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Celticbhoy

Need to remember the prison is ours we just let them stay there. So none of this it's there house or own space. You can't go to a hotel and spark up?

falkor
I vaguely remember some movie where tons of missing people were returned to the planet including Glen Miller although he was slightly changed and now played reggae
manc-apollo
In some YOI they do get gifts,socks or little stocking filler type things. Staff will usually get a longer dinner there will be a little fewer staff on over the whole day because bang up is usually earlier. You will tend to find its harder to bang up the more difficult cons near the end of your day over the festive period.
Moredread
We're also doing something different again this year for food. Last year I did a tapas which was amazing. This year with be a 3 bird game pie (pheasant, partridge and duck - all shot locally and prepared by yours truly), roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots and peas with a home made stuffing.
SgtBush
But boss boss....... NO.
No is a good word to have.
You can change a no to a yes easier than a yes to a no if your unsure.

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Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

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Gopper
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Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Gopper » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:34 pm

Synopsis

The world of Her Majesty’s Prison Service is, to most people, a much closed world with very little being known about what it is really like inside a prison.
When asked what it is like in a prison, the best brief description is to liken it to Porridge, the cult TV series starring Ronnie Barker, as life inside a prison can be both amusing and very sad at times. Prisons are institutions that reflect a lot of the problems that are occurring in the world outside and it has been said that prisons are small worlds containing all the same issues that can be found on the outside. Although, if anything, prisoners are in a much more protected world that provides for their basic needs: they are told when to sleep, when to get up and when to eat. All their basic needs are met – except, of course, their freedom – and they do not have to worry about work, earning money or providing for their families.
This book is about my experiences as a prison officer. What I aim to achieve is to give people a prison officer’s view of what it is like inside a prison. Whenever I was out at a dinner party and it was discovered that I was a prison officer, I would always be asked by the other guests: What is it actually like inside a prison? Is it really like Cell Block H or Bad Girls? I would first try to move their thoughts away from these inaccurate portrayals of prison life and get them to focus on the closest example I could give them, and which television has to offer, which is Porridge. I would then tell one of my many anecdotal stories that I have dined out on for years. These would usually have the rest of the guests enthralled and, over the years, I have learned to either clean them up somewhat or tell the story absolutely how it was depending on how I thought different people might react.
There have been many books written by prisoners about their time inside. Some may be an accurate account of their personal experience – others are more likely to be complete fantasy, trying to enforce the self acclaimed ‘hard man’ image that they tried to portray when serving time themselves. There are also, of course, the high profile con-men and perjurers who are just good at writing fiction about their lives in prison.
I aim to give a different view from the perspective of a prison officer – of someone who has worked inside a prison for many years, who understands how it works, who has worked with some of the best and the worse and who has known some of the country’s most notorious prisoners as well as the vast majority of prisoners who are largely forgotten by society. I hope to leave the reader with an accurate view of what prison is really like; how it smells, what is sounds like, the rational behind some of the many prison rules and regimes, who ends up in prison and just what it is like inside these secret institutions where all life is played out.
The media is always full of reports concerning criminals and their crimes because the story sells papers or increases viewer ratings. But once a criminal has been caught, sentenced and sent to prison, the media and public interest in them often fades the moment they enter prison.
Most of the prisoners in prison are society’s unwanted and the public are glad to be rid of them until their release. Most people do not care what happens to them whilst they are in prison, others believe they are treated too kindly and should have it tougher while still others believe they are tortured and bullied by prison officers. The media may entertain the public by running a story about how cosy it is in gaol, by giving out sensational headlines about how easy life is for prisoners – but none of this really tells it how it is.
There have been many books written about criminals by the criminals themselves (or their ghost writers). They always make reference to other criminals to perhaps impress the reader that they have been loosely associated with some high profile criminal like, for example, the Krays or the Richardsons. This book is not about glamorising the criminal fraternity or indeed the prison service – it is about portraying the truth of life on the inside for the men and women who spend their days in these institutions, whether as staff or as prisoners behind bars. For this reason, I have changed some of the names to protect the guilty – and others have been changed to protect me!
This book will tell it how it really is in prison and will leave it up to the reader to decide on how futile or useful prisons are. It will make you laugh and sometimes shock you. It will give an unprecedented insight into prison life. It will pose challenging questions and reveal the moral dilemmas of the prison regime but, most of all, it will entertain, educate and amuse you.


Chapter One
To be a Screw



‘Now, listen up, I am very busy tonight, therefore I am going to limit you to one question and one question only, so do not waste it.’

‘Good evening, Mr Kelly, how are you?’

‘I am fine, next!’

This was my tongue in cheek style that carried me through all the years I served as a prison officer. You may ask why I ever chose to become a prison officer, considering I am a Battersea boy whose family would say that they had already had enough brushes with the law and experience of life on the wrong side of the bars.

The thought of being a prison officer would not normally have ever crossed my mind. I was a fully qualified Master Plasterer, after all. However this was 1992 and work was a bit thin on the ground in the building industry. Daily rates for a self employed plasterer were very low, with no holiday pay, sick pay or pension. So I decided to look for a career that would provide me with some job security as well as holiday and sick pay. I focused my job search on the three main disciplined services that would provide me with all I was looking for and pay a decent wage. Of course, though, ensuring that the wage was decent also meant that there would be an element of risk to the type of work performed. These jobs were the Police, Fire and Prison Services.

I had fancied being a Fireman, as everyone likes a Fireman, especially the ladies. My second choice was to become a Police Officer as there would be a certain amount of respect to the position and I could retire at 55 years of age. My third and least likely choice was to be a Prison Officer. I had worked in Brixton Prison on a refurbishment contract plastering their administration area, so I thought that experience had given me some insight into the job.

So I set about applying for all three in an attempt to start a new career that had an element of job security about it. I was certain that I would enjoy the strange notion of receiving a pay packet, instead of having to turn up at a customer’s or a builder’s house demanding the money that I was owed. I always had a sense that this approach to getting the money that was due to me would ultimately lead me to two out of three of the services I was currently contacting, not as an employee, however, but more as a user of their services.

The Fire Service replied and informed me that the next recruitment drive would not be until the following year. Glossy brochures and application forms for the Police and Prison Service arrived on the same day. I could see by the police brochure and application form that I would not be paid as much to be a Policeman as I would a Prison Officer and would have to have my tattoo removed from my arm. It was not that I had a tattoo that held some fond memories or proclaimed undying love for my wife and kids. It was far more to do with the fact that I was terrified of hospitals and needles and an absolute coward when it came to any clinical assault on my body.

So the Prison Service it would have to be. My next problem was how I would tell my wife and family that I had decided to become a Kanga (Kangaroo=Screw). I thought about telling my mother and father that this was one sure way of getting to visit my brother who was serving one of his many terms at her Majesty’s Pleasure. Or I could just tell it as it was - that I needed to feed my kids and pay the mortgage and did not want to have to travel to the other side of London to work for £35 per day as a self employed plasterer when I could have a job that provided a pension, sick pay, holiday pay and a career with a chance of promotion and an opportunity to meet a wide range of people I might not normally ever meet. In the end, my Mum and Dad came round to my way of seeing things – not, however, before my farther had choked on his cup of tea when I told him and immediately demanded a DNA test. My wife, on the other hand, was considerably less pleased and thought I was a traitor to the criminal classes that I often worked and drank with. This was all rather strange as, although she had grown up in the East End of London, all her family were law abiding citizens, quite unlike mine.

In order to join the Prison Service, you have to first pass an aptitude test. At the time, it was like some kind of I.Q. test which assessed your reading, writing and observational abilities. I practiced everyday by testing myself on all kinds of magazine puzzles and eventually the day of the test arrived. I was to report to HMP Downview where the aptitude test would be carried out. The first test was to find out just where exactly in the country HMP Downveiw was. I was surprised to find that this prison was in Banstead, just five miles from my home.
I was going to take my aptitude test at a Category C prison. As I was quick to find out, prisons are categorised based on the security level of the prisoners they can accommodate:
All male prisoners – but oddly not female prisoners - are given a security categorisation when they enter prison. These categories are based on the likelihood of whether they will try to escape, and their danger to the public if they did escape. The four categories are:
• Category A: prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or national security
• Category B: prisoners who don’t require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult
• Category C: prisoners who can’t be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape
• Category D: prisoners who are trusted enough to wander freely but must show up for daily roll calls
To explain this in non Prison Service jargon, a category A prison has some of the meanest, murdering, raping and most violent scum on the earth. A category B prison holds those who want to become the meanest, murdering, raping and most violent scum on the earth. A category C prison holds those who believe they could become the meanest, murdering, raping and most violent scum on the earth if only they had the bottle or the brain. And a category D prison has those who would never dream of becoming the meanest, murdering, raping and most violent scum on the earth and yet have either raped or conned someone or have come to the end of a very long sentence during which time they have been the meanest, murdering, raping and most violent scum on the earth.
Meanwhile I arrived at the gate of HMP Downview to be tested. I was feeling confident that I had practiced enough on the magazine puzzles. I also had a chance to look at the other candidates and noticed that there was a bit of a mixed bag. There were ex-guardsmen (you could spot them straightaway, as they were the ones with the shiniest shoes and wearing their blue, red, blue regimental ties and a vacant look from too much stagging on outside St James Palace.) There were a few builders. Some had made the effort to dress up smart and others had clearly turned up in between a job just so that they could carry on collecting their dole by providing evidence that they were indeed looking for work. Finally, auxiliary prison officers made up the rest of this motley crew – these were people who were already working in prisons assisting the work of prison officers, whilst not being paid as much as them and not being expected to be in any direct unsupervised contact with prisoners.
We were all briefed by the training Principal Officer (Prison Officer) on how to complete the test and were told to start. The test was a type of I.Q. psychometric test of different shapes and groups of numbers or spelling and grammar. As soon as I turned the test paper over I went straight into panic mode as this did not look like any competition or puzzle I had practised on in “Take a Break.” I looked around the room to see if anyone else was starting to panic but, other than seeing the very blank expressions on the two guardsmen’s faces, everyone was hard at it. So I simply resigned myself to believing that I would not pass the test and would therefore not become a prison officer and started to say goodbye to the job security, pension and holiday and sick pay. Having said goodbye to it all, it was then that I began to relax and decided to at least have a go at it, guessing at those things that I did not know.
The test was over and we were informed that, if your name was called out, we were to proceed to the room to our right. My name was not called out, nor was one of the builders who had turned up in his overalls, the two auxiliary prison officers and bus driver. The guardsmen were called and it was then that I became very despondent thinking that I had been beaten by two giddy guardsmen. The Prison Officer then returned and told us that we had all passed that stage of the selection and we could therefore put this part of the laborious process behind us. Somehow, in my humiliation at having been beaten by a guardsman, or so I thought, the Prison Officer’s words registered with me as: The rest of you miserable gits have all failed to pass this simple task so piss off and close the door behind you!
The next part of the selection was the interview itself and I was told to report to HMP Highdown Prison. I had every confidence that I could sell ice to Eskimos so to sell myself to a couple of prison governors at an interview would be easy. Once again, I had the task of finding out where this particular prison was as I was informed that, if I were to be selected this would be where I would be working. Once again my luck was in – HMP Highdown was just next door to HMP Downview. The only difference being that HMP Highdown was a Local Category B prison housing Category A prisoners.
I was right about the interview. It was conducted by two very experienced prison governors who had come up through the ranks and who clearly knew their stuff. They had asked all the set questions and I had made sure that I had given them the answers that they wanted to hear, like, “if you discover that a fellow passenger is smoking with his friends on a bus that does not allow smoking, what would you do?” I responded that, naturally, I would ask them to stop, pointing out that the notice said ‘no smoking’ and then I would report them to the driver. Under any other circumstances other than this interview situation, I would, of course, have kept quiet, either letting them get on with it or asking them for a light myself, rather than grass them up and risk a community beating for my efforts.
Immediately after the interview, I was told that I had passed. One of the governors who had interviewed me then leant forward and asked me if I would really have grassed them up or tried to stop them from smoking, to which I replied: “Like hell would I!” With some visible relief on his face, he responded: “Thank fuck for that! We’ve enough dangerous twits in the service already” before asking me for a light whilst leaning on the No Smoking sign.
After a few weeks of waiting to have my appointment processed, the day finally arrived that I had to report to the main gate of HMP Highdown to take up my new post as a prison officer. Now the fact that it is called the main gate has always confused me. This was a Category B prison, which also housed category A prisoners, some of whom were the meanest murdering, raping and most violent scum on the earth. So why should there be anything other than a prison gate, let alone a main gate? In a prison, there is no back door, side entrance, tradesman’s entrance or even a cat flat so the term main gate has always remained a puzzle to me.
So, on the 30th January 1994, I presented myself at the prison main gate, where I was met by the other successful candidates from the selection process and a few others, ten of us in all. As well as the ones who were selected with me, there was also an ex 2 Para Sergeant, an ex army physical trainer who had also trained the police, an ex Green Jackets Soldier, a prison works officer and another civilian.
After some very boring introductions, the obligatory swearing of our allegiance to her Majesty and her Government and the signing of the Official Secret Act, we were launched into the training programme that would make prison officers of us all. We were divided into three groups, given a programme and set of objectives to follow and were expected to write up our observations in our notebooks and present them to the training staff to mark. It was like being back at school and some of the comments that were written in my note book – in red, of course - were merely grammatical corrections rather than the accuracy of my observations. They were in fact quite lucky to have been able to read any of the dribble that I had written, given that the most I had ever written since leaving school was a birthday card.
Most of our first two weeks were concerned with understanding the aims and objectives of the Prison Service. Although we soon understood how to repeat them in parrot fashion, none of us had a clue as to what they actually meant. We also embarked on a training programme that was carefully put together by expert prison physical exercise instructors (PEIs) to get us ready for the rigorous training programme that was awaiting us at the Prison Service College.
This was all straight forward enough until our ex army PEI decided to make a complaint about the type of training that the prison PEI’s were dishing out to us. I have served with the Army as a combat signalman and understood how the mind of a PEI works. It is quite simple. They have an inferiority complex, seeing themselves as the body beautiful and yet often being uncomfortable with their own sexuality. They therefore want to ensure that they know everything about keeping fit and gays (although we suspected that this was more to do with their homophobia than any desire to actively embrace cultural diversity.) They are not renowned for being the brightest penny in the pocket and will react when compromised or challenged. Therefore when told to run around the gym and touch all four corners, they will think it amusing to enquire why it has taken you so long to achieve this simple task. I could never resist responding with: “Sorry, Sir, I thought you said twice round the gym!” This would, in turn, appeal to their limited sense of humour and they would then see you as the class clown who could be relied upon to feed them their lines.
Our ex army PEI unfortunately decided that a different approach would be best and made a formal complaint about the Prison Service’s unsafe training methods. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Prison Officer in charge of the gym decided to address the ex-army PEI’s unhappiness with the whole group at the next de-brief session. We would all have been impressed by the ex-army PEI’s stance had it not been for the fact that this was only the end of week one and we still had one more week to endure the inept training methods of the prison’s PEIs. Again, perhaps not surprisingly, we suddenly found ourselves being thoroughly beasted by testosterone-pumped-up, utterly pissed off gym queens. None of us could quite find it in ourselves to thank Paul Hockey for having raised his concerns about the safety of the prison training after that.
I had already started to align myself to Mick Blake who was an ex Green Jacket soldier. He shared the same sense of humour as me and and an equal dislike for PEIs. There was also a character called Dean who would twitch a lot and make some very impressive claims to being one of the fittest all round sportsman of our team. Then there was Sue, an ex auxiliary prison officer who also twitched a lot. We wondered whether this twitching would befall us all as we progressed with our training but quickly decided instead to open a book on when they would both twitch together at the same time. There was also Robert who was the works prison officer and who wanted to become a real prison officer, for reasons even he thought were unsound and probably drink induced. There was also a guy called Mark who was an auxiliary prison officer and who had also attended the same school as me. The school had been opposite Wandsworth Prison and we wondered if this was to prove to be an omen.
Finally, there was Fred Bloom, an ex Para who had very strange whisks of hair growing on his cheeks. One day our training team, which consisted of a Principal and a Senior Officer (SO), decided to take the piss out of Fred. There was something about Fred’s eyes that told a different story, so Mick and I decided not to join in with this jovial banter. There was something about Fred that we could not quite put our finger on – over and above the fact that he was an ex Para, a regiment that has a reputation that no one in their right mind would mess with.
During these two weeks of induction, we were assigned to different houseblocks, residential units where the prisoners are held. Each houseblock has three spurs, which hold about 50 prisoners giving a total of about 150 prisoners per houseblock. Highdown had four houseblocks, each with different regimes. Houseblock one was the induction houseblock for new prisoners; houseblock two had two spurs for workers and one spur for vulnerable prisoners, houseblock three also contained foreign nationals and houseblock 4 served as home to those on a long sentence.
Now, the official line that we gave prisoners or visitors was that the B spur of houseblock two is home to vulnerable prisoners and not just sex offenders. A prisoner could be on this spur, we would explain, because he is being picked on by other prisoners, for example, or because he has had threats made against him and is frightened of being on the normal spurs. The truth, however, was that the vast majority of prisoners on B spur of houseblock two were sex offenders, commonly know by prisoners and officers alike as ‘nonces’. The name was derived from ‘a nonsense crime’ as other prisoners could not understand what kind of animal could commit such crimes. Locally they were known as ‘bacons’, which is from the rhyming slang of bacon bonce meaning nonce. Most prisoners would commit serious harm to any prisoner that they believed was either a nonce or who was from B spur on house block two.
One of the spurs on houseblock three was set aside for foreign nationals. Due to the prison’s close proximity to Gatwick Airport, we seemed to get quite a few foreign nationals, all of whom had clearly given the wrong answer at Gatwick when asked by customs staff: ‘Did you pack your own bag, sir?’ Instead of replying ‘yes’, which they all did, they should have said: ‘This is not my bag, I have never seen this bag in my life before, where is my matching lizard skin bag?’
Houseblock four held workers and long termers. These were prisoners who were either coming to the end of their sentence or who were at Highdown so that their families could visit them. Ordinarily, they would have been serving their time at a prison too far away for their families to visit. However, the prison service has a scheme whereby a prisoner who has not been able to have visits because of how far away they are, can be moved to a more local prison for a month or so. This enables the prisoner to use his accumulated visiting orders when he is transferred to a more local prison, making it possible for family members to visit during the time he has been transferred.
I was assigned to look at houseblock two. At this stage we were all dressed in suits, which would indicate to a prisoner that we were civilians visiting the prison for some reason. This gives them an ideal opportunity to either try to scare or shock us or to complain about their treatment. I was observing the daily routine of the serving of lunch, commonly know as ‘feeding time’. This is a controlled process where the prisoners are let off the spurs, six at a time, to collect their lunch. The reason that lunch is controlled in this way is to minimise the outbreaks of fights and to ensure that prison officers outnumber those that are collecting their lunch. I was trying not to appear as scared as I was actually feeling, particularly since this was my first contact with real live prisoners. I was determined to stay as close to the ‘real’ officers as I could, when all of a sudden, a very scary looking prisoner with lots of misspelt tattoos that had either been done by a chronic dyslexic or by himself whilst looking in a mirror, came over to me and asked: “What do you think you’re fucking looking at?” And then, just as suddenly, he said: “Wait a minute, don’t I know you?” Drawing on all my courage, I decided to stare him in the eye and inform him that, yes, I was looking at him but no, I did not know him. To which he responded: “Well, that’s all right then” and calmly went back to his cell with his lunch. The officer next to me told me not to worry about him because he was mad and commended me for keeping my cool. Little did the officer know that I was indeed shaking in my boots, not because the incident had scared me particularly but because I did actually know the guy, having employed him as a plasterer’s labourer previously. I knew only too well that he was seriously mad, as he had bitten off the ear of one of the bricklayers on the site we were working on.
The two main things that hit you when you start working in a prison are the noise and the smell. There are different levels of noise depending on the activities and the regime the prisoners are performing. Association is when the prisoners are out of their cells and are associating with the other prisoners on their spur. With about 50 prisoners to a spur and each houseblock having three spurs, you can imagine the noise level of 150 prisoners all talking and shouting at the same time. In fact, the noise levels often exceed the danger levels set for health and safety. One of the skills of a good prison officer is to be able to distinguish between the din and identify when there is a real problem like a fight, an assault or a diversion. It is not a skill you can be taught. You only learn it through experience on the houseblocks but it is a truly important skill and one that can literally save lives.
The next function involving noise is when the prisoners are on movements, a process that is carried out twice per weekday when prisoners are allowed to move to education classes or work. During this time the officers have to ensure that they are heard above the din that the prisoners are already creating. This often ends up in a shouting competition with officers always having to come out as the loudest.
Then there is ‘bang up’. This is obviously when prisoners are put away in their cells and the cell doors are locked. The process of ’banging up’ is always associated with lots of shouting from officers and prisoners and the closing of the cell doors creates a banging sound, hence the term ‘bang up’. Once the prisoners are safely ‘behind the wood’ (this term comes from the days when the cell doors were made of wood. Now, of course, they are made of steel) you always have a period where the prisoners will shout to each other from their cells. Others may choose to share their taste in music with everyone else in the prison whether they like it or not.
There are only three occasions during the prison regime when there is relative peace and quiet. Firstly, when the majority of prisoners have moved off the wings to education and workshops, leaving the lazy and incapable prisoners to climb back into bed to sleep off a busy night’s shouting. Secondly, between the hours of 1am and 06.30am, when the majority of prisoners are asleep. And then, thirdly, there are the times when we are going to storm a cell with a Control and Restraint team in what is called a planned intervention (more commonly known as a C & R take out, which is explained in detail further in the book). During these times the cons (prisoners) are all trying to hear what we are up to and who is going to get it and are very keen not to miss one second of the entertainment. Once the ‘take out’ has begun, you just get shouting from friends of the prisoner who had, unknown to himself, volunteered for the ‘good news’ a control and restraint planned intervention, or ‘take out’, as it is often referred to by prison officers. As soon as we start to move the prisoner off the wing to the segregation unit, we will get the “window warriors” shouting abuse and threats towards the staff involved. A “window warrior” is the name given to prisoners who will only be brave to shout abuse out from their windows when they are doing it from the confines of their cell and they believe that we do not know who is doing it.
The only other noisy times worth a mention are when staff are allowed to go home at the end of their day. There are three times of the day that staff will finish a shift, at lunch time, tea time and in the evening when staff are informed that the roll (head count) of the prison is correct and they can go home. This involves leaving the wing and making your way to the gate past the cells. The prisoners will then choose this time to verbally abuse staff, which can often turn into a good exchange of insults particularly as the prison officer is normally in good spirits having finished his shift. I have been subjected to and participated in many of these banters. On one occasion, I was leaving the prison after a very long shift and a prisoner from houseblock four shouted out: “Oi, Mr Kelly, you fat cunt”, to which I replied: “the only reason I am so fat is because every time I fucked your mother, she gave me a biscuit”. This type of repartee caused much entertainment for officers and prisoners alike.
On another occasion, I was on the upper walkway with a colleague called Higgy, who was also, shall we say, of a comfortable size, when a prisoner shouted to me: “Mr Kelly, you fat bastard”. We both stopped in our tracks and Higgy turned to me and said: “Mr Kelly, did you hear what that prisoner has just called you?” “Yes, I did,” I responded. With that, the prisoner retorted: “You are a fat bastard as well Higgins”. So I turned to my colleague and said: “Mr Higgins, did you hear that?” “Yes” he responded. “And did you hear the lack of respect” I asked? “Yes”, he said, “the con clearly has more respect for you as he called you Mr Kelly and simply referred to me as Higgins”.
The prisoners would usually shout the same boring comments from the cells and most officers simply kept their heads down and hurried along to get out of the prison. However, having been brought up to believe that manners are all important, I always liked to acknowledge the fact that a prisoner had taken time and thought to single me out and abuse me. It seemed only polite to acknowledge this and repay the insult. Most of the time they would shout such sophisticated and well thought out insults such as: “Mr Kelly, you fat bastard!” or something equally distasteful but no less sophisticated. I would always try to reply in a slightly more original way and, on several occasions would correct the prisoner by pointing out that, although I might be a fat bastard, I was also in fact a ‘free, lager drinking, wife fucking, fat bastard.
Most of my replies to the prisoners would never give real offence and I like to think that they were at least entertaining enough to make prisoners and officers laugh or bring a smile to their faces. There was, however, one group of staff that most prisoners did take offence to and that was the Governor grades.
The noise and insults can be very daunting to anyone new who has never been in a prison before and I knew that it would take some time before I would get used to it. Just as I would need to get used to the noise, the smell of a prison is also quite unique and takes some getting used to. Although the main smell you experience is not too dissimilar to any other institution or hospital, the smell of the wings depends on the time of the day and the function of the wing.
The most common smell is food, which always smells very unappetising. Although, considering it cost around £1.40 per day to feed each prisoner, the quality of the food at HMP Highdown was very high. The other most common smell is the prisoners’ sweating bodies because they are not able to use the showers either because they are banged up, or because they don’t know how to keep themselves clean or, more often than not, because they can’t be bothered to wash regularly. Then there is the smell from the different wings. The hospital wing (known as the healthcare unit) always smelled very clean, as the last people they tended to keep in the unit were those prisoners who actually needed to be there. At the time of my induction, Houseblock two had a unique smell of perfume, as this is where the sex offenders were held. Houseblock one smelled of detox. This was the induction houseblock that housed new prisoners. At the time of my induction into the prison service the amount of prisoners coming into prison with a serious drug problem was about 75% and growing fast. The smell of a de-toxing prisoner is quite unique. It is a mixture of sick, sweat and shit because this is all a de-toxing prisoner does for two weeks until he can afford to buy some more drugs on the inside.
The smell reaches its worse when you have to open the cell door of a ‘three up’ (a cell holding three prisoners, which was only designed for two) first thing in the morning to wake up a prisoner for court. We were a modern prison and all our cells had a lavatory in them. However, three sweating, de-toxing prisoners all shitting and spewing in one bog would challenge in even modern day plumbing and the stench in the cell would encourage you to breathe through your ears. Most prisoners would still be wearing their own clothes as they refused to wear the ‘No Dad’ prison clothes and trainers (‘No, dad, please don’t make me wear them!’). The chances are that they had been wearing these clothes for about two weeks. Combine all of this with the stench of rotten food that has been discarded everywhere but in the bin, with cigarette smoke from a mixture of tea bags and tobacco rescued from cigarette butts and you will begin to understand the stench of ‘de-tox’.
I have attempted to explain some of the sights, sounds and smells of a prison so that, as I take you further into the life of a prison officer, you will have some idea of the ambience of what is home to those serving time at Her Majesties Pleasure.
For the next stage of our training, we had to attend the Prison Service Training College at Newbold Revel. This was a very grand, old style stately home near Rugby, which was the flag ship college of the prison service. Its other one was based in Wakefield. The course was to run for nine weeks and it was residential. However, they did not have enough room to accommodate all of the new recruits so some of us had to be put up at a nearby Trust House Forte hotel. Unlike the prison service accommodation, this hotel had a gymnasium, a swimming pool and a sauna – we poor recruits who were an overspill from the main accommodation did our best to get used to such surroundings and facilities!
I woke up early on the first morning and had quite a thirst on from the previous night’s drinking so went in search of a cold drinks machine. As I turned the corner into the main corridor of the hotel, I found one of the recruits from another prison dressed in his full No.1 uniform, very shiny boots and service cap, marching around the hotel. I kept low and returned to my room and risked quenching my thirst with the tap water from the bathroom rather than engage in conversation with this nutter. It turned out that he was yet another Guardsman - an ex-Household Cavalryman (or Donkey Walloper as they are known in the trade).
In the morning, after a short coach ride, we arrived at the college for our first day and were met by training staff who instructed us to collect overalls, boots and PE kit from the stores. Whilst queuing up, the store man recognised Fred Bloom and when we later asked him where he had met Fred before, he divulged that it was when he was a store man in Hereford. By then, we had also found out from another ex-Para, who had served in the same regiment as Fred, that he remembered Fred being posted to another regiment for a couple of years. Putting two and two together, we came up with five and deduced that Fred must be ex-SAS. We all felt pleased with our deduction but, more importantly, with our foresight of not joining in with the piss take he had received from Highdown staff who we feared would live to regret it.
We were divided into sections and found ourselves split into different groups, with each group having someone from a different prison, each of which was trying to boost their staffing levels following the Manchester Strangeways riot. The worst prison riot in Britain took place at Strangeways between the 1st and 25th of April 1990 and left some of the original buildings and some of the prison records virtually destroyed. 147 staff and 47 prisoners were injured and one prisoner was killed and a prison officer had died of a heart attack. These riots led to the Woolfe Inquiry. The prison was rebuilt and is now known simply as HMP Manchester, in line with current thinking that advocates getting rid of prison names so, for example, Birmingham’s Winson Green prison is now just known as HMP Birmingham.
One of the reasons why the riot caused so much damage was because there was not enough control to take back the prison quickly as there was simply not enough staff. At the time, most prison officers had to work overtime to make up their low wages and ensure that prisons were staffed but there was still a very dangerous combination of overcrowding and understaffing. At the time of the Strangeways riot, the prison population stood at 44,000. It now stands at 75,000 and it is predicted to reach 83,000 by 2008. However a pay deal called ‘fresh start’ had been introduced and prison officers could no longer work overtime with one of the Woolfe report’s recommendations being to increase staffing levels within prisons and to build new ones around the country.
My section was, perhaps aptly named, “F” section and we began with the normal creeping death introductions where, in turn, we had to stand up in front of our colleagues and give our name, the prison we were from, our hobbies and something unusual about ourselves. Most of the section were ex-forces and the guy next to me stood up, came smartly to attention, gave his name, former rank and announced he was from North Sea Camp (North Sea Camp (NSC) is an open category D male prison. It originally opened in 1935 as a Borstal and became an adult male prison in 1988. The prison is set in a rural location four miles from Boston. He then informed the class that his hobby was reading history and the unusual thing about him was that he researched the many and varied methods of execution. With this, he promptly sat back down again, bracing himself in the ‘sitting at attention’ position.

There was a slight, somewhat uncomfortable silence before the instructor looked at me. I stood up and announced that my name was Jeff but that I had not always been called Jeff. My original name was Susan but after many successful operations, I was now trying to be accepted as a man. I informed my section that I was from Happy Highdown and that my main hobby was masturbation. Thankfully, this had the desired effect and the class and, to my relief, the tutor, roared with laughter thus lightening the mood left from the introduction by Corporal Pierrepoint, as he quickly came to be known. The irony though is that he quite enjoyed his nickname because, unknown to us, Pierrepoint was indeed his hero while I was left being referred to as Susan which can only be my own fault for trying to be funny, I guess.

The classes were extremely boring with the topics being designed to teach us how to be nice and non-threatening to prisoners. Most of the lessons appeared to teach us how to suck eggs like non-verbal communication skills and understanding when a prisoner is most likely to thump you quickly followed by first aid in the event that the prisoner did thump you! Other riveting topics included: how to apply hand cuffs; escorting prisoners to court; court procedures; control and restraint (C&R), adjudications; prison rules; the Criminal Justice Act; keep fit; how to open and close a door; and marching. It has to be said that the one lesson we could have done with but which we had to learn for ourselves was: how to stay awake through these boring classes while suffering from a monumental hangover.

Most of the course was based on Acronyms like KISS, Keep It Short & Simple (which was a pity as they could save a fortune, if they followed this advice). Fred Bloom had decided to set up a study group and had suggested that Mick and I be a part of his club. In some respects we felt a certain pride that this ex SAS guy had chosen us to be in his club but, for the most part, we simply didn’t have the bottle to say no and duly turned up at his room to be tested on subjects we were supposed to be learning that day. We would find Fred in a dressing gown, aquavit and pipe in hand, and he would invite us to sit down (or, more accurately, would instruct us to sit down) while he remained on the bed, firing off lots of questions at us. We would do our best to guess the answers and when we got them wrong, he would give us such a stare that would unnerve us for the rest of the session but would certainly make us concentrate and try that little bit harder next time.
After only a few nights at the hotel, we were given our own bar. This was due, I am sure, to the celebratory mood we found ourselves in each evening and the complaints from other guests to the management about how much they were being disturbed by our boyish and good natured antics. The manager wanted to ensure that his other guests could have some peace and quiet from us bunch of ‘would be’ screws but he could also see the potential income that he would receive from our drinking habits. The hotel had a function room away from the main part of the hotel with its own bar so that’s where we were to be found most evenings ensuring that any good that may have been done in the gymnasium or the swimming pool was rapidly undone by the vast amounts of alcohol that was being consumed on a nightly basis.
The manager of the hotel went out of his way to ensure that we were happy with the arrangements and, for a small charge, he even arranged for a supper to be laid on one evening. Having asked him how much it would cost and him having replied £1.50, we devoured a bowl of chile con carne for at least 30 people and left him the required £1.50. That was the last time we saw a supper like that.
We also discovered that the bar was not as well stocked as it should have been. When we would ask for certain mixers, for example, the barmaid would have to go all the way over to the main building to fetch the mixer. While she was gone, most of the ‘would be’ screws would top up their pints. Even though we had, what we would call ‘high spirited’ ways of obtaining food and drink for little or no money, the manager still made a very good profit from us and has received numerous bookings from the Home Office since our memorable stay there.
Marching was a class all of its own as we were to be given instructions on how to march properly. However, most of us, in one way or another, had already been trained in how to march by the various different branches of the armed forces with some of us having a very unique way of performing what is know as Drill.
We were asked for a volunteer to demonstrate how to move a body of people in a disciplined manner from point A to point B. In good forces fashion, no one volunteered and so, in equally similar forces fashion, a volunteer was chosen who the trainers knew had served in the forces. They chose Mick but what they failed to realise was that Mick was an ex-Green Jacket (Light Infantry) and would have a style of marching at a most horrendous pace, resulting in half the class not being able to keep up and the group being split in two. The instructor then decided to pick on a civilian called Paul, who had a liking for Monty Python sketches.

“Don’t stand there gawping like you’ve never seen the Hand of God before”, screamed the trainer who was clearly reaching the end of his tether by now. “Right! Today we’re going to do marching up and down the square. That is unless any of you have got anything better to do? Well, anyone got anything they’d rather be doing than marching up and down the square?” he yelled.

“Well yes!” said one bright and brave spark. “We’d rather be inside having a cup of tea!
“All right then, off you go” conceded the by then beaten trainer.
And so, that was the end of that class.
Some of the classes were more interesting to us than others. Control and Restraint classes (C&R) were one of these and were performed in the dojo. C&R was a method of set moves and disciplines that were loosely based on a martial art called Aikido. It consists mainly of a series of set moves that use pressure points on the human frame to deliver extreme pain to the recipient in order to secure compliance from that person so that they are under control. The intention is that, once they are compliant, the pressure can be eased off.
Before this method of control came in, prison officers used to use what was know as MUFTI, Minimum Use of Force Tactical Intervention. This was more commonly known as Maximum Use of Force Towards Inmates. MUFTI methods were never very successful as they usually involved using a mattress as a shield, then piling into the cell to give the prisoner the ‘good news’. However, this always resulted in more prison officers getting hurt than prisoners either through ‘red mist syndrome’ or pure, simple, unadulterated revenge. So they decided to teach us C&R.
Some of us welcomed this training and get it our full attention. We were the ones who understood the value of knowing a new method of being able to handle yourself in what could potentially be a very dangerous situation when being on the receiving end of violence from prisoners. Others, however, who we thought should have joined the probation service, were very nervous and were not learning the methods. It was clear that they would not use these methods as the vital lesson for a prison officer of “bottle and loyalty to your mates” was simply not on their agenda. Some of the female trainees were very good at the art of C&R although they believed that we men would have phenomenal and unlimited amounts of flexibility in our wrists, which caused quite a few injuries.
We had to be careful not to sustain an injury that would prevent us from completing the course otherwise we would end up being “back squaded” and have to do the whole course again. One of the PEIs who was teaching us C&R methods was a very likeable guy, for a PEI, most of whom are utterly void of any character or humour. Nick, however, was someone who was not only an excellent teacher but he also had a great sense of humour and even looked like Jasper Carrot. During the training he would come out with some very predictable jokes that would always set me off laughing before the punch line: like the time when he instructed us all to lie on our bellies and place our hands behind our backs before asking us to lift our heads six inches off the floor. He then asked us to lift our legs and feet six inches off the floor. He then said: “Right now, you should all be resting on your cocks. Are you all now resting on your cocks?” he asked. One of the female trainees said that she was not resting on her cock and when Nick asked why not, she replied because she did not have one. “Well, would you like one?” retorted Nick.
The C&R lessons became even more fun when we were taught how to use a shield with a four-man intervention team. This is a team of four officers who would be trained to go into the cell of a prisoner needing to be restrained, either because he could hurt himself or others. In prison lingo, the prisoner would be referred to as ‘kicking off’. The four-man team prepares by donning protective clothing overalls, toe protector boots, leg guards, helmet and padded gloves. One of the team carries a short shield. The shield is a 4mm thick lexan polycarbonate with a clear centre panel for maximum visibility. This shield would be used as protection against a prisoner who might be attempting to rearrange the position of our heads with a lump of 2 x 2 table leg that the prison regime now insists all prisoners have in their cells. To ensure that we would have confidence in the protection that this shield would give us, we were split into twos and, whilst one of us held the shield up, the other would set about the shield with a pickaxe handle. I was paired with one of the officers who we all believed should have joined the Salvation Army and, on my third blow, I managed to split the shield in two. With this, the officer threw down his shield, burst into tears and ran from the room never to be seen again.
The skill with any cell ‘take out’, as this process was called, is to work as a team, not to hesitate and, if you are the shield officer (usually the biggest) hit the prisoner as hard as you can while the rest of the team disarms them and uses the standard C&R methods of control. We were all given the opportunity to practice each position in the team and even given the chance to take the role of the prisoner in the cell. I found that acting as the prisoner was great fun and, as well as donning the same protective clothing as the officers, I also got to wear a protective face guard, which enhanced my fierce look even more. The cell door cracked open and I was confronted with the smallest bunch of trainee prison officers I had ever seen. I was screamed at to drop the weapon, to which I replied that I had only just been given it and wanted to see how well it worked. With that, they came charging into the cell. I simply throw the pick axe handle at their feet, barged into them knocking them over and ran out of the cell. This was not what the instructors wanted and, at the end of my C&R report, I was to find the words: Officer Kelly is very competent in the use of C&R and would make an extremely difficult and challenging prisoner.
During one of our many physical training exercise classes we had a team sport game called Danish long ball. This was a kind of doge ball game where we were split into two teams. One of the PEIs would bowl the ball to us, we would kick the ball out into the gym and then try and run to the other end before someone else picked the ball up and through it at us. This must have been this particular PEI’s favourite game as he was very good at bowling the ball, catching it as soon as it was kicked and then throwing it straight at you. It soon became my turn and, when the ball was bowled to me, I kicked it straight into his face causing a spectacular nosebleed. I thought that my best course of action would be to run to the end of the gym, straight out through the door and then lay low in the canteen until the heat had died down or his nose had stopped bleeding, whichever came soonest.
Another part of our training covered the correct use of handcuffs and how to apply them to prisoners and officers who were to be handcuffed to prisoners during escorts to court or hospital. The prisoners had to be searched first before the handcuffs were applied. One of the training staff, who considered himself to be a bit of a thespian, dressed up as a prisoner and made the whole lesson a complete pain. When it came to me and Nick’s turn to go through the procedure the trainer, true to form, started to demonstrate his acting abilities by becoming the most awkward prisoner we could ever have the misfortune to meet. He was really getting into role, becoming very aggressive, shouting and waving his hands about. Wishing to make the situation as real as possible, we we warned him not to wave his arms about because we could construe that to mean that he was about to assault us. This did the trick nicely. He exploded at us to try and frighten us so we drew on all our C&R training, landing all over him to give him the ‘good news’ so he would know exactly what it would be like to actually be a prisoner, rather than play acting the role. He was always a model prisoner after that.
Radio training was also a pain as most of us knew how to use a radio from our forces experience. To add insult to injury, the equipment we were expected to use was some out-of-date ex-police radios that would have even looked old on the 1960’s Z Cars series. We were sent off around the grounds to go through set call signs and to report make believe incidents. The trainer was a retired prison officer who could obviously talk a very good job and who would never tire of informing us how wonderful he was. So, there we were, out in the pouring rain listening to the radio etiquette being abused by the super screw, whilst being watched by Young Offender Inmates (YOI’s) from the local prison. To give the YOIs some unexpected entertainment, we decided to move his car to a different parking space. We then radioed in to say that we had just seen two YOI’s take a car that we described as looking like his car and that they had now left the college grounds with the car. Super Screw radioed back to say that he did not find this funny and that we were to make up another incident to radio back to him. It was then that we used army radio procedures and said ‘No Bluff, No Bluff, end Ex’ and repeated the incident of his car being stolen. He came running out to find his car not where he had parked it and proceeded to run around in circles swearing a lot. We could see that we had a lot to learn from this old timer.
We were taught all kinds of useful information most of which forms the basic skills of a prison officer, like, for example: performing security checks and search procedures; supervising prisoners; keeping an account of those in your charge and maintaining proper order; supervising visits and carrying out patrol duties; escorting prisoners; assisting in prisoner reviews; advising and counselling prisoners, making sure they have access to professional help if needed; employing authorised physical control and restraint procedures where appropriate; taking care of prisoners’ property; being aware of prisoners’ rights, dignity and their personal responsibility; providing appropriate care and support for prisoners at risk of self harm; promoting anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies; taking an active part in rehabilitation programmes, including workshops; assessing and advising prisoners; liaising with other specialist staff, including health and social work professionals; writing prisoner reports. If it occurs to you that we needed to be prison guards, welfare officers, social workers, life savers and nannies all rolled into one, you would not be too far from the truth about the role of a prison officer.
There were also a lot of correct procedures, mainly around security, that we were not able to carry out because they would slow the prison regime down too much. In such cases, if the shit hit the fan, you would quickly find that you were being blamed for not carrying out the correct procedure as taught by the prison service college.
What was clear is that most of the course was designed to teach us what we should have already known with, what I regard as basic life skills. However, it did become evident that those officers that were most lacking in these skills were the ones most likely to go on to become prison governors. And even at governor level, they still managed to preserve a distinct lack of any basic life or interpersonal skills.
Other than these few incidents and a certain amount of good humoured horseplay to liven things up at college, it was an exceedingly boring and dull time. We all simply wanted to ensure that we passed the tests at the end of the nine weeks so we could return to our prisons and start to perform the work of real prison officers.
A final irony was not lost on those of us with military backgrounds. Our passing out parade was cancelled as, by this time, the prison service had decided to tone down the discipline side of our training and stop acting like one of the smart, discipline services that we were proud to serve. It was at this time that we were also informed that we would be discouraged from wearing our prison service caps as they may offend the prisoners.
This should have given us a big hint of things to come.

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falkor
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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by falkor » Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:08 pm

flippin crucial Gopper

thanks for that, very interesting!! and I loved the official and unofficial guides to the A - D categories, NICE!!
Whenever I was out at a dinner party and it was discovered that I was a prison officer, I would always be asked by the other guests: What is it actually like inside a prison? Is it really like Cell Block H or Bad Girls? I would first try to move their thoughts away from these inaccurate portrayals of prison life
are they THAT inaccurate really?

I worked in the MET POLICE for 28 years and 2 years in Surrey Police most of that time as a SGT

whenever I watched 'THE BILL' during those years I always thought the only "inaccurate" thing about it was the fact that they rolled a whole month's incidents into one shift :wink:

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Chan76 » Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:40 pm

Wow..... Quite a post Gopper.....

Really good read, was starting to get quite into that.......

You'll have to keep us all updated on how you get on with publishing etc...... will be certainly one to look out for i think :D :D
Sanity is just madness put to good use!!

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Gopper » Thu Mar 20, 2008 2:12 pm

Thank you Falkor and Can76, for your kind words I shall post another chapter after easter have a good break and I hope all the officer's out there who are working over the easter have an easy shift and lets hope the goppers don't play up to much.

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by fredthered » Thu Mar 20, 2008 8:33 pm

Very good read indeed, alot better than Ronnie Thompson!!!

Well Done :s:
Panic on the wings of Wandsworth
Panic on the landings of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again ?

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Self Tapper » Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:19 pm

Very good, cant wait to see the next instalment, thanks Gopper
What peace may grow between the hammer and the anvil? T S Elliot

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Crumbling Victorian Cat B » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:11 pm

Welcome Gopper,

What’s coming next, the price of the book and where you can purchase it from :?:

Or am I just reading too much into it
Ex Officer

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by sharpe » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:16 pm

so far so good, a good read, you approached any publishers yet?

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Gismo » Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:46 pm

Really enjoyed that when are going to release the book ???

I await with baited breath for chapter 2

Gismo :s:

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Gopper » Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:57 am

Hi All,

Many thanks for your kind words about the book, I have been trying to find an agent or publisher to take it on, however it is proving to be very difficult. I am still trying to find a publisher and I intend to send in two more chapters to this forum/site.

Gopper

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Shackles » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:52 am

I would most definately buy this book. Very interesting indeed.

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by falkor » Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:23 pm

with Gopper's permission an excerpt from Chapter 1 is now on the main site in the Articles section

thank you Gopper! :wink: cracking read

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by Gismo » Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:25 pm

Gopper

Have you tried Apex Publishing just goggle them and they will come up if they go ahead the only down side is that you can order on line only maybe worth a try they did the Jim Dawkins Book Loose Screw

Good luck cant wait to buy a copy

Gismo :s:

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by falkor » Sun Apr 06, 2008 11:01 am

:arrow: :arrow: CHAPTER TWO - ADDED 6.4.08

thank you to Gopper for very kindly adding the next installment :mrgreen:

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Re: Screw (Book written by an ex prison officer)

Post by acerdave » Sun Apr 06, 2008 12:02 pm

What a great read! I have not yet embarked on my journey as a prison officer, phys and med on the 14th April, but I thouroughly enjoyed reading both chapters! Great work!! I will certainly be looking for it when it comes out and will be getting a copy.

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