Tag Archives: prisoner poetry

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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New Year’s Eve Party in Prison

9 Jun

Today HMP Ford becomes a Bang-Up again. I and other’s here experience closed conditions for what I hope is only 24 hours. The bosses at Ford have had a perimeter fence laid out inside the main boundary fence. Like a camp within a camp. Side gates have been locked and the Front Entry Gates drawn to a close. Ford Prison has been locked down – a repeat of last year’s Booze fueled arson rampage is feared.

I spot all of the Governor’s at some stage today. Any disturbances and the Senior Governor will be starting 2012 with P45 in hand. In fact, it surprised many that she survived the last episode here.

I spend my day bring the New Year in blowing my nose – my cold I picked up at Christmas has not yet gone, although my stock of tissues is close to being so.

If I’m honest, I’ve never really enjoyed New Year’s Eve, too much of an anti-climax for me. Still at least I can be sure prison will not be on my mind in 12 months hence. Missing the parties associated with today doesn’t make me feel low, I’ll probably grab an early night. This is NOT a sign of things to come 🙂 Tomorrow, I can say the words:

“I’m home this month”

Channel 4 has slapped on a cheery portion of:

Porridge – The Movie

The Deputy Governor, sticks his nose around the door, part of their visible presence strategy (In most other places, that’s called turning up for work), his sidekick pops in shortly after. We share a joke about the Porridge Movie, he says he’s glad it’s not on; he is the spitting image of Mr Mckay. Better still, his name is Roger Moore; it’s possibly why I like him. A press journalist from the Sun, sneaked into the prison last year – not a hard feat when you never see Screws; Mr McKay notes that this active Governor strategy may be just in case one has popped in to visit again.

Nothing else happens, except for the distant sounds of fireworks and parties in the local area. The prison carries on as normal.

 

NEW YEAR 2012

The home straight, I’m going home this month!

I start the new year in the gym, taking part in a circuit session run by an inmate who works in the PE Dept. A boxing fan like I, his circuits are a tough challenge and later in the day, takes me for a Pads session, with some focus mitts that have been snuck in by a now departed resident. With the prison on lockdown, the visit sessions are used for extra gym time. A decent compromise, when there is little else to do but lay in my bed. I look on at the calendar for quite  a time. A long time actually. A bit more than 4 weeks to go, I hope these days fly by.

Then life can start again.

Back to Prison & Christmas Eve

5 Jun

My time away was a pleasure and I feel exhausted after it all. It might sound a little bizarre but I was ready to return when I did. I don’t want to be in prison but you learn to accept it. It’s not the hell its characterised on television and I know I don’t have a huge amount of time left, most of all its a comfort zone I’ve grown accustomed too. With friends around you and zero of life’s pressures I could handle a little more of Ford.

On my return I hear the Prison Block has been active, with a number of inmates being shipped out. The worse news was hearing that Paddy a young Irish Traveller was caught with booze and stuck on the first bus out of here. It’s tragic news as he works on the Servery and ensures all inmates get proper portions of food. 4 pieces of stuffing, two helpings of cake, double pie, extra meat, you name it he’ll serve it. When he’s working, bring Tupperware.

In other news a young lad Ali is sent packing after he’s snuck in an internet dongle and plugged it into one of the PC’s in the Chapel. He has subsequently used it to access the web and it’s world-wide hub of infinitely more fun things than there are here. Pictures are found on it of kids. HIS KIDS, rumours spread fast that he has in fact been accessing Child Porn. It’s amazing how warped chinese whispers can get. He is now in harm’s way if he remains here. He is moved possibly now for his own safety too.

My cellmate has had some bother in our absence after a set-to with a prisoner about mail issue times. My cellmate being the mail orderly, sees him pestered constantly about the prison about whether someone has received a letter. Complete strangers who have never met him, greet him with the uncomprehendingly stupid query:

“Have I had any mail today?”

Maybe, or maybe you’re one of the other 400 who haven’t. Who are you?

Jamie and I find out the identity of the protagonist and knowing him personally we have a chat to him.

As I walk around the prison today, a few guys know I’m back from my first home leave and stop to see how I am doing. One, Simon (7 years – Drugs) notices my face is a little more tanned than it should be in a December. I give him: “No Comment”. I see him mouth “Fake Tan” as I wheel away.

Christmas Eve

Short of nearly 200 inmates, the kitchen have taken the opportunity to cut down on its kitchen prep for meals. Consequentially leaving a large number of prisoners more dissatisfied than usual. A cooked breakfast of 3 battered chicken burgers and 2 hash browns struggles to form part of a healthy diet, even with a sensibly placed hard-boiled egg rolling around the plastic plate. I wonder what the heart disease NHS bill is for patients from HM Prisons.

I catch a cold on my home leave and am feeling a little groggy; finding time for 40 winks to kill the odd hour of your sentence here though is never a drama. I use some of the morning to put together a letter in spanish to my South American cousin. Based in Peru and Bolivia, formerly of Venezuela, Spain, France and Britain, his command of languages is formidable. The son of my mother’s late sister, I often think about him at important times of the year. I want to reach out to him more and see him closer to the family. Time will tell.

I glance across at a TV Guide, these are often like gold dust in prison, but we have happened upon a couple of them. As usual, there isn’t a good deal of choice. Tonight, around the world, billions of people are snuggling up with loved ones or sitting down with family preparing for Christmas Day. For those of us ‘Behind the Door’, tomorrow is another day.

 

A day after delight

3 Jun

I spend awhile this morning in the drop in centre, my office since I transferred to the Diversity team helping ex servicemen utilise the charitable provisions in place for them. I talk to the senior officer Sheridan about my life thus far. He is a sound guy and a man I won’t call a screw. I have more in common with him that 50% plus of the prisoners here. He is respectful and takes the time to listen. Possibly for him hearing a frank tale of an inmate’s journey helps him understand those his job involves managing. An informed Prison Officer is undoubtedly better equipped to do his job.

In the Billet, days away from his Christmas home leave, in fact days away from his first trip outside in 3 years, a young lad Jamie we’ve befriended has been contacted by outside probation and told that due to the emotional nature of Christmastime and the fact that his probation office will be closed – it’s not wise for him to be allowed home. This is spite of him being given the green light weeks ago, raising his hopes and making plans at home. Mum was happy, the brothers too, their boy Jamie was coming home for Turkey.

Now, he’s devastated. But… his attitude in response to it all speaks volumes about his character and how he has matured. Having friends who won’t see outside for a decade  makes him philosophical about his situation. To an outside observer however, it’s obvious, moments like this can have a hugely negative impact on the long term rehabilitation process. You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest this creates a contempt toward the ‘Superiors’ negligence. This arbitrary approach, a top down attitude really has no place in the Prison and Probation Service. It ignores the individuality of every situation – one size does not fit all.

Back to Jamie, he will not know be rewarded for his hard work. I buy some extra mince pies instead to put a smile on his face come the 25th of December.

I count down the days until the 18th, my pretend Chrimbo, 4 days away until I can sleep in my own bed and be fawned over by the women in my life.

 

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.

Part 2 – His and Her’s Tale. His Tale

1 Jun

His Tale:

51/2 months down, more than 6 since I’ve seen her last. I wake up nervous, my stomach filled with butterflies, today is the day I’ve dreamed of.

I keep myself occupied with a visit to the gym, setting  a new 30 minute distance row PB, 7631m. I see myself making improvements in personal fitness, it means my time here is not entirely a waste.

I have little appetite as my mind is focused on a date with destiny. I wonder where she will be sat, will she find it okay? What will she be wearing? What will we talk about? Will she cry? Will I cry?

So many thoughts drift, well, race across my mind as the minutes tick by.

I kill the hour before the visit deciding what to wear, showering and making sure I look as good as a man can whilst being in prison. I fear she will see something less than she has in me, in visiting me today. For the first time, a sense of shame crosses me as I think about my whereabouts. She is this travelled, articulate, intelligent and unique creature. Special in so many ways. I am a prisoner, stripped of liberty and often times dignity.

She tasted foods until recently from the magical east and the Orient; I queue up for mine with a plastic bowl. I know my worries are likely ill-founded, R would love me still even if I wore orange overalls today. It’s her best quality of all. She makes Mase feel young and wanted; she get’s my humour and inspires creativity within me, when other’s have only stifled it. My feet are shuffling and my knees are bouncing. I can;t take my mind off my anxieties: “Why am I so nervous?” I tell a friend who knows about my visit.

“MASON” is called out by a screw on duty, I scamper off to the visit’s hall so I am as near to the front as possible. I don’t want to lose a minute with this girl who waits for me.

As I walk through the door to the side of the hall, I am patted down by a guard and then look ahead of me.

Slightly to my side, my eyes lock on to the most beautiful sight, I can’t believe what I can see. It has been so long and yet I see nothing but the very best of that person I said goodbye to at the airport all those months ago. More beautiful than ever, tanned, lithe and running toward me at a concerning pace. She flies into my arms and wraps herself around me. It is all I can do to keep myself on my feet. In that moment of power blessed with her affection, she crashed into me and holds me close; as I hold her the same.

I feel like I’ve been set free.

I could be acquitted.

I could have been found not guilty.

I feel every emotion that equates to happiness. Today is marked down as one of the happiest days of my life.

When you have nothing but emotion, no material obstructions and no insincerity, you can find  a piece of true beauty, true euphoria that even drugs cannot deliver. In losing my freedom, I have tasted what it is to truly feel liberty. You may never envy my location, my whereabouts, my happenings and my failings but I will never envy your lives if I could go a lifetime without an experience that I shared with her today.

I spend the next two hours, nervous, giggling and an inch from the prettiest nose on earth. Tomorrow she comes again, I’ll sleep like a child waiting for Santa.

His and Her’s tale

1 Jun

Her Tale:

My heart is beating so fast, I can feel every single note. Every beat draws time closer to that one moment.

One second closer, two, five….

I think of the last time I was this nervous. My driving test, opening my results letters or waiting to hear what happened to my Masey in my absence.

In those times, as it is for me now; my palms are sweaty, anxiety rips through my very being.

I’m agitated by the woman next to me, loudly telling her children they aren’t having sweets.

I’m agitated by the two men talking at length and at volume about their plans tomorrow.

I’m agitated.

I’m hot and my pulse is racing.

There is a fear within me. A fear I dare not profess to anyone but my own inner demon. I’m scared, I’m scared if it’s not the same.

Finally, the doors open and I’m allowed to walk through with the other visitors into a large square room, tables, chairs and a booth for food at the end. I take in nothing else but my thoughts.

I choose two seats that are together. I sit and I wait.

I wait a little longer

5 more minutes pass and men begin to shuffle through a door at the top of the hall. My attention is on nothing else but that door. Behind that door lies my hopes, my dreams and my future.

Or it crushes them.

THERE HE IS!

I see him, I run.

I run

I jump.

His arms are around me and I’m overcome with emotion AND love. I’m back in his arms.

 

Hump Day

12 May

It’s mid week, it’s hump day. The week is halfway done and my duties today involve handing out 20 or so movement slips (Not bowel function related) to those required in the education department. The rest of the morning is spent observing Ricky (Ex-Gangmember now education assistant) in his daily tasks. This ultimately means shadowing the habits of a human sloth. Perhaps a slow-worm would be a more accurate description.

I’m advised again to try to grab a sneaky SPL while I’m waiting until I am officially allowed day leaves. My acting isn’t up to much and I don’t fancy fretting over a nicking. I can wait.

I have a visit today from my Aunt, Uncle and cousin. I welcome the chance for intellectual debate and I know my Uncle is keen on the rumblings from the Eurozone. I get the impression he enjoys finding out about life this side of the parapet and he has a number of questions it seems are pre-prepared. I hear later that my Aunt would have enjoyed to get a word in too. Bless them all for making the long trip to see me. I hope I can return the gesture sometime in the not too distant future.

Unlike my last visit, I manage to avoid being strip searched afterwards. There are few more effective ways to kill your mood after a lovely visit, than stripping down to your birthday suit and doing an unflattering pirouette.

I get my gym kit ready for my Wednesday session and notice a Gym Screw who gives us extended sessions is on duty. George and I use this time to row and chat about home.

DUVET NEWS: The property office have slipped into my trap. They reply to my App with an answer that makes no mention of a block on inbound bedding. Checkmate. If there had been a new ruling blocking bedding being sent in, this would have been a very reasonable opportunity to note it. It just reinforces my suspicion that the level of understanding on prison rules amongst staff is so patchy, indifferent and inconsistent – what is said wrong is likely right and what is said right is possibly not. Either way, I’m getting me a duvet 🙂

In other news, the Ford Prisoner Cricket Team loses to an external team of solicitors in a narrow run match. To an outside observer, it must look almost civilised here!

I pick up a spare menu card earlier in the day and send it home. I’ll publish it shortly. What would you eat on it?

 

ITTTTS Ground Hog Day

7 May

Tucked away this morning in the carpentry workshop, I sit there and read my mega novel: ‘Shantaram’. This isn’t me dossing, this is me having completed all of the 5 minute task I’d been set for the day. A slow-paced training regime is fine for inclusivity, however in a prison filled with white-collar guys and drug dealing entrepreneurs, we’re in danger of losing interest.

Idle minds are the devil’s workshop. It’s still true.

A letter flies in from my sister with a Telegraph Fantasy XI Selection form for the start of the new Premiership season. I fancy Robin Van Persie’s chances this season, providing he stays injury free. It pains me to say it as a Spurs fan but I think he is different class.

Lunch today is a baked potato and beans, but true to the inconsistency of yesterday’s Stuffing conspiracy, there is no Food Stazi (Secret Police) on the dining hall door to prevent the exit of warm food. I wonder if screws spot their own inconsistency and question them? Answers on a postcard. I can conclude here, that food served on a weekday lunchtime is immune to foodborne bacteria.

……………………………

I’m in the education department using my afternoon to do some studying and writing. A dumpy white inmate walks in with an afro-comb jutting out of his hair. Seriously?

I’m liking this ‘Education’ slot, it gives me some quiet ‘Me’ time, where I can sit at a desk properly. George has been working at knocking up a spreadsheet to count down his days, I’ve crumbled myself and ask him to run a separate sheet for me.

…………………………..

Back in the billet, I have done a DIY job on some prison canteen purchased flip-flops to make into Boxing pads. We can’t have focus pads, as boxing pads are properly called, sent in; so we have to improvise. Apparently boxing encourages violence, this is the mantra touted by those with no experience of the good, boxing clubs have done over the last century. Nor are they familiar with the musty insides of Amateur Boxing Clubs in our city slums and how such humble environments have helped turn the lives around of those who live on the fringes of criminality.

My own boxing club, ‘The Locker Room’ in Essex, does a tremendous amount of work with young offenders in the local area. A sport that requires great discipline to compete in, offers structure to those who lead lives without it.

Spence has an Unlicensed boxing bout on his release, so he has asked me to give him some time preparing for it. A bit of light sparring in the bathroom where there’s plenty of space and the glass is frosted, as well as some laps around the nick should keep him ticking over.

They call it unlicensed fighting as it’s not endorsed by the British Boxing Board or the Amateur Boxing Association of Great Britain; it doesn’t mean pitbulls, empty factories and ‘Snatch’ the movie. These days unlicensed boxing just as likely down your local conference centre and aired on Bravo.

……………………..

Spence’s pretty well hooked into the underbelly of this place and for the price of a 50p Chocolate bar lands us a handful of Playstation games for a console we’d bought for a fiver apiece. I’m reckoning we can flog just one of these games, thus making the rest free.

Buying items on the black market is a bit of a no-no, officially speaking. Some lad got slung in the block last month after a cell spin saw him with a games console that wasn’t on his property card. However this was screws cracking down in any way possible against an inmate who they had obviously targeted. The screws don’t walk around with a dozen arch lever folders listing the present crop of prisoner’s listed property. I’m reckoning we can play this one fairly safely. Still it’s a bit of a worry, so a carefully placed copy of ‘Inside Times’ covers the little black box. 🙂

That inmate in the end was docked two weeks pay and put on final notice for shipping out. Fortunately for us, our last occupant was an escapee and a regular trouble maker. Screws simply don’t run an inventory of cells when one leaves, this means we can lay the roots of its whereabouts on a now departed person. The perfect crime.

Day 58

Three things happen today.

1. I acquire some coats hooks from an education room that doesn’t need them and we put them up in the bathroom of the billet. Our showers have none at the moment, nor does they have any surfaces or benches to plonk your gear on while using the showers. Spence is put on look-out as we could be nicked for criminal damage here. Using your initiative can be dangerous.

2. I land the job of education orderly.

3. I write my diary in a more italic handwriting.

This is the sum total of purposeful activity that prison provided me today.

 

Dangerous Minds

30 Apr

My afternoon is spent in the education department. A teeming mass of willing learners? A bank of absorbent minds, yes?

No.

4 inmates are currently sharing the ‘Learning Room’ with today. One is sound asleep, arms folded and head back snoring. One reads a book and the other two have created an excel spreadsheet detailing to the last second how much time they have left to serve. A breakdown by a range of time units seems to me a painful reminder of the days of your life you have sacrificed.

I am the one reading the book.

After a slow morning assisting in fitting kitchen units into the new Screw’s Mess; I decide to hunt out an orderly job as soon as possible. A bit of brown-nosing is done with the heads of several departments, namely the cleaning office and Education. Like everything in prison, I am told I’ll have to wait to hear back soon.

“Prepare to Wait.”

A line heard in the Army, never so true as in Prison.

The Labour Board is fast approaching me, I’m anxious not to end up on Contract Services. (Poppy Making or injection moulding)

Prison Education

In stark contrast to stories in the gutter press, prisons don’t all off er uniformly good education and rehabilitative programs. Ford recently received a scathing OFTSTED inspection report and prison’s failing to equip it’s inmates with life skills to work toward future employment can only expect high re-offending rates by doing nothing to break the cycle. Here at Ford, there are little more than 20 of 510 inmates in full time education. For white collar or professional criminals who have been banned from their previous employment as a part of their sentence; there is nothing to do in this place by way of re-training. Those triggers to commit financial crime will still exist on the day of release. I count myself as lucky; I have work and a pathway on the outside but many don’t.

I guess it’s like the Oxfam ‘Give a man the tools…’ advertising campaign. There are large percentages of inmates here with very little in the way of employable skills. On release, the only difference between them before and after their offences, is that they now have to declare their convictions for up to a decade. For those with sentences of over two and a half years, they will have to declare it for the rest of their life.

They become unemployable to the eyes of middle England…

… and when they realise this:

Their negativity shows. They become less likely to find work and having had no education, they reason that having seen they can handle prison, they may have to turn to crime again.

No one says this is the right attitude, it’s wrong, but every mind works differently and not every seed yields the same crop.

A child born into poverty, malnourished, beaten and neglected; is very likely to think differently to a suited intercity commuter, reading ‘Potter’ on his Kindle.

As for me, I’m anomalous, anonymous and neither. I like Tolkien and books made out of paper.