I remember when I first came to prison, back in 2002 when I was just 16. I had a conversation with an officer on my wing and I must have said something to him like “You must think your job’s great. You clock on, have a cuppa or two, tell a few prisoners you can’t help them and that they should put an app’ in, have a roll around with anyone who’s awkward and get your anger out, and then bugger off home for the weekend”. It was banter and we were both winding one another up, but when I said that his face changed, he became very serious.
He looked me in the eye and simply said, “In an adult prison maybe. But not here. Do you think that I enjoy beating kids up?” I stopped joking immediately. The conversation was over.
It is officers like him who I truly believe do not enjoy the restraint aspect of their job at all. Especially when they are working with juvenile prisoners. But I have also experienced the more ‘trigger happy’ element.
At another prison around a year later, I was sitting in the TV room when another lad ran up and hit me in the back of the head. I stood up and turned around to defend myself and, if I’m honest, I would absolutely have laid into the guy in question if I’d had a chance. But I didn’t. I didn’t throw a single punch. No sooner had I turned around than an officer rugby tackled me to the ground, twisted my arms up my back, and held them there with one hand whilst he drove my face into the floor with the other. The fact that I wasn’t struggling at all and tried to keep calm despite the pain as I explained I wasn’t doing anything wrong made no difference whatsoever.
It takes all sorts to work in prisons, and juvenile prisons are no different to adult ones in that respect, but as more and more cases hit the news and the courts in response to unlawful force being used against children, I have to wonder how civilised our criminal justice system is at all.