Last thing I am doing tonight as I am so tired but I felt the need to bring you this. It raises some interesting points about prison, the camaradie, the image and thought of it verses the reality of it, and what effect it has on people. The question is whether its really a punishment, whether its a deserved punishment or whether its a den of criminal activity and a new way to make connections. I’m not sure.
This is how Lisa writes about her experience. I have no knowledge to draw on but I hope it gives you the same insights that it gave me.
Never ever thought I would be in prison. Never would I have dreamed it. I don’t know whats worse, being there or being there because someone I love put me there because of her own selfish wants. Lets face it, I was put in prison because my beloved daughter, the pride of my life f**ked me over in the biggest way possible until I tried to kill myself because I couldn’t take it any more. Lets not be shy here, we’re talking about prison and thats about as serious as it gets, so lets not be shy, my baby girl pushed me to suicide and then when I sent her the letter saying I was doing it she f**king grassed me in. No one but no one likes a grass do they? I tried to make excuses for her time and time again but actually when it comes to snitches, the saying is stitches for snitches and holy shit do they mean it.
My god, if she ever goes to prison then god better step in quick and help her cos everyone knows her name. Its not like its popular, sue or claire or something. Candi. How many times are you going to come across a Candi?
So let me tell you about Prison. Well its nothing like what you see on tv. Its a shock to the system but after a few days you soon learn, you have to. There are only two receiving prisons in this country – Bronzefield for the South and Petersborough for the North. Whatever court you come out of thats where you’re going. I went to Bronzefield as I’m in the south. Its maximum security but in general people dont try to escape. There are 4 houseblocks with 4 spurs on each which hold about 40 women. Rooms are either single or twin. Every room has a tv, and a phone and a desk and wardrobe area as well as the sink and the toilet. If you’re there long enough you can go to houseblock 4 where they have showers in the rooms as well but for the rest of the population you have to use the shower blocks on each floor. Its a bit like camping really – take your stuff, press the button water comes out etc. Nothing fancy but pretty serviceable.
Everyone in prison has a job 4 1/2 days a week and the spurs are cleaned twice a day including the showers. Wing workers as they are called have to rotate to ensure the spur is cleaned at the weekends. Meals are 3 times a day. Fairly decent menu, you choose what you want to eat on the pod which is like a computer system which seems to run the whole prison really. As long as you like carbs then prison food is ok. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all with pudding and sweets of some sort, and there is normally seconds if you want them.
On top of that there is the canteen where you can spend all the money you earn in wages or that loved ones send you in. Make up, Toiletries, Stationary, sweets & snacks, fizzy drinks etc. You don’t earn a lot and you’re not allowed to spend a lot but then what do you need? Your food is given to you, your washing is done for you twice a week, you are given free toiletries for every need and safer custody readily supply puzzles and quizzes and colouring etc so its not really a necessity.
Of course the pod is there for other things as well, booking visits, booking to go to the library or the church or the gym, booking the hairdresser or the boutique, and booking any training courses you want to go on. You can also send messaged to case workers or dentists or doctors etc – your whole life is stored on this pod. From your banking to your diary to your social life, all on one computer terminal.
I got a job in a place called Jailbirds which is all arts and crafts, cardmaking, sewing, quilling, painting, beading, knitting, and anything else you can imagine. Basically we all sat round and chatted away whilst doing our projects and it was very social. Other people worked in the kitchens or in education or in the the gardens or the salons, you just applied where you wanted to go, and when you got bored you changed jobs. If you didn’t go to work then you was in your room all day so everyone went to work.
Prison is like its own little community. Well I suppose it has to be, you can’t just nip up the road. Once inside those gates you are in and thats all there is to it. The staff in the main are ok.. Everyone just tries to do their best to make it a pleasant atmosphere and within reason it is. Each spur does its own thing, there is lots of singing and radio’s and cd players going and quite often the girls would have a dance competition. The staff would put on film nights across all the tv’s, easter egg hunts, karaoke nights, craft days, play rounders out on the fields, play cards and board games etc. Anything to make the time pass. Of course if you break the rules then you lose out and you are locked in your room but in general its not a bad atmosphere.
What surprised me I suppose is that prisoners are not seperated due to their crimes. In fact once you are in there its a whole new community and it doesn’t matter if you are the master axe murderer or wrote a poxy little suicide letter to your daughter, you are all in together. I spent time in 3 or 4 different spurs for various reasons and I came across quite a few murderers in there. There is no worry about hiding it, and it becomes a laugh. “Don’t piss her off or she’ll put a knife straight through you” “nah been there done that, have to find a new way!” and you know they are not joking.
Drugs are everywhere in the prison, I don’t know how the staff can’t smell it or see whats going on but they don’t seem to, but as I said at the start you keep your gob shut! It doesn’t matter what it is, theft from the jobs, kicking shit out of someone, being high as a kite you cover their arse and you keep your gob shut. You create a diversion if you have to but as friendly as it all may be it is always them and us.
You become close with these women. After all you are with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in confined spaces. You shower with them, eat meals with them, work with them, socialise with them and cry your tears on them. You know all their secrets, stuff they dont even tell their partners and husbands and they know all yours. You are in this weird space in time where it doesn’t matter what you done, there is no shame. Fraud, embezzlement, bigamy, blackmail, ABH, GBH, intent to kill it just doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you are there for each other.
One girl was telling me how she glassed this bloke in the face and caused some serious damage because he had grabbed her arse. He deserved it. Did he? Is that what I would have said before? Is that what I would say now? In prison, he deserved it and she shouldn’t have been in there. The fact that she had a criminal record as long as your arm and they were taking into account a number of other offences didn’t matter. We had her back!
And that was prison life, well for most of us. If you didn’t fit in, then it was a different story. You had to follow the crowd, whether you liked it or not. No morals, no principles, just get on with it and help each other and we became a sort of family. Everyone knew me, I was like the prison mum. They brought their woes to me and we would have a cuppa and put the world to rights. The officers liked me, I was no trouble so I could get away with most things and they saw I was mum so they called me when someone was upset and needed a hug.
I left some friends behind when I left prison. I don’t know if I was crying because I was scared of what was outside for me (nothing) or because I was leaving the security of the people I knew were there for me, but the Judge didn’t want me there, said I should never have been there in the first place so it was time to leave. The girls made me cards and we all hugged and cried.
I’ve kept in touch with quite a few of them. Some have moved to more permanent prisons due to sentencing but now I am in touch with them and their families, and some have been released and we have been in contact. That bond is always there and wont be broken. What happened in Bronzefield stays in Bronzefield, but it is nice to know that if I want to get hold of some high quality drugs then I only have to say, or if I want a deregistered gun then there are a few people local that can help me out, or even if I want to have someone run over or knifed or to make them dissapear then that is just as easily done.
I made an impact on quite a few of the girls in prison, most importantly because it was Candi, my daughter who put me there. This is something that they really did not like and something else which seems to go against their code of ethics. I worry for her safety at times, and now find that I have to be careful what I tell them as they are still as protective of me as I am of them. There are words unspoken, which will remain unspoken and it leaves me in the situation of whether I protect them or my children. A mother should always protect her children but after what they have done to me, does that still apply? I only have one to ensure everyone is safe.
The hardest part of prison is being away from your family and those you love. Of course I don’t have that now so I’m in a far worse place than I was when I was in Prison. So if the punishment is prison, and the worst part is losing what I’ve already lost – would I give those orders? Would I be comfortable knowing someone was losing their life because of me? Does it worry me that the blame could come back to me?
I think all I can say is that if I am ever to go back then I will make sure its for something worth doing, and not some stupid suicide note.
and that was Lisa’s views on prison, rather worrying considering that Candi still seems to be intent on pushing her buttons.
Until next time people, look after each other. One of us wont be here tomorrow. God bless x