I remember being just 17 and in HMP Warren Hill as a juvenile. I had a personal grievance with one of the other lads and we actually had a few scuffles. It was never anything too serious but he was a fair bit bigger and stronger than me at that time and staff began to pick up on it. One officer in particular already had it in for the other lad and got it into his head that he could use me to get to him.
He collared me on my own once and asked me to put in a statement saying the other lad was bullying me. I point blank refused and walked off, not even wanting to get involved in what was clearly a very personal vendetta, but the screw wouldn’t let it drop.
Over the following few weeks he asked me time and again, with a little more insistence each time, and then finally he became aggressive. He told me that if I didn’t tell him everything that the lad was up to on the wing and put in a statement against him, he would have me on basic regime over Christmas and make sure the rest of my time on the unit was an absolute misery. I have to be honest, I did consider it. For all of ten minutes. Then I realised what I had to do.
I spoke to a member of the education staff about it and then sat with her and talked it through with one of the senior officers. The screw in question had wanted me to tell all and put in a bullying report, so I did. Against him.
He backed off for a bit and, naively, I thought that would be it. But it wasn’t. Not all prisoners were as stubborn as me and the officer soon found another one who was more than willing to help.
I was standing with a mate at his cell door one day when another lad came up and started joking around with us. We had a bit of banter and then he playfully pushed me. I did the same back and he immediately fell to the ground. It seemed comical at the time. I hadn’t even shoved him. The push wouldn’t have moved a full shopping trolley, and yet here he was doing his best Tom Daley routine. Then I turned around. Standing right there at the other end of the landing with a big grin on his face was the very same officer I had complained about. “You’re nicked!” he laughed.
I was put on report for assault and though I argued on the adjudication that not only had I been playing around, I had also pushed the lad back when he pushed me, they refused to dismiss the charge or even to amend it to fighting instead of assault, and they found me guilty. The officer hadn’t managed to get me on basic over Christmas, but it wasn’t long after New Year’s that he did.
Looking back on it, I don’t regret what I did in reporting the officer, but I do wonder how different my sentence might have been if I hadn’t. That incident led to staff there taking a new attitude towards me and to me bucking back against them somewhat. That may have coloured the impression I gave at my arrival at my next prison and could well have had a far reaching knock on effect. At the very least, I know that adjudication has been counted against me on sentence planning meetings and parole hearings since then, and it remains on my record to this day, albeit twelve years ago. Might that one decision have cost me more than I’ll ever know?