Tag Archives: mtirs

Kweku Adoboli / UBS/ The week review

23 Nov

UBS weak link Kweku Adoboli, saw himself star down the barrel of a 7 stretch this week in a dock once graced by I, at Southwark Crown Court.

Having already served over  a year of his sentence, he must now while away another 2 and a half years, although come the summer he will be allowed to begin home and town leaves. Quite how devious or truly criminal he is, is a topic that has been left in the calm, hysteria free hands of the  The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Mail.

For many outside of the City of London, this was one of a number of obvious calamities still being committed by the arrogant swaggering bowler hat types.

Is Kweku really a criminal in the true caricature style we associate them with? His swag bag seemed a little empty for a man who is accused of a £1.4 billion fraud; for this isn’t a fraud with the intention to steal £1.4 billion, merely corporate financial manslaughter, where a sledgehammer was being used to crack nuts. What does 7 years buy you in other walks of life?

7 years is the average total sentence of Rapists in the UK.

7 years allows you to kill a man driving dangerously with intent.

7 years allows you to stab a man in the neck with a bottle for GBH.

Kweku will serve 7 years for doing his job badly in an environment where blind eyes were turned when the money came in.

Perhaps those blind eyes should too be punished, for creating the conditions and culture where deceit, and smokes and mirrors are employed.

As is likely, UBS will see no more criminal imprisonments amongst their staff. They will pay large fines and duck down below the parapet again for a number of years, before the next cataclysmic economic asteroid rocks the financial capitals of the World; where they hope their mistakes are the least and they can join the queue without making regulatory eye contact.

In the meantime Kweku will don the green trousers of a prison orderly, tamed –  for now.

I walk the streets of London once again, but these days my attire is a little more blue collar. My hands have paint and the callouses upon my palms are no more a Cityboy’s than they are a writer’s. Time moves every bit as fast once more, I wish I had some time to stop and reflect upon my life. A one year sabbatical seems a nice idea again 🙂

 

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Comedy Club

9 Jun

Boxing Day

I was never so aware as today, quite how many animation movies run on our tv over the Christmas period. The prison breakfast is gradually running shorter each day of available items, such that I expect a right hook on the final day from the kitchen staff, instead of a warm dish.

Today’s insomniacal boredom is punctuated by a ‘Strongman’ competition, contested by only 4 inmates. Given the braggadocio within these barbed wire fences, it surprises me so few are willing to prove their physical prowess. Perhaps talking about it is less strenuous, or maybe they are taking a winter break from being ‘Gangsta’. In other avenues of occupation, George obliterates the rowing record on the 2000m by 20 seconds. I was sure at one point I could literally see him developing a body wide hernia.

Team ‘Going for Gold’ also made a long awaited return to the prison quiz after many weeks of sitting it out due to what is best termed as: A decline in standards. A change in atmosphere at what was once an enjoyable, sedate and high brow evening; saw the introduction of easier questions to equal the standards so the quiz was more inclusive. Not wishing to seat myself on any intellectual pedestal, (Mine would be only half elevated I assure you) but isn’t the whole concept of a quiz, to determine who has a better spread of knowledge or grasp of a particular area? To dumb down the standard of questions kind of panders to the stupid. A stupid idea for stupid people. I like to think that a halfway functional human being can come away from a quiz after a poor performance and think:

“Hey, you know what? Maybe I should read more – I’m not as smart as those other chaps.”

Instead the mindset here must be:

“Hey, those questions were beyond my limited knowledge range, this is a fundamentally unfair system, that rewards those who make the effort to learn. I’m demanding the questions are made easier.”

For those people, perhaps a raffle may suit their insecure sense of self-worth. Like a quiz, but with no questions. You simply need to turn up and hold a ticket. Or steal one, if that suits those here more.

Back to the quiz, I don’t want to dwell on a result that I had initially thought saw us taking away free phone credit. Instead we placed in that position made famous by British sportsmen and women throughout the years. 4th.

Yes, a BRAVE 4th.

Andy Murray, Paula Radcliffe, Bobby Robson’s Heroes, Terry Venable’s Heroes, a bit more Radcliffe and probably a lot of white British 1500m runners.

The billet has turned into a bombsite over Christmas, a cleaner with an altogether different take on personal hygiene is ‘running’ things nows. The screws don’t do spot checks, so we have to live in squalor. Making matters worse, we have a phantom sh*tt*r  operating also right now. I believe it ‘s just the one, I don’t think these people work in teams. Parcels of human excrement keep turning up on the floor of the bathroom. Maybe it’s a statement to the cleaner, to start doing his job.

NYE

On it’s way is the first anniversary of the Great Fire of Ford Prison. The Riots, as they have been dubbed. The governor and screws are panicking that this year will see a repeat of last year’s events, despite the prison being made up of entirely different people…

I look forward to seeing how this day pans out.

Christmas Day in Prison – Scrooge to be Screwed

6 Jun

After a sleep disturbed by midnight Gangsta Rap and my own snoring, I awake to a warm Christmas Day. A cooked breakfast of sorts has been arranged for the next 3 days, so I grab mine at 8 before joining in with a 10am circuit down at the gym. It’s what you do Christmas morning, yes?

The big lunch is only a mild improvement on a usual Sunday ‘Roast’ – the one parsnip making that differential leap. Definitely ALL of the trimmings. 🙂 I don’t expect Claridges and many of my gripes or comments are tongue in cheek. At the end of the Servery queue, the Chapel staff hand out a Christmas card and a mars bar on behalf of the ‘Mother’s Union’. A lovely gesture by the charity that strives to help inmates maintain family ties while inside. It promotes a cheery smile too.

I’m smiling. This is my first and hopefully only Christmas in prison and part of me has a macabre fascination to go through with it to see what it’s like for those less fortunate in decision-making in society that go through such experiences. A handful of chaps from our billet who are united by military ties and a sense of sanity, sit down together for the meal, having made the effort to wear civvy clothes and stay out of prison issues for the day. It’s nice to spend the day in a manner that reflects freedom of choice and expression, as best possible given the circumstances.

The phone in the billet is busy early in the day as prisoners call home, whisper sweet nothings or return to form and yell at their spouses. George has to deal with an inmate who feels that his own Christmas Tupac message should be able to filter through to George’s mother via the background noise on the phone. Even on days such as today, it’s alarming how many people lack self-awareness or possess a consideration for others when it comes to noise or in fact any aspect of life.

Is this education? Parenting?

Whatever it is, it strikes back to that sense of entitlement that society seems to harbour more and more in recent decades. Agitation grows over George’s riposte to the lairy adolescent with music at such volume. Our Grandparent’s queued for fruit, lost school friends in ‘Just Wars’ and were thankful for hand-me-down clothing. Our generation and it’s offspring, cannot envision a time without convenience, luxury or their opinion being heard. The cries of the few are heard over the tolerant silence of the many.

Don’t listen to angry music and delude yourself that the lyrics of a commercially minded businessman are anything other than that. He plays to an audience that thinks they’re kindred spirit, he lies for you to buy. The reality is, your fellow man is all around you and looks nothing like you imagine. Aim high but don’t tread on another to get there, the footings are weak.

Don’t daydream for a decade or double to realise you didn’t make hay while the sun shone. The wannabes in prison exist in the droves as they do on the outside. Year after year spent wishing for  a life of someone else, when all the tools you needed to make your own could be had too. 20 years later you wished you’d learnt that trade, that craft, that skill, that profession. Biggie didn’t wear a boiler suit and mend central heating systems, but Biggie got shot dead and my plumber’s got pots of cash. Smell the coffee boys and come back to the real world.

The notion of knuckling down and putting up with the hand that God gave you, seems to be disappearing as fast as the faces of World War veterans on Remembrance Sundays. Life isn’t always glamorous and life isn’t always fair but if we don’t start living for what we have and making the best use of it we can, then it will pass you by and that will be your time over.

Next stop, you and I are disparate atoms lingering in the void of cold dark space after the Sun has ceased burning and the Earth has stopped living. The galaxies merge and neighbouring stars die too. Billions of years pass by and we are in the infinite nothingness of the Big Freeze. Cosmologists and Astronomers will tell you we are insignificant in all of this. Maybe we are, but I’d like to think that even if our generation’s existence can be measured as a fraction of one heartbeat of a single human lifetime, at least let it be a beat that shows signs of a cathartic, energetic and fulfilling pump of life and not a whimper or trifling whine. Life truly is too short to waste idle.

Philosophical rant over, it’s not unsurprising that if an inmate can’t think how a neighbour might be disturbed by their activity, you hear they wound up in prison after failing to spot a policeman quite overtly monitoring them.

Christmas Day over, touchwood, I’ll never need to spend another 25th of December considering the prospect of Prison.

 

ROTL – Town Leave – 12th December

2 Jun

ROTL Day. Release on Temporary License Day.

6 months of prison sees me finally allowed a day release.

6 months of minimal sensory stimulation creates a ‘to-do’ list of an awful lot of sugary related tasks.

I wake up at 6am with a sense of nervous anticipation, that I can only compare somewhat bizarrely to the reciprocal day 6 months before. Back then, my day of sentencing left me feeling very similar. Creeping around in the dark of the cell and billet, my triple bag of coco pops for breakfast sets my stall for the days nutritional regime. One that goes on to include:

Giant Buttons

Banoffee Flapjack

Fruit Pastilles

Quorn Scotch Eggs

Gallons of Diet Coke

10oz Burger and Fries

Dorito Chilli Heat Wave

2 Pieces of Garlic Cheese Bread

1 slice of Fruit Cake

Rocky Road Cake

Carrot Cake

And a very large Banoffee Sundae from Harvester to share. Very large may not be the words to do it full justice. Grandiose would be more apt.

As the sugar rush subsides in the evening, I feel very ill indeed.

As the morning bell teases to toll, I am already creeping from hut to hut, avoiding being spotted by roaming guards. The bell rips through the silent morning air, and I’m covering the last few yards at double time. The knowledge of waiting family outside and my princess, who by now has visited me every week and continues to write daily – stands there too; is all I have mused over for such a long time. As I am allowed through reception, a screw tells me a little lady is waiting across the road for me. My R.

I step out into the morning, it’s different from a normal stroll across the road to our working regime; this time I’m going out of sight and the time’s my own. One whole day of everything I want to do and with the people I love most.

……………………………………………..

I use the day to catch up with some PERSONAL admin, call my probation officer, saunter around the shops in Seaford before getting caught in a squall and simply enjoying being close to loved ones. I try to bring back a couple of magazines and a pair of binoculars for star-gazing on my return, but am halted and instead have to hand them back out to my waiting family. The excitement of relaying my day’s adventures to my billet mates causes me to forget to sign back into the prison via one of the excessive return procedures. A few screw’s noses are put out of joint as they imagine another first time day tripper has done a runner. I am threatened with an Incentive’s Warning for ‘my behaviour’. I take the telling off on the chin, I’ve done far worse today.

Back at the ranch, I’m shattered and an early night is called for.

Cage Fighter Caged in a different life could be in London 2012 Rowing Team

31 May

I stay up late the previous night watching Scorcese’s Departed. Quality movie, but it leaves me sleepy the following morning. I go to bed pretty early these days, its the best way to get the day done. In the gym the next morning is a Cage Fighter and convicted drug trafficked Ken. A mammoth of  a fella and despite his warrior like appearance is very down to earth, respectful and approachable too. A former professional fighter, we strike up conversation over last night’s boxing. He hasn’t been here long and as I sit down to knock out a sedate 10km on the rowing machine, he plonks himself down next to me and obliterates the prison 1 minute distance test. I can only compare his output as an angry speedboat disrupting a leisurely Sunday afternoon’s canal barging. He takes a look at the other times on the different time trial leaderboards and comments casually:

“I’ll get a little fitter and I’ll see if I can beat those.”

Time proved his statement. He ends up holding the 2000m record. Watching the split times he produces in his rowing, they are phenomenal. The man is built for power and perhaps if life had thrown him a different hand, or had he been brought up in a more Tory environment, he could have been competing at an elite level with an oar in his hand.

Instead his life is shaded by organised crime and being paid to punch and kick.

Tall, broad and thickset, it’s funny how many would-be gold medal winners pass life by, completely ignorant to the sporting prowess they possess. I say ignorant, perhaps ‘unknowing’ is a more accurate description. Ignorant would be unfair. Ken, as a I shall call him should be sat in a boat on the Thames come July 2012. He will watch from Prison instead – sliding doors.

George has acquired some washing lines and erected a spider web around our ceiling. It is now our primary means of laundry. I admire his handiwork and listen to my Spurs beat Liverpool. Clarence, spends the day with his earplugs in, so he can enjoy Match of the Day in blissful ignorance. I know the score, I know he owes me biscuits, I see him before the highlights show and hold a straight face. Bless him, he is still confident of winning.

…………………………..

Day 99 arrives and is notable for the fact that it is day 99. More books arrive from R, I’ve got enough now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get through all I have even with more time whacked onto my sentence.

Day 100 arrives and I feast on a little banquet of treats I purchased knowing this moment was coming. Diet Coke, wine gums, dates and OLIVES. The latter item, I had repeatedly flirted with buying but was put off as it seems a little OTT, ostentatious. But readers, NOW is definitely the time for Olives. As prison milestones go, 100 days is pretty big for me. In two weeks, I am at my halfway point and two after that I can apply for my first home leave.

I settle down for the evening, armed to the teeth with artificial sweeteners.

…………………………..

My 94 year old nan visits me today, the screws even hold doors open for her. That is the first time I’ve seen civility from them here. They may not show a lot of courtesy here, but they did today when it mattered. That ticked the box for me. Touched.

With my Nan came my parents, always a pleasure and these days I feel infinitely closer to them than I have ever been. I am the first to admit that this bad hand I’ve been dealt with is a blessing in disguise.

A new fella in the billet Ben strikes up a conversation. Just arrived here from a closed nick in Kent, he is on a 7 stretch. First impressions are that he has OCD but a good humour too. His cellmate is old enough to be his Dad, they make for an odd couple but it’s nice to get chatting to some new faces.

An ex screw is protesting out the front of the prison today over unfair dismissal or some nonsense due to a stress related injury. The gates are locked up and the local media are alerted. Inmates watch on vaguely interested but with a distinct lack of sympathy.

The World’s Stock Markets are again facing certain doom, I however am tackling a tougher issue. How to eat a bowl of custard with only a fork. I’ve forgotten my spoon for dinner and can’t remove the warm custard from the canteen. A few years ago, the wider financial market news would have etched a pain look upon my face as I would stare at the data screens and eek out an opportunity in a turbulent day of trading. How my life has changed immeasurably, how such stresses have ebbed and how much more content I’ve become.

Two mammoth swans arrive here at Ford, the seagulls seem a bit put out. Prisoners come out in droves to feed them. Lot of nature lovers here.

 

Life in Prison

28 May

So today is 3 months since I was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court and it feels like a good deal longer. Life is not tough, though a little boring at times, still, I can exercise each day, read the papers/books and have  a laugh. It’s just that I can think of more constructive things I could do with my time. I’ve seen a lot in my time inside and experienced such a spread of diverse peoples, a range perhaps I shall not see in my life had I not been “Behind the Door”.

I’m entering a writing competition with the literary class, I spend a bit of time today, completing my entry. I also am introduced for the first time to ‘Speed Solitaire’. A variation on conventional computer solitaire, using the one card draw method; by two inmates in the Education Department and who use my office, who are counting down the days until their release.

**BAD NEWS**

I’ve run out of visits and am likely to have sunday’s visit with my sister knocked back. How irritating that the most efficient system, in fact possibly the only efficient system is the visits booking schedule. I do still have an ‘Emergency Visit Order’, I am waiting to hear that it is still valid. The prison has cracked down on abuse of the system of late after complaints made by some inmates who missed out on visit slots. I’d sympathise with these grasses if I didn’t already know these same people were the type to be so badly organised that they have left something as important as arranging a visit with ‘loved ones’ to the last minute.

I speak to R finally and things seem okay, it’s a weight off my mind. She lets slip a surprise that she may be home earlier than expected. I’m thinking she probably had to do this just to appease me, like a spoilt child. Back in the kitchen, someone has stolen our worktop and our wheely bin. The residents of G2 are fuming at this inconsiderate action. Rather than ask prison estates to replace items, aggrieved inmates just nick someone else’s. To demonstrate the intelligence of those that dwell here, the billet stereo was left plugged in and put on the wet sink top. Perhaps this says more about the lack of training in practical skills than in the lack of common sense present. Who nicks a bin?

Tonight in the gym I train without my Ford Mr Fix It; the last time I saw him today he was off to pick up 10 bottles of Vodka. I think the worse when he doesn’t show up for training, With his release dates approaching its not like him to miss training. I needn’t have worried though, he falls into my cell stinking of booze to borrow some pegs for his washing after evening roll call. With only weeks to go until his release an ineligible for tag, any nickings of adjudications he picks up now will have little or no effect on his release date as he will be gone before they are sat before a judge. He therefore cares little about bending rules in his final days. He is a funny fella despite his criminal temerity and I enjoy hanging about with him. I like knowing how the real prison works and he can be assured I am very good at keeping mum; it’s why I’m here.

 

That cosy feeling of being inside in the rain

23 May

You know that cosy feeling you get when you’re inside a tinny roofed structure and you can hear the sound of the rain beating an orchestra of drums? In a car, on the bus, the train or in fact anywhere warmer and drier than the surrounding environment. I get that here as I lay in my bunk and see the rain hammer it outside. The gutters overflowing with the workmanship of the unskilled labour that mend them and thin echoing hallways that amplify the noise of the world at work. The night’s have begun to draw in now as the weather turns and the Summer draws to a close.

With all of the footflow of idle shufflers occupying their time with as little output as possible, I wonder what life is like here as the weather turns and inmates are resigned to being forced back into their cells. The winter imprisons many more people than just prisoners. I think of my own Nan, imprisoned by age, bad weather and immobility, spare a thought for your own family, my life choices put me in here but for every person in prison there are millions of people caged on the outside too.

Each day at around 10am, I do the education department’s mail run. It requires me to run across the public right of way and head over to the other side of the prison estate to drop off and pick up correspondence. As I left the residential side I stop and talk to Tom an inmate I’ve known for a while. He is off on his home leave today and is looking forward to 5 days away from Ford and away from prison regime, as I go through the gate, I spy his designated driver – it’s one of my best mates. It’s heartbreaking to not be allowed to stop and talk to him without suspicion. I don’t know what the rules are re: ‘fraternising’ with outsiders, I’ve never been told; but for fear of incurring the wrath of Screws I keep my distance and look on like a bad friend. Not being eligible for leave for another 3 months, it does strike me with a pang of jealousy seeing the queue of jolly day-trippers dressed up ready for departure by the gate; I deal with it knowing my time will come round and others will feel the same toward me.

I put in a complaint today to the IMB – the independant monitoring board over the shining of torches in the faces of sleeping inmates at night time. We are woken at 1 and 5am, by noisy night-time screws doing the inappropriately named ‘Silent Roll Check’. They generally shine the torches in our face to make sure we are in the rooms, then maintain torchlight on us until we move or as is often the case, wake up and swear at them. I sense this is more game than intelligent planned routine procedure.

Spence packs his stuff up and I give him a hand, I’ve had the A-OK for George to move in and I rifle through Spence’s leftovers to see what I can salvage. I gain a book of stamps and a load of envelopes for my efforts.

This morning he sorted out the drama with the rival traveller factions and put to rest a gripe with a gent in here on a 12 stretch for a kneecapping. I think that’s a wise thing to do 🙂

 

The Economist

21 May

I sit on the bike in the gym burning off some chub and talk to a chap called Paul. The gent in his mid 40s shared the same billet as I when I was living in my mini Hell with Delroy.

The man is an economist on the outside and in recent years has worked as a management consultant. He offers this information after spying the book ‘Freakonomics’ I had been reading recently. Take him out of this environment and Paul is every bit the image of a positive Black male role model. Educated, well spoken, considerate, shame about his criminal record check results 🙂

Paul has a lovely dry sense of humour and we spend a while discussing the ‘Broken Window Theory’. This theory dictates that if you clamp down on small minor anti-social behavioural issues and fix visual disturbances (Broken windows, graffiti etc) immediately, it affirms a sense of civic prestige and pride. People become more conscious of mis-treating their community when the small things aren’t left unchecked.

The easiest way to explain this is through the analogy of a ‘fly-tipping’ site. Where someone dumps a load of refuse in a site that was previously clear, a future rubbish disposer is more likely to add to this untidy mess than create their own new dumping site. This is part mob mentality and part distorted rationale. The belief that the latter tipper is less at fault as the site had already been distressed by an earlier dumper.

More simplistically, if kids smash a window in one property and it goes unrepaired, pretty soon next door will suffer a similar fate. Damage left unchecked sees a steady decline in community values.

We apply the ‘Broken Window Theory’ to prison and the idea of reform and rehabilitation, it is an interesting way to kill 50 minutes. Every day I share a conversation with someone that surprises me in the standard of intellect and thought provocation.

I hit the library in the afternoon and am amused to see in the reference section is Criminal No. 1 Charles Bronson’s A-Z of British Prisons. It’s nice to see what forms the backbone of general interest this side of the fence. Having been to nearly every prison in the UK system since his 2 year sentence in the 1970s became a life sentence over the last few decades; Mr Bronson gives his insight onto life in the 100+ barbed wire friendly institutions that dot the landscape.

I spend a bit of time reading the ‘Inside Times’ too. The prison newspaper for prisoners, is ordered to be made available in every prison library; this allegedly didn’t stop our Governor Sharon Williams here trying to put a stop to it. I ask George why he felt she did this. He responded in his usual dry manner:

“Why did Hitler rip up the history books in schools?”

………………………………..

Drama clouds the quiz night this evening.

Our team now called:

“Going for Gold with Henry Kelly” places dead last.

Having a team member who keeps a score tally as the results come back made this news that much more shocking. The indignity! 🙂

Later on we hear a marking error deprived us of 15 points and 2nd place. We get an apology from the quiz master and his sidekick, we are assured we will be given a public apology before next weeks quiz. As the quizmaster leaves my cell, I ask him:

“Is George furious?”

He smiles, nods and tells me our prize will be sorted out in the week. I settle down to X Factor waiting for the big man to drop by, pleased with this re-affirmation of our team’s prowess.

Our rivals, the irritatingly named ‘First Place’ have now been pushed into 3rd place. You know your life is absent real adventure when you have a quiz team rival.

I watch Ricky Gervais’ movie ‘Ghost Town’ and not for the first time. Watching it on my 14inch tv in the cell, is in fact the largest screen I have ever seen it on. The last time was high above the States in a 747. Spence points out its possibly the most comfortable I’ve been watching it then too. Funny that: sprawled out in the nick watching a film I saw before on a jet above New York to do some business and this is my preferred way to view it. At least I get to stretch my legs out.

The Next Day….

Spence days away from leaving is thrown square into a dispute between two rival groups of Travellers. He can’t wait to get out of here now, at the very least it will spoil a prison darts tournament and out regular source of confectionery with his throwing skills, at the worst it will lead to claret being spilled, early release halted and prisoners being shipped out. He’s asked to take sides, something he doesn’t want to do. The matter resolves itself months later when one side is sent back to closed conditions after being caught blind drunk. The other’s resume their roles in the Prison’s Violence Reduction Team!!

 

Bank Holiday Monday

20 May

If I could write anything of interest to describe the day’s events, it would be a grand use of artistic license. I don’t feel like lying, so I shall keep it short. Bank Holiday Monday has been very forgettable.

A feast is laid on for the Muslim inmates to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan. The actual figure of inmates here is now 60 who are classified as Muslim. The final toll of observers could be counted on one hand. The prison has spent 4 times the daily budget on these inmates, meaning the food fund for non Muslims is significantly lower. The quality of food has suffered therefore. A number of non Muslim inmates tried to attend the feast of Eid and were turned away. This isn’t equality, this is outright racial discrimination. In order to promote and foster greater spirit and community between racial and ethnic groups, all religious festivals should be inclusive, not simply the one-sided events at Christmas.

This sadly is never the work of the ethnic group themselves, but an ignorant jobsworth public ‘servant’ who is part of a failed system of integration. I am yet to meet an ethnic minority who espouses the opinions that lead to Town Halls banning Union Flags flying from buildings or discomfort over the term Easter or Christmas.

The divisive and dangerous ignorance is evidenced by the fact so few know Jesus is a significant Prophet in Islam.

The £2 per head spending on food each day to the general population is more like £1 per day at the moment. One inmate who works in the kitchens tells me frankly:

“For every tray of chicken served up, another is slipped out the back and sold for Burn”.

Tonight I am served a pitiful attempt at Turkey Stew. There is no meat in my stew and nothing solid at all. I push the food back and eat creamed rice for dinner. I get some bemused looks from the servery staff:

“Yes, I am going to have creamed rice for dinner”

While the prison is failing in the food aspect of operations, the laundry is now closed for the next two weeks. In  prison two weeks is an altogether different measurement period. With the inclement weather it is going to be very difficult for a billet of 20 men to be able to wash their underwear etc.

With no onsite launderette, prisoners here have offered to buy machines for our own use. This multi-million pound operation runs so inefficiently it can’t even take charity from prisoners. This is something you don’t read in the press. Convicts buying the prison equipment… what a farce.

2nd September

100 Days until my first visit home.

Today has been a lush day and I am sure for many in the UK it represents the last vestige of what can only loosely be termed British Summer Time.

Spence has had his release date confirmed for Wednesday and I’ll be sad to bid him farewell. He has kept me company these last few weeks and I hope he can crack on with the rest of his life without returning here again. I feel that pang of envy, that jealousy you feel as those around you leave before you do. It’s awful and you feel nothing short of shallow for feeling it.

Tales of Prison Life

17 May

Dinners tripe today – not tripe but resembling poor quality produce. A roast dinner which features an undercooked chicken drumstick, boiled potatoes and courgettes, is not a roast. Not exactly drama number one, but disappointing nonetheless.

I find food solace in a visit with the folks. Two beef pasties, a flapjack, bakewell tart, Lion Bar and 4 diet cokes form my real Sunday lunch. The visit flies by as they always do as I enjoy sitting around a table with my mum and dad. I enjoy that a lot more than cringing as my mother remarks on other inmates and their choice of partners, in a volume that is distinctly louder than a whisper but with that pretend whisper voice for effect. I am aware that all mother’s likely do this and my cringes are the same shared by many other inmates over the years. Mum’s will always find a way to embarrass you but I can forgive a bit of nosiness, it’s their legal right I believe.

It’s Ramadan this month and my lunchtime food excesses are compounded when a billet mate, Hussain brings round a selection of Samosas, Bhajis and Curries for us to munch away at. Ramadan here started with 40 inmates observing the principles of fasting during daylight hours, it is a week or so in and only 7 are still keeping to it. The ones that have fallen by the wayside highlight a common trend in the UK Prison system; Pr-Islam. Many young offenders who come into the system via inner city detention centres convert to the teachings of the Koran. Or more accurately, the firebrand extremist preaching and the immediate clanship that goes with joining the Islamic brotherhood behind bars. As these younger prisoners grow up or move out of the closed system and into an open prison, religion gradually ceases to be of the same importance as it once was; and a breed of fairweather followers emerges. Despite not keeping to the fasting of Ramadan, these others still collect their bulk daily meals after dark as well as queuing up to take the normal prison servings. Kind of really defeats the point that Ramadan aims to teach. Having spoken to one inmate, Chris who takes his beliefs seriously, I understand there is some disappointment that this liberty has been taken.

………………………………

George has created the spreadsheet countdown I discussed before. I have 112 days until I am eligible for home leaves. A blink of a lifetime but a lifetime away to think about.

………………………………

Sunday evening’s bells ring for the following durations:

Bell 1: 10 Seconds

Bell 2: 12 Seconds

Bell 3: 18 Seconds

Bell 4: 7 Seconds

I know this delightfully boring fact as I counted it using the ‘Hippopotamus’ count technique.

I begin to keep notes from now on, on the time that the bells toll, the pauses in between them and their duration. What I will do with this data is anybody’s guess, but it’s a ‘keep me busy’ occupation that I really don’t have anything better to do.

When the screw comes round, I ask him why the ‘Automated’ roll call alarm is so irregular. He explains it’s manual.

“Why then didn’t the guard in the control room think when he had headed north of ringing the bell for 20 seconds, that he should possibly stop?”

I don’t think the screw really understood the wording of my question, I mutter “47 Seconds” under my breath.

Deaf ears.

Ironic.

…………………………..

The mail orderly headed down to the reception with the day’s parcels yesterday, as his job entails; he’s met with a:

“Too busy, bring them back tomorrow” (This is the prisoner’s post by the way. One extra day to wait at least now before it’s cleared)

Today the orderly returns to the reception with twice as much post as the day before and a holdall* to hear the same screw say:

“I can’t do all that mail! I’ve got new arrivals in an hour.”

The orderly advises him that it may be wise then to use that spare hour before they arrive and clear this mail. The backlog will be larger still tomorrow. *Along with the parcels is a holdall containing a note reading:

“Dear Sir/Madam,

this is property for my son’s release. Please take care as a phone, charger and other valuables are enclosed.”

With a sneer of contempt for a caring mother’s thoughtful gesture, Mr Smith throws the holdall into the concrete wall of the reception.

Ironic.

One lad’s about to finish doing his penitence, his debt repaid, this screw’s wanton act of vandalism to other’s property is both petty and sinister. How nasty can you be? Do you want people like this reforming Britain’s broken generation?

Spence has his tag confirmed for next week. I’ll be sad to see him go and will aim to see if George can move into the space coming available. Cellmate roulette is not a game I fancy playing.