The Smoking Many

5 May

There are no non-smoking spaces at the prison left today – none. 8 new prisoners from now closing Latchmere House arrive. Lets hope they share a common habit; if they don’t they will be put back on a bus and taken to the nearest prison able to receive them: A Category B Local. You’d be a bit miffed if you’ve worked your way into a D Cat nick, been on your best behaviour and through bad resource management are lumped off to a noisy, stinking Bang-Up and all because you aren’t in hock to Nicotine.

So often in Ford and in other Cat D nicks, inmates are aware of the problems their keepers face and do help to cut them a little slack providing it’s received well. Don’t believe the papers when they imply open prisons are holiday camps, the shambles of a cheaply run nick cutting corners resembles a sanitarium at times. Still, we find mirth in the overall malaise and incompetence of these particular civil servants, at least until we remember they are supposed to be our betters and society puts so much blind faith in them to do the job properly.

A recent HM Inspectorate of Prisons report condemned the cramped living conditions at Ford, it’s verdict is only ever received as recommendations and not orders. This means, despite being criticised and condemned in a number of areas of operation, there is no need for anyone to act upon these suggestions. Let’s remember why the HM Inspectorate was established:

It’s not to benefit criminals, it’s to make sure the system works as it should.

By not observing these inspection reports, the prison governors are defeating the point of it all. Not to mention wasting money on salaries that may as well not be paid.

When and only when, all actions are audited and the Prison Service is forced to ring the changes it’s inspectors request, will the system begin to function as the engine of rehabilitation it should.


Seth a former resident of Wandsworth, was a trusted ‘Red Band’ inmate. This means he could move freely from wing to wing. His job was to serve up food in the Officer’s Mess. He can cook and can be trusted, this is a rare commodity and the screws like having him putting in a shift for them. He has been a D Cat approved inmate for 12 months and awaiting transfer to an open prison for a long while. It recently came to light that his record showed he had been on hold for this time.

He like any sane being generally does not ask to be prevent such a transfer to a low security nick. Every time his status was set to ‘Off-Hold’, the hold status was re-instated by an SO or Wing Governor. Therefore ensuring his stay at a prison more suited for rapists and killers than for a white-collar offender. Beyond ensuring that the prisoner remains in a tougher, harsher climate, it also costs more than twice that to keep a person in a closed prison over an open one. A space at Wandsworth is rumoured to cost £45,000 per annum, one at Ford is £15,000.

This situation wasted £30,000 of the taxpayer’s money simply to continue feeding sausage sandwiches to an overweight screw who couldn’t be bothered to trust another inmate to do the same role as Seth. For him however it put back his chance of day release, home release and other re-integration experiences by a very long period. This covert treatment can have damaging effects on an inmate’s mental state and social well-being. No one’s accountable though. Is this what Michael Howard meant, when he said:

“Prison Works”

Or am I missing the message?




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