Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | Podcasts | Videos | History | Culture | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up


Vocapedia > UK > Justice > Prisons, jails




Locked in the past

The common sense view is that prisons work.

But the evidence suggests they are failed,

outdated and costly. Is it time to abolish them?


David Wilson


p. 6

Wednesday February 15, 2006
















Record number in jails raises fear of violence










lock up / lock-up


















be jailed































































bitter-learned-life-inside-john-massey  *****





















































prisons minister










His / Her Majesty Prison    HMP












HMP Bedford










HMP Birmingham
















HMP Peterborough










high-security facility > HMP Wakefield










HMP Wandsworth










HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire










Pentonville prison in London










Dartmoor prison










high security Long Lartin prison










Low Newton











young offender institution










prison staff










prison life







prison lifer











dustbin jails






jail watchdog





healthcare in jails






The coronavirus crisis in Britain's prisons






prisons > corruption










HM Prison Service






the Prison Service






Scottish Prison Service








private prison






G4S Britain's largest prison


privatised HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton


private security company > G4S










leave prison





Wormwood Scrubs

photographed by Bettina von Kameke        2011


Photographer Bettina von Kameke

spent time

inside Wormwood Scrubs prison,

north-west London,

observing inmates' daily rituals.


Her aim was to present

the human aspects

of their everyday routine,

common to all human life,

both outside and inside

the prison.











penal reform






Howard League for Penal Reform













































disabled prisoners






elderly prisoners





children of prisoners






prisoner mentoring






deaths in custody






jail racism






jail > racism > Zahid Mubarek killing

























rape in prison





Islamic radicalisation in prisons








hunger strike
















riot / prison riot














1990 > Manchester > Strangeways > riot

















prison company






run / operate / build / manage a prison

















the Pentonville report






Scottish jail practices








17 – 21 SEPTEMBER 2001







prison ship






community prisons






prison population
























women's prisons




Holloway, Britain's largest women's prison












women in prison






women > detention centres






pressure group > Sisters Uncut






prison guard > female prison officer
















child jail








mentally ill inmates

and a record number of children

constitute a significant part

of the prison population




















Steep rise in jail terms

sends prison population to new high

The Times

29 April 2005
















jail population in England and Wales        March 2006










prison population        2005










prison overcrowding / overcrowded prisons / crowding








































Martin Narey > head of prisons for England and Wales

















jail suicides








jail overcrowding > suicides


























men on probation

























cell floor






cell door










vermin infestation

























UK > inmate        UK / USA





































prison inmates

























a scheme called Storybook Dad/Mum

helps parents in prison to record stories

on tape or CD for their children





youth justice






Newbury youth court






youth prison suicide





teenage prison suicide






children's prisons / child jail






Inside Keppel:

finding freedom in a children's prison        April 6, 2012


The Guardian has been given

exclusive access

to a unit in West Yorkshire

trying new ways

to reach the most disturbed children
















Broadmoor high-security hospital






open prison / jail










abscond from an open prison










prison authorities





the Prison Service





prison racism






Belmarsh prison in south-east London,

Britain's maximum security prison















Durham women's centre

the only maximum security prison wing for women

in Britain






Strangeways prison, Manchester








Northern Ireland > The Maze
















face prison for life





































high-security mental hospital











jail / gaol





overcrowded jail






high-security jail
















behind bars
















suicide toll in British jails        2005

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-1694208,00.html - broken link





prison > suicide






prison > mentally disturbed people > suicide






offenders suffering from mental illness





prison system






inmate / prisoner











escape from N












work programmes






music in prison






don't do the crime don't do the time





hard time















prison drugs counsellor



















A. Krauze


Home comforts

The home secretary, Charles Clarke,

plans to create a network of community prisons.

Do our experts agree

that this will reduce reoffending?


Mark Gould

The Guardian Society

p. 6

28 September 2005
















in denial of murder    IDOM

miscarriage of justice > Robert Brown






























indeterminate sentences
















home confinement











electronic tag


















tagged offenders > break curfew rules






prison overcrowding > curfew and electronic tag





































William Towers’ charge sheet.

TNA: PCOM 2/290 folio 205


added 25 March 2007















Victorian prisons





1872 > Victorian prisons > William Towers > Prisoner 4099





Life in Victorian prisons

Wandsworth prison

Oscar Wilde's Letter to the editor of The Daily Chronicle    28th May 1897

Anglonautes' note: find link










Corpus of news articles


UK > Justice > Prison, jail




Prison population hits record high

in England and Wales

Growth in prison population following riots
means parts of the system
are becoming 'human warehouses',
government warned


Friday 19 August 2011
13.46 BST
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 13.46 BST on Friday 19 August 2011.
It was last modified at 14.04 BST
on Friday 19 August 2011.


The prison population in England and Wales has hit a record high of 86,654 following the courts' decision to remand hundreds charged with rioting and looting in custody.

The Ministry of Justice said the prison population had risen by 723 over the past week. Officials are making contingency plans to accelerate the opening of new prison buildings and bring mothballed accommodation back into use.

There are currently only 1,439 spare useable places left in the jail system, but prison chiefs say they remain confident they have enough to cope with those being imprisoned by the courts in relation to the recent riots.

"We are developing contingencies to increase useable capacity should further pressure be placed on the prison estate," a Prison Service spokesperson said.

It is thought the plans include opening accommodation at the new Isis prison next to Belmarsh in south-east London earlier than expected, and bringing back into use a wing at Lewes prison, East Sussex, which had been closed for refurbishment, back into use.

The Prison Service said that it had no plans to reverse the decision to close two prisons - Latchmere House in London, and Brockhill in Redditch - next month.

"We are managing an unprecedented situation and all the staff involved should be commended for their dedication and hard work during this difficult time," said a Prison Service spokesperson. "We currently have enough prison places for those being remanded and sentenced to custody as a result of public disorder."

The use of emergency police cells known as Operation Safeguard is the normal safety valve when the Prison Service is running out of space, but this is not currently a possibility as police forces need to keep holding capacity on standby to deal with further possible disturbances. The pressure is particularly acute in London, where inmates are being moved out of the capital to other institutions in order to free up space.

Geoff Dobson, the deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the rapid increase in prison numbers meant that some parts of the system were "becoming human warehouses, doing little more than banging people up in overcrowded conditions, with regimes that are hard pressed to offer any employment or education. The likelihood is that for some first time offenders that will provide a fast-track to a criminal career."

His concerns were shared by Paul McDowell, the chief executive of Nacro, the crime reduction charity, and former governor of Brixton prison, who also warned that rehabilitation work to tackle reoffending would simply go by the board as jails tried to cope with the rapid rise in prisoner numbers.

Labour's prison spokesperson, Helen Goodman, said she was becoming increasingly concerned about the remaining capacity. "The violence that was seen on the streets of Britain last week must be punished, but the Tory-led government also have a responsibility to ensure that the sentences handed down are being served safely," she said.

"Since May last year this Tory-led government has scrapped the prison building programme and closed four prisons, which has reduced prison capacity even further.

"The prison population has reached a record high and prison and probation officers are being increasingly overstretched. It is vital for public safety and for security in our prisons and the youth secure estate that prison and probation staff get the resources and support they need," she said.

Prison population hits record high in England and Wales,






Kenneth Clarke:

prison is a waste of money

Rise in prison numbers unsustainable,
says justice secretary, who blames media
for creating image that prison life is easy


Saturday 16 April 2011
The Guardian
Ben Quinn
This article appeared on p4
of the Main section section of the Guardian
on Saturday 16 April 2011.
It was published on guardian.co.uk at 01.30 BST
on Saturday 16 April 2011.


The rate of jail sentencing is "financially unsustainable", the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has said, delivering a defiant riposte to critics within his own party and the tabloid press who have suggested that his plans to overhaul the penal system are soft on crime.

Clarke last year unveiled a green paper on sentencing as part of government plans to cut the £4bn prison and probation budget by 20% over four years, promising to end a Victorian-style "bang 'em up" culture and reduce high reoffending rates by tackling the root causes.

But after facing sustained criticism, he used an interview with The Times to dismiss characterisation of him as a minister who is "soft on crime."

He is preparing to publish a bill next month which will include proposals to allow for large sentence discounts in return for early guilty pleas and diverting the mentally ill away from jail. The goal is a 3,000 cut in the record 85,000 jail population in England and Wales in four years.

"[The rise in prison numbers is] financially unsustainable. That is not my principal motivation but it is pointless and very bad value for taxpayers' money," Clarke said.

He blamed the media and lobby groups for helping to create a public perception that prison life was easy, adding: "Prisons are not hotels, they are not comfortable, they are overcrowded, they are noisy. Anyone who visits a prison soon realises the prevailing atmosphere is one of stupefying boredom on the part of inmates.

"It is just very, very bad value for taxpayers' money to keep banging them up and warehousing them in overcrowded prisons where most of them get toughened up."

He said that too many prisoners sit idly in their cells when they could be doing something more productive with their time. "I would like to see prisons where there is a working environment, where people get into the habits of the rest of the population."

Private firms would be encouraged to operate in jails and help endow inmates with skills that would make them employable when they entered into free society again.

"The firms are cautious about advertising it because the newspapers write them up as 'employing jailbirds'," he said.

However, Clarke did pledge to make community punishments tougher by insisting offenders do unpaid work for eight hours a day.

"I want them to be more punitive, effective and organised. Unpaid work should require offenders to work at a proper pace in a disciplined manner rather than youths just hanging around doing odd bits tidying up derelict sites," he added.

Kenneth Clarke: prison is a waste of money,
G, 15.4.2011,






Prisoners on indeterminate sentences

'left in limbo' over parole dates

Call for fast-track review of thousands of inmates
who are judged to be still a risk to the public


Sunday 31 October 2010
The Observer
Anushka Asthana
This article appeared on p6
of the Main section section of the Observer
on Sunday 31 October 2010.
It was published on guardian.co.uk at 00.08 BST
on Sunday 31 October 2010.


The government should fast-track the parole hearings of almost 2,500 prisoners who have served their minimum sentence but are still being held in jail for "public protection", a leading barrister has said.

Peter Lodder QC, chairman-elect of the Bar Council, said there were fears prisoners could face a "Kafkaesque" situation where they had no idea when they would be released. He warned that the growing numbers placed on indeterminate sentences threatened the "contract" between prison staff and inmates that ensured the smooth running of jails.

"One can see how for prisoners in this situation, where there is no light at the end of the tunnel, there is little incentive and a great deal of frustration, and that is what leads to the harm to emotional and mental wellbeing," Lodder said.

"If you have an ordinary sentence – a determinate sentence – then one-half of that sentence will not be served upon the basis that you are well behaved. That is an understanding – a contract – that makes sure prisons run smoothly. On these [indeterminate] sentences, there is no such provision."

Lodder, who will take over leadership of the Bar Council in January, added: "When you disenfranchise people to such a significant extent… you are bound to create a resentment."

Sentences of imprisonment for public protection – or IPPs – were introduced in 2005 for offenders deemed to be dangerous. They carry no automatic right to release and 42% of the 5,500 prisoners serving such sentences have now passed their minimum tariff. Lodder said the sentences were introduced as part of a "tough-on-crime" drive.

"The government needs to accelerate the parole reviews for prisoners in this situation. [It] needs to consider whether once these prisoners have served the minimum term they can be released, and what appropriate and speedy mechanism there can be to facilitate that," he said.

He appreciated there would be concern if those who were released reoffended, "but what should not happen is that there is a disproportionate fear of one of these prisoners reoffending or a disproportionate reaction when one of them does. In other words, [the government] need political nerve."

One of the problems was a "risk-averse culture" on parole boards, Lodder said, because of the difficulty in proving that someone was no longer a danger.

Others warned that prisoners were suffering from mental health issues as a result of uncertainty over their sentences. A report by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health found that more than half of IPP prisoners have problems with "emotional wellbeing" and almost one in five receive psychiatric treatment. Many told researchers the lack of a release date to work towards had damaged relationships with family and friends.

Dominic Williamson, chief executive of the charity the Revolving Doors charity, which offers support to offenders, said many felt left in "limbo".

Paul McDowell, the chief executive of Nacro, the crime-reduction charity, said of his time as governor of Brixton prison in south London: "I have a vivid memory that one of the most common things was people coming up to me and saying: 'I am an IPP prisoner – there is nothing I can do, I feel trapped in this cycle and I can't get out of it.' Those sort of sentences were ill-thought-out, rushed through, a kneejerk reaction to a media storm. They are grossly unfair and not in the tradition of British justice with its fair-play approach."

The Ministry of Justice said it was carrying out a full assessment of sentencing and rehabilitation policy, including IPPs. A spokeswoman said: "There is no question that we must protect the public from the most dangerous criminals in our society. However, we must also ensure the courts have the power to make the right response to stop people committing crime."

Prisoners on indeterminate sentences 'left in limbo' over parole dates,
G, 31.10.2010,






Overcrowded jails 'at panic stations'


Sunday February 24 2008
The Observer
Jamie Doward, home affairs editor
This article appeared in the Observer
on Sunday February 24 2008
on p2 of the News section.
It was last updated at 01:55
on February 24 2008.


Britain's overfilled jails are at 'panic stations' as they lurch from crisis to crisis, the chief inspector of prisons warns in an Observer interview today that will make uncomfortable reading for the government.

At the end of a week in which the prison population rose above the critical 82,000 mark for the first time, Anne Owers said she was not sure how long the system 'can contain this kind of huge pressure'.

'It's very bad,' Owers said. 'As you hit each new peak, the prison system is bumping against a new crisis. For the last six months we've been looking at a system that moves from panic stations to just about containing crisis.'

She warned that disturbances within the prison system were rising as a result of overcrowding. 'My impression is the level of incidents in prisons is increasing - an indication of a system operating too near to the knuckle,' she said.

Owers normally confines her comments to her annual reports, but her decision to speak out reflects the level of concern about overcrowding. 'Prisoners are getting very frustrated; staff are struggling to survive the day. That's not a good recipe for running prisons. It's a very risky situation.'

She was scathing about the current situation, signalling that it was the fault of successive ministers. 'You wouldn't start from here if you wanted to create a decent prison system,' she said. 'This is a result of decisions taken - or not taken - a long time ago.'

The frank comments by the government-appointed Owers reflect growing concerns that the situation in Britain's jails is out of control. The Conservatives' prisons spokesman, Nick Herbert, said her comments should be a wake-up call for the government. 'Jack Straw [the Justice Secretary] must come to parliament tomorrow to explain how he is going to deal with this crisis of the government's own making and what provision he has made for emergency capacity,' Herbert said.

The prison population normally falls over the half-term period, when fewer judges are sitting. But it has risen for two successive weeks, leaving Straw forced to make a coded appeal to magistrates to consider alternatives to jail sentences.

Straw's dramatic intervention suggests the government has at least in the short term ruled out expanding the use of early-release schemes for prisoners, something it introduced last year in a bid to alleviate overcrowding. He suggested instead that magistrates hand down more non-custodial sentences.

But that call has prompted anger in certain quarters. 'We see big problems with provisions for both the prison and probation services,' said Cindy Barnett, chairman of the Magistrates Association. 'We already use community penalties far more than custody.'

The Probation Service warned that it did not have the resources to handle a sudden influx of offenders if they are diverted from prison to community sentences. 'Both probation and prison are full,' said Harry Fletcher of the probation officers' union, Napo. 'Unless the government finds funds to support probation and prisons, sentencing will be completely undermined.'

Experts suggest it is only a matter of time before the government is forced to release more prisoners early.

Overcrowded jails 'at panic stations', O, 24.2.2008,






Britain's longest-serving prisoner dies


Tuesday November 20, 2007
Duncan Campbell


Britain's longest-serving prisoner, John Straffen, who was sentenced to hang more than half a century ago, has died in prison. Straffen, aged 77, was convicted of murdering a schoolgirl in 1952 and admitted killing two others, but his death sentence was commuted because he was "feeble-minded". The Ministry of Justice said last night that Straffen had died in Frankland prison, County Durham, yesterday after an illness. He was believed to be on a list of around 20 prisoners, which includes the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, who were never to be released.

Straffen, who was born in Borden in Hampshire and lived briefly in India, where his father was posted in the armed forces, was living in Bath at the time of the murders and was known to police as a petty thief.

Arrested in 1951 for the murders of nine-year-old Cicely Batstone and six-year-old Brenda Goddard, he was found unfit to plead because of his mental incapacity and sent to Broadmoor high-security hospital. He admitted strangling both girls and had threatened to kill a third. He escaped for four hours, during which he was alleged to have murdered Linda Bowyer, aged five. Straffen was convicted of her murder at Winchester in July 1952 and sentenced to death. His case was reopened in 2001 after it was claimed that he was not fit to stand trial. He admitted killing Cicely and Brenda, but always denied murdering Linda Bowyer.

Britain's longest-serving prisoner dies, G, 20.11.2007,







Even Ian Brady

deserves the right to die

with dignity

If anyone says their life has become intolerable,
we have to listen when they want to end it


Sunday November 18, 2007
The Observer
Carol Sarler


Ian Brady, serving his 42nd year of detention since his conviction for the torture and murder of five children, with his infamous Moors murderer partner Myra Hindley, thinks that enough is enough. He is about to try - again - to be moved from Ashworth secure hospital, where he has been force-fed for eight years, to an ordinary prison where the practice is disallowed and where, therefore, he would be able to starve himself to death.

There would be, it is fair to say, few tears at his passing; none the less, he won't win. Doctors will simply repeat the customary trick under such circumstances and declare, in a catch-22 manner, that he must be mad to want to die and we can't let madmen kill themselves. So be it; let him suffer. However, little as we might care for Brady, because we - as represented by our prison services - are in control of his actions and restrictions thereof, his case does shine an especially focused light upon our wider attitudes to the matter of an individual's right to die.

The difference between Brady's case and the debate over assisted suicide is only one of degree: whether it is the provision of a poison that a man may freely choose to drink or whether it is merely allowing a man freely to choose not to drink at all, in both instances it is 'we' who do or don't make available the means of death. And leaving aside the minority of people who are implacably opposed to any intervention intended to hasten death, among the rest a consensus has snuck up on us without any apparent discussion: 'we' seem to have decided not only that there is just one circumstance within which such intervention is acceptable - that is to say, when life becomes 'intolerable' - but also that there is just one kind of pain that so qualifies, that which is both physical and terminal.

Lord Joffe's failed attempt to make legal some forms of assisted suicide was the meticulously titled Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill; it wrote in the requirement of a terminal illness and a prognosis of 'death within a few months at most'. The famously liberal approach of the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, currently seeking new premises after being ousted by hostile neighbours, still also requires evidence of physical and terminal condition to satisfy Swiss law - although Ludwig Minelli, the human rights lawyer who founded Dignitas in 1998, has argued against that law: 'You can't say, and you shouldn't say, that mentally ill people should not have human rights.'

Further, he believes that psychological pain can be just as wrenching as physical suffering: 'There are cases of long-term chronic mental disorders that defy treatment. And many of these people have long periods of lucidity when they are capable of deciding for themselves.'

Quite so. And to the list that must start with incurable clinical depression or the rigours of extreme schizophrenia, most of us can probably add a potential horror that we might decide is, if only for us, 'intolerable'. For Brady, it happens to be four decades of incarceration. For some, it is a grief that carries the certainty that only the individual can know, and nobody should dare presume to deny; that not one day, ever, will be happy again. Last week we felt the agony at the inquest of Joanne Coombs, who flung herself under a train at the spot where her daughter similarly died; last year another mother, Satwant Kuar Sodhi, also fell beneath the wheels that had killed her daughter Navjeet.

My own projected nadir, for what it is worth, would be staring into the abyss of recently diagnosed dementia; the relief of knowing that a legally prescribed magic bottle was snuggled safely to hand would be matched only by the hope that I would know the exact moment when all the stalling medication had done its best and it was time for the big swallow.

Aha, you say, but suicide is already readily available; there is nothing to prevent you dropping from the edge of Beachy Head whenever you like. But this disregards the importance of the manner of death: although some cannot move unaided, by far the majority of people who have made it all the way to Dignitas in Zurich could also have made it to Beachy Head. Tormented people seek release in a gentle death - especially, studies show, women. Only a relative few hit the railway track; many others have sufficient aversion to a violent end that they dangle for years between what is, to them, an unbearable life and an unbearable death.

Thanks to the experience of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Oregon and a truncated experiment in Australia, we know now that the gentle death is possible. This is not to say - I really am not trying to be silly here - that it should be made easier than last resort; you don't pull a swift pint of barbiturate headbanger for a guy who's had a bad week in the office. Nevertheless, it should not be beyond our civilised ken to listen to somebody who repeatedly and consistently declares, over a prolonged period, a wish for the means of the gentle death without displaying the appalling arrogance that says: 'Sorry, but you have the wrong kind of pain.'

In Brady's case, where his death would not even be particularly gentle, I hope that minds are eventually changed and he is given the chance he wants - not for what it says about him, but for what it would say about us, his jailors. It is 35 years since Brian Clark wrote of the man who fought to flee a long, pain-free but 'intolerable' future in his television play, Whose Life is it Anyway?. After all this time, we don't seem an inch closer to an answer; it would be worse still if we ever stopped asking the question.

Even Ian Brady deserves the right to die with dignity, O, 18.11.2007,






There's no justice in a 'jugging'

Prisoners who attack other inmates
may see themselves as heroes,
but Erwin James regards them
as deluded and cowardly


Thursday July 26, 2007


So-called "prison justice" is cruel, brutal and, as the recent assault on convicted "dirty bomb terrorist" Dhiren Barot demonstrated, cowardly.

Barot was reportedly scalded by a fellow prisoner in HMP Frankland, Durham, presumably because of the "unacceptable" nature of his crime. Such an act, known on the landings as a "jugging," is a classic prisoner-on-prisoner attack and is the easiest choice of violent action for the least discerning attacker.

Prison-issue plastic jugs hold about a litre of liquid. A quick fill from the landing boiling water dispenser (there to facilitate the making of hot drinks) and the weapon is loaded. To make it more effective, sugar can be added. This ensures that the scalding liquid will stick and effect longer-lasting damage.

Typically, a jugging is mounted from behind, often while prisoners are queuing for meals, although a better venue for the more craven used to be the landing toilet recess before the introduction of integral sanitation.

Waiting until the target was sitting with trousers around ankles and head bowed below the half door straining for privacy, as well as for relief, provided the perfect opportunity for the perfectly gutless to wreak agony and injury. With no upfront confrontation and little chance of any defensive retaliation, a swift swing and tip of the jug and "justice," along with a perverted sense of satisfaction could be achieved.

But who are these individuals who take it upon themselves to inflict pain on fellow prisoners? And on whose behalf is this extra punishment delivered? The answers lie in the prison hierarchy, the most insidious product of the primitive prison culture.

It used to be that armed robbers, especially those who ambushed security vans, were the elite residents on the prison wing. Sex offenders, particularly those whose crimes were against children, were at the bottom of the scale.

During the past 15 years or so, however, ever since hard drugs began to infect and undermine prison regimes, major drug dealers have taken over as the wing kingpins.

But while sex offenders still inhabit the lower ranks of the pecking order, it appears that they may have been joined by those convicted of bombings and bomb plots, people such as Barot, who was convicted last year of plotting to blow up New York.

Taking a swipe at those on the lowest echelons of the hierarchy has traditionally been seen as a legitimate response by the "ordinary decent criminal" types to crimes that society in general finds particularly abhorrent.

It is a view reinforced by gleeful tabloid reporting of such incidents whenever they happen (examples include the face slashing of mass killer Dennis Nilsen and the blinding with a pen of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper).

Perpetrators cite society's contempt to justify their actions - the absurdity is often lost or conveniently overlooked. They are not, of course, the paragons of virtue, in the main being people also convicted of serious crimes and who invariably fail to give their victims a chance to fight back. And anyway, once a person has been convicted and sentenced to a period in prison, for whatever crime, nobody but nobody serving time alongside that person has any right to take it upon themselves to inflict further punishment, whether it be a jugging, a stabbing or a slashing.

The deluded who do so are no heroes, neither are they champions of decent values. At best, they are misguided pathetic characters perhaps corrupted by the prison culture. At worst, they are fearful, timorous cowards with not a chance of ever achieving any real hope of redemption for their own sins.

Despite the horrific nature of Barot's crimes and those of other high-profile offenders who commit the most distasteful crimes, nobody outside should take any comfort from such incidents. And the prison system needs to look hard at ways of undermining the negative prison culture that breeds the twisted logic that leads to their undertaking.

There's no justice in a 'jugging', G, 26.7.2007,






G2 special

A day inside [ part I ]

The prison system is in crisis.
Our jails are bursting with convicts and crumbling with age.
At least, that's what the headlines tell us.
But what is daily life like for the 80,000 people locked up
- and for the 25,000-plus who work with them?

For this G2 special we talked to 42 people about one day last week - from Category A prisoners whose escape would endanger the public to Category Ds trusted with their own keys; from a money-launderer jailed with her baby to a teenager who caused death by dangerous driving; from the head of the prison service to a father whose son died in custody


Monday March 12, 2007


Gina Westaway, 51
Senior prison officer in the care, support and reintegration unit, HMP Styal, Cheshire

Checking our list of self-harmers was one of my first duties, and I noticed that there was a "code blue" on a female prisoner yesterday evening. She had tied a ligature round her neck, and an officer went into her room and cut it off. Self-harming is an issue in our unit - in February we had 140 incidents. The women break the plastic cutlery to cut themselves, or rip up the sheets to tie ligatures. What we try to do here is to keep them busy. When I arrived at 7.30, the prisoners were having their breakfast. They are given any medication afterwards, and at nine we start moving them to their education classes or work. The ones who stay in the unit clean their cells or have a bath before going outside to the exercise yard. They have their lunch at about 11.45, and then go back into their rooms. At 1.30 we move them to education or work again, and some go to the calm room, a therapeutic place where they can have their hair or nails done, or just relax. Female prisoners are much more dependent on the staff than male prisoners. The women have specific worries about their children and families and can get quite distressed. They are in their rooms again at four, where they have a radio (and will soon have television). Dinner is at five, and between six and seven they have association time. At eight they are back in their rooms. The job is stressful, but I love it. Sometimes I wonder, looking at the prisoners, why they are here in the first place. Many of them are eventually moved to secure hospitals. They are vulnerable women with a lot of problems. If I am lucky I leave around 5.30, but I can be in the unit until 9.30.




Tufal Akthar, 23
Serving four years at HMP Cardiff

I got up at half past seven and the doors were unlocked at quarter to eight. I put down my food choices for later in the day, had a shower, had breakfast, exercised and then at 8.30, I went to work. I have three jobs: as a cleaner on my landing, as a server of food and as a "listener". A listener is someone who is trained to listen to other prisoners' problems. We can't help with anything practical, but we can give them advice on how to deal with things. Loneliness comes up the most. People when they're first here don't know what to do. We break the ice. After lunch you get two sessions for visitors - my mum came to see me today. And there are gym sessions four times a week. You come back from work at 4.30; people who serve the food are let out at 5.30, dinner is at 6, then prisoners are banged up 8. The food is OK; there's halal if you want it. I'm a Muslim, and on Wednesdays and Fridays there are facilities for worship. Boredom is the big problem. There's a library open three times a week. I read faith books; Islamic books. I'm all right.




Gerry, 45
First ever day in prison. Serving 12 months for deception at HMP Wandsworth, London

It's better than what I was expecting. I was scared. I expected it to be more austere, and that people would give me unpleasant looks. I woke up at 7.40 today, but waited until my cellmate was up before putting the telly on. He is also a first-timer, and had been advised not to speak about his crime. Some people do, some don't. We had a cup of tea and waited for somebody to open the door to let us out. I was surprised by how decent the facilities were - three individual showers, for example. I expected to be freaked out here, but feel quite matter-of-fact about it all. My cellmate is having a more difficult time, and I've been trying to calm him. He's a smoker, and I'm not. But he's sensitive to that and smokes by the window, which I appreciate. We got lunch at 12. Tuna bake, rice and broccoli. Again, it was pretty good. After lunch we were locked up. In the afternoon I was moved to another cell. The new guy I'm sharing with also smokes, but he's not so considerate. That could be an issue. I'm pretty intolerant about smoking. I've been surprised by the amount of people who have offered help - mostly prisoners. I hope to be out of here within six months. There is zero chance of me reoffending - no way am I coming back here.




Paul Saunders, 43
Search officer at HMP Whitemoor maximum-security prison, near Peterborough

I arrived as normal at eight. There was a meeting in the security department where the intelligence gathered over the past day is discussed. We know who the players are. There's a hierarchy on every wing. We do late searches and early searches, depending on the intelligence. When we search, we'll arrive at a prisoner's door or collect them from work. First, we give them the opportunity to tell us what they have. Everyone is strip-searched but we don't touch them - they remove their clothes and we search hems and seams. If the intelligence is good we ask to "squat" the prisoner. It is up to him if he squats. He will go down on his haunches so if he is what we call "cheeking" something it will fall out. It's not something we relish. It's degrading for both parties and embarrassing, but unfortunately it is warranted, given the way these individuals secrete stuff. Sometimes prisoners have items hidden higher up but we don't do intrusive searches. We can only wait and monitor them until something comes out. We always check their cell in pairs. We're not thugs; we don't go around smashing stuff. We leave the cell as we would like to find it ourselves. We usually have a little laugh with the prisoner and tell him the only thing we haven't done is make his bed.




Phil Wheatley, 58
Director general of the prison service, based in London

I arrive in the office at 7.40 to face an overflowing in-tray, which I have to go through very carefully. Within it there are difficult decisions to make and problems to examine, so I can't afford not to read through everything. Managing a service with 80,000 inmates means I can't leave things hanging around. I abandoned breakfast years ago and make do with fruit before I leave home. Once the in-tray is complete, I go into a series of back-to-back meetings. Much of my work at the moment is dealing with the overcrowding. There have been substantial increases in population, which means many of the prisoners have to move around a lot. Lunch is a sandwich at the desk, which I bring from home and eat while I work. The big things that worry me are tight resourcing and full prisons. However, much of my time is spent pointing out that there isn't a crisis in the prison service. The rate of absconds and assaults has come down and we are coming in on budget. By six, I am getting ready to leave the office. But I always carry my bleeper with me.




Paula Curtis, 24
Serving eight months for money laundering and having fake documents, HMP Holloway, London

I was pregnant when I came here in September and was put in C4, a unit for pregnant women. After my daughter Simi was born, I went to D4, the mother-and-baby unit. There are 10 of us on here, with babies ranging from newborn to eight months. Then you have to move to another prison, which takes mothers and babies up to 18 months. My day started at 6 - that's the time my baby wakes up. The officers come around at seven and say good morning; you have to be ready by 7.30 and then you have breakfast. After that, my baby goes to a creche and I have classes from nine. We can study for qualifications. My favourite class is art: I'm learning how to make a baby blanket by sewing together different patches. I'm also learning how to cook for my baby. She's my first, I want to get it right. We break off for lunch at 12, then from two you can go back to education or stay on the unit with your baby or go to the gym. The creche is nice, with toys. We have dinner about five and there are five or six choices, including vegetarian. It's not bad. At eight we go to our rooms. I have a toilet, a single bed and my baby's crib in my room, as well as a telly and a cupboard. People can send you bed covers, so you're not using prison stuff. I've got another 11 weeks to go.




Liam Bailes, 19
Serving four years for causing death by dangerous driving, at Swinfen Hall young offenders institution, Staffordshire

I've got a working-out placement, so I get a wake up call at seven and get picked up about 8.30 in the prison minibus and taken to the Acorn charity shop in Lichfield, where I work until 4.30. It's a massive relief to be out there, it speeds time up, and it's a relief to talk about different things. We get back at five, and are strip-searched on the way in. The first time it's very daunting, but by now I'm used to it. You take your top off first, put it back on, and then your bottoms, and you can get it over quickly. I'm back on the wing by 5.15 for tea, and from 6.15 onwards it's associative time: you're expected to socialise, to play pool and have a chat with your mates. After a few months I started to think there were only so many games of pool I could play so I started doing library orderly duties and mentoring other young offenders. It gave me a bit of an insight into teaching, and I think when I get out that's what I want to do. At eight we get locked into our cells. It's up to us when we turn our lights off - I usually read or watch TV until about 11. It does get lonely sometimes. If you've had bad news, or a bad day, once that door closes you think, "I wish I had someone to talk to." When I started my sentence, back in May 2005, I thought a lot about how much time I had to go, and about the accident - about being responsible for it, about what people must be thinking of me. There was no malign intent with the accident. I just didn't think about what I was doing. Since I've been inside I've always conducted myself properly, and never caused trouble for anyone else. It's the demons inside that you can't get away from.




David Bulman, 49
Father of Ronnie, a 19-year-old who died in custody while awaiting trial. Tattooed his face after the inquest

I got up at six, made a cup of tea and went immediately to the computer to see if any government bodies have responded to my emails detailing the concerns I have about Ronnie's death, in July 2005, at Castington young offenders institution. No responses today, so I started scouring the internet looking for email addresses of high-profile people who take an interest in the prison system. When our son was remanded in custody, we thought that at least he would be safe. How wrong can you be? I have another cup of tea at 11 and start writing to people who don't have email addresses. At midday I start looking up different cases of deaths in custody to see what similarities there are to Ronnie's death. Then on to the prison service's website to see the rules for checking prisoners during the night. Staff should get a "verbal or facial response", but when Ronnie was checked at 4am we know he had vomited down his shirt and would have been gasping for breath. The alarm was not raised for more than four hours. Have something to eat and start writing more letters, looking for solicitors who will apply for a judicial review and/or try and take our case to Europe. Go to bed, knowing that today's routine will continue until we get the truth about how our son died.




Kenneth Hanson, 54
Literacy mentor and laundry orderly. Serving 11 years for drug importation, HMP Garth, Lancashire

Unlocked at 8am as normal and shot down to the laundry to get the first wash on. I had breakfast at the same time; multitasking. I have one mentee on our reading programme (organised by the Shannon Trust) and he is profoundly dyslexic. He is the most challenging I have ever had. He arrives at nine and we read for about an hour. I saw him just after he arrived from HMP Leeds and I realised he couldn't read the menus. Now he can read his daughter's letters. I am doing an Open University degree in social science and I work while doing the washing. I made a decision when I received my sentence that I was not going to waste the time. I had lunch at 11.30 - jacket potato and chicken supreme - and we were back in cells at 12. Unlock was at 1.45, and I went back to the laundry. Tea at 4.30 to five and we were banged up again at five until 5.45 and free association. People played table tennis and snooker. At 7.45 we were banged up again until the following morning. I studied a bit, watched TV, did a bit of modelling, my hobby. I am Category B. Maybe at the end of March I will be downgraded to Category C. I get on with other inmates; if I have learned one thing, it is that they would really take it badly if their washing was to be mixed up. I make sure it never happens.




Duncan Hallam, 45
Doctor, HMP Lancaster Castle, Lancaster

I arrived at Lancaster Castle - which is in an actual Norman castle - at eight. I've been treating prisoners here for nearly 12 years now. I collected my keys and went through to the healthcare department, where I asked the nursing team if they'd had any problems over the weekend. There had been an assault, and the alleged perpetrator had been put in segregation. There were four other men in there: one who'd had a falling out with someone on his wing and didn't feel safe there, and three who were being punished. It was an unusual day in that only four patients had booked in, two of whom didn't turn up, and two of whom were late. Usually I get about 10. Generally, two of those will try to persuade me to prescribe opiate-based medication, and at least two will have a mental-health problem. Seventy per cent of prisoners have some mental-health issue, usually depression. You also get untreatable personality disorders; sometimes it's difficult to tell these apart from treatable psychiatric illnesses. We treat a lot of hepatitis C and smoking-related ailments. Fights do happen, so we get black eyes, bruises, bite-marks. There's the occasional allegation of rape. For me, the hardest to deal with are the patients who persistently self-harm, the ones who cut themselves, attempt to hang themselves, or swallow razors. Some have been on drugs since they were 12, and have terrible backgrounds, and you think, "This chap had no chance." I'm regularly faced with manipulative behaviour, and sometimes you have to be quite firm. Once I had a desk turned over on me, but that's the worst that has happened.




Bekir 'Dukie' Arif, 53
In the 10th year of a 24-year sentence for drug distribution, Whitemoor maximum security prison, near Peterborough

Another interrupted night's sleep; the night screw, who must wear size-18 boots, given the noise he makes, shone his torch in my face every hour. Unlocked at five to eight and I made an application for money to go on my Pin numbers, so I can make phone calls. Called to labour at 8.55, checked off the wing with a rubdown and metal detector. The work - breaking up used CDs - is about as mind-numbing as it gets. Finished work at 11.10am, checked back on wing, then exercised in a small yard - totally inadequate. Gave my lunch away, as usual, then back to work in the afternoon. Locked up until just gone five, then association till 7.10 before lock-up for the night. My big concern right now is that my daughter visited me regularly until she was 16. Then she was deemed an adult and had to be security cleared. Up to now, this has taken 19 months, which was when I last saw her. This is my own daughter, remember.




Graham Kerridge, 41
Cat C officer, D wing, HMP Wayland, Norfolk

At 8.20am we unlocked the prisoners. Once everyone was out of their cells they went off to work. Wayland has immense training facilities. You have prisoners coming in with no qualifications and leaving with Open University degrees. There are bricklaying courses, plumbing courses, everything. We then collated the prison roll to make sure no one was missing. I did my core duties on the wing, which involved making sure the cleaners were working, undertaking security searches and checking that the prisoners' parole papers were up to date. I'm the personal officer to about 12 prisoners - I got to know them personally when they first came onto the wing. Every day I sit down with one of them and help him go through his paperwork, try and facilitate visits etc.

You build up a rapport. You get to know about their family life. I f you spend time with the prisoners it makes your day that much easier. Most of the prisoners just call me Mr K and there's very rarely any trouble.

By about 11.30am the prisoners fi nished working and went to the exercise yard for half an hour. I patrolled the wings until they returned to their cells for lunch. I then went to the staff room to eat before heading to the gym. We use the same facilities as the inmates - it's a top-class gym - and it's not unheard of for offi cers to work out with the prisoners.

The prisoners came back from work at 4.30 and got locked up straight away. At 5.30 they had a recreation period where they were allowed to play snooker and watch TV, then at eight everyone went back in the cells. We collated the roll again and I went home just after eight. I enjoy my job from the time I get into work until the time I go home.




Anne Owers, 59
Chief inspector of prisons, London

I arrived to the usual flurry of emails. One was about an event I went to concerning people in prison who have learning disabilities. Another related to a trip to Poland to talk to their ombudsman and look at their prisons. We have many things in common, such as overcrowding and the challenges of monitoring the prisons. Our system is generally regarded as a model for how to do it. I looked at a letter from the west Yorkshire coroner. I gave evidence there last week at the inquest of a mentally ill young woman who killed herself. The fi gures are startling. Women are 5% of the population but account for over 50% of the self-harm cases.

Later in the day I signed off a press release for a report on Edmonds Hill Prison, Suff olk. I produce 74 inspection reports a year but only about half a dozen get any publicity. When I give a prison a good report, which happens quite a lot, I tell them that the bad news is that hardly anyone will get to hear about it. There have been huge improvements in prison healthcare, education and training, but with the population at this level I worry if it can besustained. Maybe we will look back and say this is as good as it got.




Eduard Ngienga Lukombo, 33
Asylum-seeker awaiting deportation with wife Angelina, 29, Ashley, 4, and Joshua, 11 months, Yarls Wood removal centre, Bedfordshire

We wake at seven to feed the children. I try to go back to sleep but thoughts of how we were snatched from our home in Glasgow invade my mind. A friend telephones; he is worried about the children. I try to get them to change my wife's medication - they took hers away when we came here and the replacement isn't working. Likewise my daughter's medication for eczema.

At noon I try to pray but cannot concentrate - images of us being forced into a van and taken to airport come back. We were taken off the fl ight at the last minute, but I can hear the screams of the other Congolese being forced onto the plane. My son has had constipation ever since we came here. Both children, who were born in the UK, are confused and cry all the time. This behaviour is not their habit and my wife is not able to handle the new personalities they have acquired in detention. In the afternoon I sit gazing out of the window. I get a call from my pastor who encourages me to hope in God. At 10 pm we go to bed, but my eyes stay open. The family were released at the end of last week.




Sandra M, 30
Criminal justice link worker for the Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact), HMP Holloway, London

It's my job to offer practical and emotional support to women on their first day in prison, both women who have never been in custody before and those who are in on new charges. On a busy day we might see as many as 23 prisoners, but today was quiet - only 10.

One woman I saw was a tearful single mum who had just been sentenced to three months for not sending her kids to school, and had never been prosecuted for anything before. When she went to court she had told her four children that she was just going to the shops, so none of them knew she was in prison. When I called her oldest daughter, who was 21, they were both very upset. Like a lot of people, her idea of prison comes from Bad Girls, and she was worried that her mum would get beaten up. Then I called the woman's sister to see if she could look after the younger children.

Two of the prisoners were foreign nationals, one a Chinese woman on remand for having forged documents and one a Pole in for burglary. Neither could speak English and were very puzzled as to why they were there. So with the help of some prisoners who could speak their languages, I was able to explain the situation and make international phone calls to inform their relatives.




Alison Adams, 56
Chaplain, Glen Parva young offenders institution, Leicester

The day begins with the first person coming in, lighting a candle in the chapel, saying a prayer and checking the answerphone. You might have had a call from an anxious parent or a prisoner wanting to come and talk. A big part of the job is to do receptions - there are two of us, and one sees every prisoner as they come in. I ask them simple questions like, "Did you sleep last night?" or "Do your parents know you are here?"

This afternoon I did some music teaching. We have a band and I was struck by the development in self-esteem of one individual. He said he had not played for ages and wanted to keep it up when he got out. One played a tune he had written called Glen Parva Blues. It had us all tapping our feet. I also spent some time in the segregation unit. Sometimes they are just glad to see a face - it's not easy being isolated. I took a rosary for someone who wanted that.

We have a capacity of 808 in Glen Parva. Around 46 attended chapel on Sunday and 40-odd Friday prayers. Tonight I took Bible study. Imagine exploring the issue of forgiveness with a sex offender or someone who has committed GBH. We have some very interesting discussions. I tend to go home at about 8pm, having started at 8am. It's hard work but I love it.

A day inside, G > G2, 12.3.2007,






G2 special

A day inside - part 2

The prison system is in crisis. Our jails are bursting with convicts and crumbling with age. At least, that's what the headlines tell us. But what is daily life like for the 80,000 people locked up - and for the 25,000-plus who work with them? For this G2 special we talked to 42 people about one day last week - from Category A prisoners whose escape would endanger the public to Category Ds trusted with their own keys; from a money-launderer jailed with her baby to a teenager who caused death by dangerous driving; from the head of the prison service to a father whose son died in custody


Monday March 12, 2007


Tina, 27

Gym orderly, two years into a seven-year sentence for manslaughter, HMP Styal, Cheshire
I stabbed my abusive partner on the spur of the moment. Prison has saved my life. When I came in, I didn't care if I lived or died. But I've had a lot of help and am now as happy as I can be, given the circumstances. For almost a year and a half I've been working as an orderly in the prison gym for around 48 hours per week.

I'm a recovering alcoholic and before coming to prison I didn't look after myself, but exercise has really helped me. When I'm on the treadmill I don't even feel as though I'm in jail. On Monday I worked at the gym all day and in the evening I revised for my exam - I'm training to be a gym instructor. Then I read a book in the bath (I live in a house with 19 women, so we have bathrooms) and was in bed asleep by 10.30. On weeknights I like to get an early night, because the governors and other people high up in the prison often come to work out in the gym in the morning and I like to give a good impression.




Male prison officer, 30s
High-security unit, HMP Belmarsh, London

My shift started at 7.30 this morning. You have a briefing first of all, and then I was a gym officer this morning. That just means the prisoners are allowed to go to the gym, and I monitor the session. Then they go for showers, and we have another session. There's not usually any hostility; I get on with the prisoners quite well, on average. Then there's lunch and a debrief, and after lunch I was on the spur [living quarters ] for the association and exercise period. It starts with exercise - they get an hour in the exercise yard from just after two until just after three - and then they have association time, which is time to clean up their cells, make phone calls to families, friends and solicitors, or play pool, table football, that sort of thing. That lasts until 4.30, which is the start of feeding.

One of the things that makes this job different from a lower-security prison would be the sorts of checks we have to do. The frequency of searching, for example. This is a high-risk unit within a high-security prison. Most of them are on remand for Category A offences (importation of class A drugs, firearms offences, murder, terrorism) and have the ability or resources to escape. That's our main concern. People are quite intrigued by the work I do. I don't make a habit of telling people, but when I told my family they were quite shocked, I think.




Tessa Lovington, 70
Independent monitor, HMP Onley, Warwickshire

About 11am, a prisoner threatened to break the chaplain's neck. The chaplain pushed one of the alarms and everybody came running. He was surrounded very quickly. In that sort of case, our job is to observe, which I did - the prisoner was being very bolshie.

I spent the rest of the morning dealing with the blue forms that the prisoners put in boxes on each wing. Many are about lost property, especially trainers which seem to cost £500. My job is to investigate these complaints. A lot of the property gets lost in the gym, or when prisoners are transferred. One of the other forms was from a chap who was complaining about having his privileges removed - he had been an enhanced prisoner, which means he is allowed a television in his cell, to associate with other prisoners and to go to work on the prison site, for which he gets paid. But he had these privileges withdrawn for threatening an officer with violence. I looked at his complaint and, I have to say, I thought revoking his privileges was fair and I told him so. There is a lot of violence towards prison officers.

Being such an old buzzard, the prisoners don't give me any trouble. They call me madam or your worship - I used to be a magistrate, you see. But whenever we visit the segregated wing, where 15 people are held in solitary confinement, we are always accompanied by a prison officer.




Phil Forder, 53
Arts interventions manager, HMP Parc (a private prison)

My main role in this job is to deliver a course called The Art of Living, which I put together. It is for groups of prisoners, six at a time, and I've just finished one today with a group on the vulnerable-prisoner unit, who tend to be sex offenders. Today, which was the last day of the course, I brought in a huge piece of paper and had all six men paint one huge painting together in silence.

I did have some men who came into the group challenging everything I said just for the sake of it, and one of them stood up at the end, after getting his certifi cate, and said, "I came into this course feeling very negative about it all, but that has changed." I thought, oh wow! That was really nice to hear.




Prisoner X, 62
Child-sex offender, HMP Albany, Isle of Wight

I get up at 5.30am, when the prison is very quiet. It's a good time. I have my first mug of tea and settle down to my Open University assignment on Foucault and Wittgenstein. At seven, an eye appears at the "judas hole", at 7.30 the doors open electronically and the noise begins. Put the Jazz on DAB. Costcutting has replaced cooked breakfast with tea bags, powdered milk, sugar and cereal. Radio 4 news. Lots of banging accompanies the men going to workshops.

At nine I start working on my case for the Criminal Cases Review Commission, but my only real chance of justice is if those who lied at my trial develop a conscience. I am not far into 15 years; mostly for things that never happened, more than 20 years ago. After lunch I read for my PhD proposal for the Open University (the use of language in false convictions). At 5.30 I try to go to the gym, but there aren't enough staff to open it so I play pool, badly, for an hour. At 6.30 we're locked up. I do a bit more work on my OU assignnment and my novel. I watch Question Time on TV, then go to bed.




Raymond Lewis, 49
Prisoner, three weeks from release, HMP Blantyre House, Kent

It's not been too bad today. I work as a cook in a care home, so I had to get up at 5.30am to get the house bus into Staplehurst, followed by the 7am bus to Maidstone. Then I start work at 7.40, and finish at four in the afternoon, before getting the buses back to the prison. It's all I've been doing for the past year: work and sleep, work and sleep.

I was in the merchant navy for 30 years, though, and that was harder than this. I'm only cooking for 24, when I used to cook for 300 on the boat. And because I was in the navy all those years, I was also already institutionalised, so it has been quite easy for me being in prison. I just look at it like doing a long trip on a boat. I was sentenced to seven years for importation of ecstasy, and I'm going to be released on parole after three and a half on March 27. To be honest, I don't know where the time's gone . But that's because I've kept myself busy. On my first day out, I shall buy a couple of things for my flat. I've got a TV, but I want to get a little DVD player too, because there's about 300 movies I want to watch.




Helen Rinaldi, 45
Governor, HMP Elmley, Isle of Sheppey

I have a 50-minute drive in to work, and then I make a cup of tea and we have a quick operational briefing. Many mornings we'll have prisoner adjudications - if there's been a fight, or someone's failed a drugs test, or been found in possession of something they shouldn't have. It's like a miniature court hearing, except that makes it sound a bit grand. The prisoner can call witnesses, and the burden of proof is the same as in the criminal court. If you're involved in a fight, for example, you might find yourself having a period of cellular confinement - two or three days, maybe a week. You'd like these things to be a rarity, but when you're packing 985 guys into a relatively small space, there are going to be tensions. My main focus today is a high-profile visit we've got tomorrow, including two people from Lord Carter's prison service review. He's trying to see if there are any more efficiencies that can be squeezed out of us, so we're keen the visit goes well, and that we don't give them the impression we're lavishly funded! Because we're not.

When I tell people I work in a prison they always say, "Oh, which female prison do you work in?" I don't want to sound sexist, but I think being a woman in a male prison is an advantage. The average prisoner will be fairly respectful of a female, and women staff as a whole bring a nice balance to what's historically been quite a macho culture.

Deaths in custody are up there among the worst parts of the job. You feel so much for the family and the relatives but it has a massive impact on the staff as well.




Fran Jane, 31
Serving 9½ years for drug importation, HMP Styal, Cheshire

I woke up at 7.30, had a shower, got dressed, made my breakfast. We have roll call around eight each morning but the officers don't tend to wake us up; I have my own alarm clock.

I live in a prison house - in many ways it's like a large house, except that the front door is locked. There are 16 of us. You are free to move inside the house, and we all have keys to our own rooms. There are also cells elsewhere in the prison; the women doing detox or serving time for violent crime tend to go there. This month I'll have done two years.

Every morning I do admin support for the distance-learning coordinator. We went round to see the inmates in their units, checked how they were getting on with their courses, that kind of thing. I came back for lunch about 11.45 and then in the afternoon went to the "calm centre", where I work as an orderly. The girls can come there for education, computers, arts and crafts, to have their hair washed. I earn £10 a week for my morning job and £10 for the afternoon - that's quite a high wage in here. I'm trying to put away £10 a week for when I get out.

Our house is self catering, and there are three of us who take it in turns to cook; it was my turn so I did baked potatoes with fried chicken, onion and tomato. Most people have groups of a few people who they eat with each night, though at Christmas we all cooked a big meal together. It's a nice unit to be on; in general we all get on pretty well. I finished dinner about 5.15 and got ready for the gym. I go every day, mainly cardio stuff, because I'm trying to lose some weight.

I got home about 7.20, had a shower and did my studies - I'm doing an NVQ in business administration. I used to run a nightclub before I came to prison, so I do have some management skills, which really come in useful. With a criminal record I know it's going to be hard when I get out, so it's important to keep learning. My family live in Devon now, so they don't get up to see me very often, maybe once every four or five months. I do miss them, miss my freedom. But in general this is a nice jail. I could be in a cell somewhere.




Laura Kerr, 55
Probation officer, Sheffield

I arrived at the office at 9am, and in theory my first appointment was at 9.30. That person didn't turn up, however. Once I'd discussed his situation with a manager, it was decided that we ought to go ahead and do the necessary paperwork, so I spent the morning doing that, writing reports and risk assessments.

The man booked in for 10 did not come either. He is remanded on bail in a probation hostel to protect the victims of his offending. I would have been writing a report on him, but now I just issue a letter saying he's failed to come.

Given the pressure of work we're under, when people don't come, sometimes you just think, thank goodness for that, now I can get on with all the other work. I also fielded a lot of telephone calls today, such as one from a social worker who has been working with someone with serious alcohol-abuse issues, compounded by brain damage from a car accident. She was very concerned about the risk he poses to other people and to himself. Then there was a parole clerk from a prison telling me that someone had just been granted parole, which is one of the good bits of news we get every so often.

Two of the less serious offenders who have been on probation for about a year now have also done very well, so I'm taking their cases back to court to ask them to revoke the order a bit earlier in recognition of their good progress. I've been extremely busy, which is normal. I haven't mentioned half of the things that I did.




Michael Parker, 53
Wing therapist, G-wing (sex offenders), HMP Grendon, Bucks

I got to work around 7.30am; our first meeting is a handover briefing from the weekend staff at 8.30, but I like to be here early. I am a trained group analyst and the most senior of the therapists on G-wing, working with 40 men, all of whom are sex offenders.

At nine each morning we have a community meeting in which the inmates and as many staff as are available discuss the business of the wing, chaired by one of the inmates. One of the men was "winged", which means being held accountable for bad or antisocial behaviour in front of the whole community. It is based on a culture where you look at your behaviour and talk about it and take feedback from the other men and staff.

At 11 I had an assessment meeting with one of the men to discuss the targets for his behaviour. The idea is that the man talks about his offence and offending so we can assess whether he genuinely feels any remorse or sadness. The magical phrase is victim empathy. It's a hard one to come by.

I had lunch with colleagues, then a couple of business and administrative meetings. At three we had a sensitivity meeting, in which we meet as a staff team to deal with issues. In this role you are exposed to things that are often quite disturbing, which is tough. I left about 4.30 after handing over to the evening staff. I drove home, cooked and chatted to my family. I don't want to say too much about my home life; I never talk about where I live. I once had an ex-inmate appearing at the end of my road and I never like to give too much away. I was in bed about 10.30.

The thing about working with sex offenders, even if our work doesn't massively reduce people's risk of reoffending, it does give us a real window of understanding into why it happens. A lot of these people have undergone the most horrific experiences themselves. They find, oddly, that to do the same to other people takes away the pain.




Juliet Lyon, 58
Director, Prison Reform Trust

At 8.30am I finished two reports to charitable trusts outlining PRT achievements over the year. Our campaign with the Guardian managed to put a halt to transporting pregnant women prisoners in "sweat boxes". We also helped to save the post of chief inspector of prisons, which the government had proposed scrapping.

At 9.30 our press and policy meeting concentrated on two big events this week: the publication in Best and the Mirror of our SmartJustice opinion poll showing strong public support for community sentences for women; and Wednesday's launch by Baroness Quin in the Lords of No One Knows. This is PRT's new programme of work with Mencap on learning disability and learning difficulty - a forgotten world in prison.

At 11 I attended the Butler Trust award ceremony and learned about excellent work done against the odds. After a brief meeting with the chair of the Prison Officers' Association, I went to the International Centre for Prison Studies to discuss our joint project on young offenders.

Back to the office at about 4.45 for a meeting with our advice and information service. Today's calls were from prisoners trying to transfer closer to home, and families concerned about mentally ill relatives in prison. At 5.30 our head of policy and I discussed plans to alert people to the massive use of new indeterminate public protection sentences and progress on corporate manslaughter. It's extraordinary that government is trying to omit deaths in custody from the bill.

In the evening, I was a panellist on the Anita Anand show on Five Live.




Eddie Gilfoyle, 45
Serving 15th year of a life sentence for murdering his wife (he has always maintained his innocence), HMP Buckley Hall, Rochdale

I woke at seven to the same thought I have had each morning for almost 15 years - will today bring news that will overturn my wrongful conviction? Get up, make the bed, put the kettle on and shave while waiting for it to boil. Get unlocked at half seven, more coffee, then work at 8.30. I am now teaching industrial cleaning to other prisoners, having got all the qualifications. Return to cell at 11.30, get banged up till dinner at 12.20. Try phoning my solicitor but can't get through. Will ask a pal to pass message on.

Work in the afternoon, more bang-up, then tea and association. Phone friends and family, have a shower before last bang-up at 8.45. Read a paper, watch TV.

People who know I'm innocent ask me what the worst part of this is. I tell them: "My wife and unborn child died and I can't grieve for them until I'm free ... and it might be too late then." Apart from that, it's the waiting.




Alan Meyer, 41
Catering manager, HMP Cardiff

By the time I arrive at 8am, four or five of my staff and 23 prisoners are already prepping lunch. We have to feed 750 prisoners. The breakfast packs containing cereal and bread for toast are sent out to the seven wings the night before. Until six months ago, I was working in the forces and there isn't much difference. Here they get five choices for dinner; in the forces they get seven. For example, tonight they will get a choice of pork or vegetable chow mein, tuna pasta bake, tuna pasta and mayonnaise salad and a sandwich pack containing an egg roll, crisps and chocolate biscuit. For lunch, they get three hot choices - faggots and gravy, vegetable pizza and spicy sausage pizza. We also do some halal meals, as there are about 70 Muslim prisoners. They order the day before so we can cook the right amounts. The menu rotates weekly for a few months before changing. Tuna pasta bake is the most popular because most of them work out in the gym and want the protein.

I spend most of the morning doing orders and checking stock levels. Lunch for the prisoners is from 11.30-12. We then have an hour for our lunch before it all starts again at 1.30. The officers usually go outside for lunch - they don't have a canteen here any more. I usually leave at five, half an hour before the prisoners have their dinner.

I have a budget of pounds 1.79-pounds 1.84 per prisoner per day. It is very tight. We buy in things such as pizza bases, but we do make food fresh. We send out surveys every few months to see what prisoners want. Basically, they want chips every day and hate mashed potato. It takes three prisoners all morning to peel the nine sacks of potatoes we need. That's one of the best jobs in the kitchen, bar preparing the meat. But everyone starts with two weeks of "pan bashing" [washing up] so I can see if I want them working in the kitchen. Security is always an issue. All the knives are locked in a cabinet. They each have a tag and whoever is using them has to have the tag number by them at all times.

A day inside - part 2, G, 12.3.2007,






G2 special

A day inside - part 3

The prison system is in crisis. Our jails are bursting with convicts and crumbling with age. At least, that's what the headlines tell us. But what is daily life like for the 80,000 people locked up - and for the 25,000-plus who work with them? For this G2 special we talked to 42 people about one day last week - from Category A prisoners whose escape would endanger the public to Category Ds trusted with their own keys; from a money-launderer jailed with her baby to a teenager who caused death by dangerous driving; from the head of the prison service to a father whose son died in custody


Monday March 12, 2007


Mark Drew, 39
Reception officer, HMP Wandsworth, London

I was on the early shift today, which starts at 6.30am and goes on until lunchtime. The first thing we do is go up on the wings to collect prisoners due in court that day. They're moved to holding cells before passing through reception where they'll have a full strip search for any concealed items - drugs, mobile phones, tobacco. They also have all their property searched, x-rayed and logged. They will probably change into their own clothes, before going through to another holding area where they wait to be picked up by police vans.

We often have about 100 people passing through reception in one day, including remand and convicted prisoners; each person spends about 15 minutes going through reception. Experience tells you who will need more help to be put at their ease. For those few moments, you sometimes feel like a father figure - many prisoners come from broken backgrounds and have no fixed abode.

Around 8.30am, prisoners who need to go out to police stations are brought down by wing staff and because London jails are so overcrowded we also have a fair number due for transfer to prisons across the country. From 11.30 there's a chance to catch up on paperwork before prisoners return from court and police stations at midday. The reception process is repeated before inmates re-enter the prison. The late shift take over from 1pm and work until 9pm. The prison service doesn't get the credit it deserves; people think it is just a case of opening and locking doors but our role is to rehabilitate and we're a professional, hard-working organisation.




David Ramsbotham, 72
Chief inspector of prisons 1995-2001,
now a campaigner on prison issues

I spent the day at Buckingham Palace for the Butler Trust awards for prison staff and probation staff who have done particularly good or innovative work. One of the members of the awarding panel told me that the seven days he spent judging were the most inspiring of the last year. That's the upside. The downside is that the parts are better than the whole. The prison service consistently fails to turn the good practice for which these awards are given into common practice. How many of the good things that are done in a prison are still being done three years later? It depends on the governor. If he or she goes, the good things too often go with them. I also talked at length to a number of senior probation officers. I'm alarmed at the implications for them of the offender management bill [the controversial plan to part-privatise the probation service]. The bill is riddled with nonsense. If it's about setting targets rather than allowing people to deal with people then you are doomed to fail. It reminds me of when John Reid went to Wormwood Scrubs and criticised probation officers in front of prisoners. That was the worst example I have ever seen of poor leadership.




Prisoner Y, 40
Serving life under the two-strikes law for rape, kidnap and eight robberies, Wakefield high-security prison, North Yorkshire

I woke up at 7.30, had a wash, tidied myself up and pottered about in my cell. Unlock is around eight. I don't bother with breakfast, I just get a carton of milk. Prison food is horrible. I cook my own stuff with four inmates - we all put in money and share a "food boat". Around 8.30 I go to work as a cleaner. I've done cleaning jobs in a lot of jails so I'd say I was pretty good. You do not get security-cleared to clean on the wings with minimal staffing if you're an idiot. I get paid pounds 18 a week, and spend pounds 12 of this on food - mostly tinned stuff and fresh veg. I've met prisoners who are brilliant cooks. You learn off the Asian guys how to do the curries and an Albanian taught me how to do pizza.

I've been in prison most of my life. Most of my offences are drugs-related, and for a long time I had issues with addressing my behaviour. This place has been good for me. Before, prison was just an occupational hazard. When I left jail after a stint, I'd say, "You'll never see me again", but I'd be back in six months. Now I've done courses, had risk-reducing therapy and am about to do a course for sex offenders so that I have a chance when I get out. At seven we are locked up for the night. I write letters, watch TV, read and go to bed at 11-12. For me, it's easy to be occupied. If you can't read or write, and you're not into TV or music, you're in trouble. You'll get depressed and wound up.

The prison service has changed massively over the years. Gone are the days when you sat locked up for 23 hours a day. Even the abuse has gone over the past five years. The government or whoever has realised that the only way to stop people coming back is to concentrate on offending behaviour. There's a lot of psychology in the prison now.

I wouldn't say I was having a good time, but you've got to make the most of it. My next parole opportunity is later this year, but realistically it's going to be another three or four years before I get out. I'll have done 11 years then - double my tarrif. As well as the drugs, a huge issue for me was anger. But it's not a problem these days. Part of it is down to the courses, and part of it is just growing up. I'm more mature now.




Janet Rand
English studies coordinator in HMP Wormwood Scrubs, London

My job is a mix of teaching, organising projects and running the prison magazine. I spent much of the morning working on a new facility called "storybook dads". Prisoners with children read a book, which is uploaded onto a computer, put onto a CD and sent to their child. The idea is to try to keep families together - the loss of family plays a large part in reoffending.

I teach an English studies class in the afternoon. The literacy curriculum is boring and banal, so I tend to adapt it. We have a high number of second-language students because Heathrow is in our catchment area. The most important element of prison teaching is related to self-esteem. When people come to prison, the majority are at rock bottom, so when they come into your class they expose parts of themselves that they don't when they are outside. On the whole you see the best of them - they may well not be like that outside, but here they are discovering a side of themselves and being respected for that.

It's a very stressful environment, but not from the way people might think it is. Sometimes things happen that make you aware that you are in a dangerous place, but I don't ever feel threatened in the education department or on the wings. Most of the men are very respectful and in a dangerous situation most would want to protect you.




Richard Vince, 37
Governor, HMP Preston

I arrived at 7.30 and got a debrief - first in the security department, then from the orderly officer who would be running the jail for the day. We are a busy local prison with 750 inmates, and have to get a lot of prisoners to and from courts, so my first job is to make sure that's running smoothly. I then had a meeting with my deputy governor to assess the new regimes we've just introduced. We are starting more educational activities and lengthening the "core" day to allow staff to spend more time with prisoners. At 9.15, I and a dozen or so managers held our main operational meeting to discuss events over the weekend. We talked about a young man who had been transferred here from another prison because of behavioural problems. We also discussed releases for this week - I need to make sure all public protection issues have been dealt with. My staff reported on prisoners deemed to be at risk of self-harm or potential suicide - 14 today - and we will give them special attention and support. Between 9.30 and 11.30 I did the daily "governor's rounds" with the orderly officer, visiting different parts of the prison. It's important to be visible, to make sure prisoners and staff have access to me, and to listen to complaints and suggestions. After a sandwich lunch, I met two of my senior managers to discuss turning the old kitchen into a new activity centre that will allow us to expand our educational facilities. You have to treat prisoners as human beings. Our central aim is to reduce the risk of them reoffending.




Attiq Mohammed, 34

Prisoner on day release, serving eight years for possession with intent to supply, HMP Kirklevington Grange, Cleveland

My alarm goes off at 5.45am as I have to be out to work by seven after signing my licence. It's a dream at Kirklevington compared to the other prisons I've been in - Doncaster and Armley (Leeds). I have my own room with en-suite shower, basin and loo. We all have a colour TV, which costs us pounds 1 a week in electricity. No one wants to throw these privileges away, especially as most of us only have a short time before our release. I might be out by June.

Everyone here - about 230 prisoners - is working on the outside. I work at a timber merchants as a retail sales assistant. I do a 40-hour week earning the minimum wage. I had my own shop so I know what to do. I now have my own car to drive to work. I have to be back by 6pm, but if there's traffic the wardens are usually pretty understanding if I ring on my mobile and tell them what's happening.

Once back I have to put my phone in a locker, then I go to the gym until 7. We have tea from 7-7.30 and at 8 we have a roll check. By 9 I'm usually asleep. The wardens come round about every hour to check everything's OK, but I've even got my own key to my cell now.




Barry Smith, 42
Discipline officer, induction wing, Castington young offender institution, Northumberland

Every day is different on the induction wing. It is the most important wing in any prison. Every trainee who comes in goes into the induction wing so they can get settled and know what the prison's all about. It's also a good time for us, as officers, to keep an eye on them, and make sure they're coping. As soon as they come in they're given a phone call to friends or family to say that they're OK and we lay down detailed rules and regulations. The last thing I always say to them is that if they respect the officers, we will respect them. You hope it sinks in. This morning I came in to teach the juveniles, which I do part-time. Most of these kids would truant when they were at school, so getting them to sit in a classroom environment is hard to begin with.

I like to try to work my lessons around things that they're interested in - fast cars, football and prisons, would you believe - so a lot of the time I'll show them documentaries about prisons, which seems to keep their attention.

Today I taught a few lessons of English. We talked about them putting themselves in their victims' shoes, getting them to discuss what empathising is. Then we did a bit of role-play, where I put them into a situation where they're a parole board. We're trying to get them to stand up and challenge their offending behaviour. It went well today; it always goes well.




Deborah Coles, 44
Co-director of Inquest, which helps investigate deaths in custody

Early start, to attend the ongoing inquest for Gareth Myatt, a 15-year-old who died while being restrained by three officers in a secure training centre. I met Gareth's mother - I have been helping her and her lawyers with the case since his death three years ago. Late and incomplete disclosure of documents is an ongoing problem. The day's evidence exposes the high levels of restraint regularly being used on children to gain compliance, a purpose the Home Office/Youth Justice Board monitor accepts would be unlawful; that personal items are being removed from their bedrooms to wind them up ("provoking" children is also unlawful); and that children's complaints are being internally "investigated" without anyone bothering to speak to the children.

It was all deeply upsetting for Gareth's mum, so I spent time talking through her anxieties. I went back to the hotel at the end of the day. After a brief call to my children, I spent the evening working on the case with the lawyers, restaurant table piled with files. Ran into a family I worked with 10 years ago after their 19-year-old relative died after 23 hours in Feltham young offenders institution.




Tony Barr, 51
Head of offender management dept, in charge of resettlement, HMP Blantyre House, Kent

My job is about resettling offenders, preparing the way to their release. The main thing today was to have been a parole hearing for three lifers, but it was cancelled as no judge was available. The prisoners were distressed so I spent a bit of time talking to them.

It's tough trying to make sure things go well for prisoners after release. They've all got chaotic backgrounds and you know the odds are stacked against them. The main thing you have to think about is whether they will be a danger to the public. And the truth is that you do all you can to assess them, but the test comes when they are actually out. That's the aspect that weighs heavily in my job. Ex-prisoners need support, but that's often difficult. The main person they can turn to is their probation officer, but as that person has the power to return them to prison, they may not always feel they can reveal everything.




Marilyn Welsh, 53
Head of safeguarding, HMP Werrington, north Staffordshire

The prisoners here are men aged 15-18. Most have spent most of their lives in care; the average reading age is 7 1/2 years. In many ways, being here is more an opportunity than a punishment; society has let them down, and this is a chance to get them back on their feet.

My job is about prisoner safety. I started today as I always do, with a meeting with other staff to discuss individual cases. We talked about a lad of 16 who is going to become a dad. He has just been released and is desperate not to reoffend, but like so many others there are big problems. He was especially worried about being reunited with his mother, who he has not seen since the age of seven. We decided to arrange for him to be seen by the community psychologist so he has got some back-up for what's going to be an emotional and challenging time.

Later I talked to an officer about a prisoner we're worried about. Being locked up is terrifying for a young teenage boy, especially when he first arrives. I've got four sons. If they'd been up against what these kids have been up against, would they have turned out any differently? The odds have been stacked against them; they've known deprivation and disadvantage. If we're perceived as people who just turn keys and forget, I can tell you that the reality here is very different.




Mandy Ogunmokun, 47

In-reach drugs worker, HMP Holloway, London I walked to work and got in about 7.15am and my first meeting is at 7.30 where we find out what has happened over the weekend and what the day holds. I came back to the office and checked my messages. Heroin, crack and alcohol are the biggest problems and we see the same problems, and often the same faces, year after year. We see small improvements in the clients, just little things about attitude or behaviour, but addiction takes time to change.

At 8.30 we have a full team meeting which looks at all the issues for the week and I get a list of clients. I spend a lot of time with clients. They are often devastated when they come back in but I am always pleased to see them as it means they are alive and I tell them that means there is still hope. At lunchtime I popped out to grab a sandwich in Holloway. We had another meeting from 1pm. About 70% of the women who come here are drug addicts so we are central to what happens.




Peter Allen, 52
Serving two-and-a-half-year sentence for arson, HMP Elmley, Kent

I wake up at about 7.30 and get washed up and have breakfast in my cell. We're all unlocked at eight and we can get hot water for cups of tea. Then we go to our jobs. I had a few problems when I first got here. They found out that I've got diabetes. And also I tried to commit suicide - there was a lot on my mind. But I've been seeing a psychiatrist and a nurse who helps me control the diabetes and things are better now. At the moment I'm working as an orderly down in the segregation unit - that's the punishment block where prisoners go when they misbehave. I do the cleaning, and I get on pretty well with the officers. I keep my head down and I've got a clean sheet. I enjoy being an orderly actually, and I might think about going on doing it when I get out.

Before I came inside, I was a manager and I had a two-hour memory loss. That's when the arson happened. I can only vaguely remember it, but I did warn everybody to get out, and nobody got hurt. Now they think that the diabetes might have had something to do with it. I might be eligible for tagging soon. My wife lives in Somerset, and she's hoping I get my tagging - she's not very well herself, she suffers with depression. At five it's tea, then association and then we're locked up at 7.45. It's quite easy getting off to sleep, I work hard all day and with my diabetes . . . its another day done and that's it. Another day off your sentence.




Steve Campion, 23
Serving nine years for false imprisonment, Wayland Prison, Norfolk

I'm a race equality liaison rep, and my day started with an induction for a new prisoner. You've got to explain that we don't tolerate racial discrimination, but you've also got to explain that there are a lot of differences and misunderstandings in here.

I'm like most prisoners - I'm young and black and from London. Most of the officers are white men in their 40s and 50s; they've never known black guys, and there are a lot of cultural misunderstandings. The other day, some prisoners were playing dominoes and they got really rowdy. The officers thought there was going to be trouble, but the truth is that's just how Afro-Caribbeans play dominoes! You have to explain things like that. This afternoon I had a hospital appointment. I was cuffed to an officer and taken there by cab. It's humiliating: you go through the hospital and everyone is looking at you and you see mums with young kids looking frightened. It's horrible, really humiliating.

Seeing the doctor was difficult too. I've got a problem that would be embarrassing enough if I had some privacy, but when you're handcuffed to another person you feel really self-conscious. During my examination the officer put a long chain on me, but it's hard getting your clothes off and the whole thing is demeaning. I can understand why they have to follow procedures, but I think they could take your circumstances into account. I've no history of violence since I've been in prison, which was April 2005.




Becky Newton, 36
Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact) visit centre manager and first night worker, HMP Exeter

Before Pact existed, if you wanted to visit the prison you just had to queue up outside the gates and wait in the rain for them to be opened. Now everyone who wants to make a social visit has to come and book in via the Pact visitor centre. Monday was quiet - just 20 visits. We can have up to 36. My job as manager is to liaise between prisoners and their families, and put visitors at ease by answering any questions they have. Yesterday I helped one woman whose husband is coming out on a tag at the end of March and going to a probation hostel. She wanted to know if she could meet him at the gate. Another man was coming to visit his mentally ill son who was on remand, and he was concerned after the visit that his son wasn't very well. I was able to make a few phone calls and found out that his barrister was applying to a judge in chambers today for bail, so could tell him that he might be out by 10.30 the next day.




Moulana Sikander Pathan
Muslim chaplain, HMP & YOI Feltham

My normal day is from about 9am until 6pm, but I have been known to be here until about 9pm, running out before the gates get locked on me. We have three shared offices, two primarily for chaplaincy staff. The other is the Roman Catholic vestry/community chaplaincy office. I have four sessional chaplains (who are also imams from the community) who come and help with our work. We see about a dozen boys per day. There has been an increase in the number of Muslim prisoners, though I prefer to call them boys, not prisoners. Nationally, it used to be about 7% but now it's nearer 11%. I am one of very few full-time Muslim chaplains in the prison service. The day is taken up with four basic chaplaincy duties: receptions (seeing the new boys who have come in the night before), dealing with applications, daily visits to the segregation and the healthcare units. There are two types of visit: one is purely pastoral for your own faith community, the second is a generic visit, and we encourage both. When the boys come to prison and are going through a low patch (feeling suicidal, etc) quite often they open themselves up to a chaplain who is then able to provide the adequate support. I've been here for five years and it's nothing like the media says. About five years ago the government employed the first Muslim adviser at prison headquarters, and thatís when the changes really started. Occasionally we get a boy who has come in for a heinous crime. Two or three months after coming to service this boy will stand up and apologise just because heís been coming to worship and an understanding of right and wrong. The difficulty is to continue this when they leave, so we have started a Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust, which links the offender to volunteers/mentors in the community that theyíre returning to.




Prisoner Z
Serving 10 years for rape, HMP Albany

The first spyhole check was at 7am. At 7.35am I staggered to the washroom, stepping over a rainwater puddle on the landing. I emptied my toilet bucket, washed, then returned to my 7ft x 7ft cell. The hot water machine was broken again. At least Radio 3 sustains me. At 8.20am "Down for labour!" resonates up the hallway: since the intercom broke down three years ago E wing has developed a shouting culture. While others go to workshops, I study for my OU degree. Did my bowls course at 9am - that's something else I've learned in my four years here. Unfortunately this time it was spoiled by barracking and silly arguments: half the old codgers are deaf, the other half can't count. At 11.55am I collected lunch and my Guardian, and at 12 I was banged up. Listened to Donald Macleod on Radio 3, who helps me understand why I don't like Wagner. Lovely letter from my wife, the 995th. We talked at 6pm, exchanged stories of our days. Banged up at 6.45pm - listened to Mozart. Iím grateful I'm in a "four-star" prison, otherwise I'd go mad. But what else could a psychotherapist convicted of rape expect?




Pia Sinha, 34
Head of safer prisons, HMP Wandsworth, London

I worked in Wandsworth prison as a chartered psychologist before I took on the safer prisons role. Wandsworth is unusual in having a psychologist in this position. We always have meetings scheduled, but a lot of your work gets diverted into whatever the crisis might be that day. The highest-risk group for suicide and self-harm are first-timers in custody and those who are detoxing. People are very frightened when they first come to Wandsworth because of its reputation. We try to see the individual not just as someone who is coming to prison because they have committed a crime but as someone who is dealing with the impact of incarceration. It's a distressing time for them. Today we had a learning and development programme, where high-risk prisoners get intensive therapy. One of the prisoners was very anxious because he's got court on Monday. He is someone who historically would be very worrying for us because he's an impulsive character. He finds it very difficult not to react when he gets news. This time he was able to convey to officers that he was very anxious and he'd like to move to a safe cell at the weekend so he cannot harm himself.

June Marriott, 43
Head of education, Wormwood Scrubs

I managed to get a seat on the Central Line and grabbed some breakfast when I got in, so all in all not bad. Then the first lot of students started arriving and I had to help find them the right rooms - there were a couple who were lost. I also had to make sure all the teachers had turned up and were in the classrooms before anyone was allowed in. There were a couple of queries from students, one about funding and another who was doing the wrong level course. Then I had 30 minutes to go through 69 emails - you may have a plan for A to B here but you nearly always end up going via X, Y and Z. The first lot of students left and I had a couple of hours to catch up on other things. Today I interviewed new teachers and I have a new deputy starting, so I was helping him settle in. I even had time for a sandwich at my desk, which was an unbelievable luxury. In the afternoon we have a similar routine of students and classes. As far I am concerned the education service is the crux of the whole prison service. We are trying to ensure that what's available on the outside is also available on the inside. We are trying to offer these men a seamless transition when they leave.




Emma Ginn
North-west coordinator for the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

At 8.45am I went to the inquest of a prisoner found hanged at Harmondsworth Removal Centre, where I spoke to a journalist who asked, "What's the hook?" After that I talked to "Pierre", feeling awkward asking what implements Congolese guards had used to torture him and if he'd been raped. He is destitute, homeless and disbelieved. He asks how any immigration judge could say that his "ill-treatment in detention" did not "amount to torture", considering the Home Office describe Congolese prison conditions as "life-threatening", synonymous with disease, hunger, abuse, torture and death. At lunchtime I bought soap for "Jane", who can't understand why she has been detained for months even though her asylum claim hasn't been refused. In the afternoon I took a call from a mother with a screaming baby - totally desperate and inconsolable about her husband's deportation tomorrow. Then I talked to a doctor about "Hassan", a teenager who arrived as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child, and the hunger strike Hassan said he'd started. Then I tried to call a detainee but the detention centre phone rang off the hook six times. Later that evening I emailed my MP asking why my tax money is spent detaining men, women and children who are not accused of any crime at an average cost of £1,230 a week when 47% of them are later released.




Alphonsus Uche Okaf-Mefor
Nigerian asylum-seeker, Tinsley House removal centre, near Gatwick

I was allowed out of bed at 6am after another sleepless night. We are restricted to our rooms between 11pm and 6am. I watched TV to take my mind away from my problems. Breakfast at seven, but how can I eat when I could be dead soon? Watched the news about the British kidnapped in Ethiopia; thought about the Africans who, like me, were kidnapped in Britain. Asked about my medication - they are still not providing it. Later I heard from my solicitor. The Home Office has rejected a new appeal and the nightmares start again. He will apply for bail and a judicial review. Why do they reject my claim when we have provided photographic evidence of my Massob [Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra] activities in Britain and the Home Office's own policy is to grant asylum to members of Massob? Phone call from a supporter in the afternoon. Am so thankful that there are people fighting for refugees. All I wanted was to show people human rights abuses in Biafra/Nigeria. Now I will be returned to become one of the abuses. Spoke to solicitor. He seems to be doing his best. Nothing for me to do but hope and pray. Watched more television in the evening, but the guards turn off the power at 11 o'clock. I complained that this leaves me nothing to do. They replied: "You've only been here for a day and you're already causing trouble." I try to sleep.

· Because of security and victim issues,

some names could not be used.

A day inside - part 3,
G > G2,










Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia


justice, law, prison > UK



incarceration >

jails , prisons, penitentiaries, correctional facilities >




justice > courtroom artists > UK, USA



miscarriage of justice > UK, USA




home Up