’s weekly orders from the canteen sheet. This is the highest paid job in the prison, minimum £25 per week, rising to £40+ for supervisors. Roles are few and far between, with priority going to those with longer to serve. Theft, lateness and bad attitudes are not tolerated at DHL. The perk is the pay and that’s a pretty good one for Ford. If you were frugal in your spending and had a few years to serve, you could save up a few quid for release.

That’s the exception however.

For the vast majority who earn £9 a week, they can barely pay for a return trip to Brighton on one of their day releases, let alone send money home to kids etc. Given the work listed, none of these options really make Ford’s masses readily employable on release. The weekly wage is generally insufficient to save; inmates therefore exit here with no soft landing, or cushion to support themselves with. I’m not suggesting favours but for a genuine attempt at helping these guys help themselves to crack on in life, in a positive manner. The system is set up to fail, because it’s just not set up intelligently.

The reality is that many will re-offend and wind up back here in time. For many it’s no more a way of life than going on the Jam Roll; it’s a busman’s holiday for those on JSA.

The Duvet Saga continues later….




2 Responses to “Risk Assessments and Running through Arundel with a Hacksaw”

  1. Stevie May 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Loving the blog Dave, still waiting for my mention 😛

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