This is a really difficult post for me to write. I started this blog in 2013 and, as somebody here pointed out to me today, it is my baby. I am proud of it. I am hugely defensive of it. I have fought to keep it going through thick and thin and even when I had to take an extended break from it I was prepared to do so purely because this was what was necessary to keep it alive in the long term. I had thought that Grendon, being the enabling place that it is, would have been more encouraging of it than other prisons. I now know that this is not the case. Allow me to explain why. Continue reading
When prisoners arrive on the assessment unit here at Grendon we are told that we will be on this wing for up to six months, though it can be longer. However, within hours of arriving here I was introduced to Shaun (all names are changed on this site), who had just been told he was ‘getting a wing’ (moving from the assessment wing to a therapy wing) after just eight weeks on assessment. Continue reading
I have always been a shy person. Not many people who know me now realise that. When I tell them so, many struggle to believe it. The truth is, I compensate for that part of me with forced confidence. I spent too many years allowing my shyness to inhibit me and I missed out on many opportunities because of that. I won’t allow that to continue. So I am glad I compensate. I have occasionally taken that into the realms of overcompensating. However, I now feel that (most of the time) I manage to keep just about the right balance, including challenging myself when appropriate to do so. One such occasion came up recently. Here at Grendon one of the rep jobs you can apply for is Entertainment Rep. It puts you front and centre and demands that you get in amongst the crowd, putting on events and activities for the wing to enjoy. It is the last job I would ever feel confident putting myself forwards for. Which is exactly why I did. Continue reading
When I was outside, aged sixteen, around the time I committed the offences that led me to prison, I had a bit of a drink problem. For years that was how I phrased it. I refused to call myself an alcoholic because I never hit a point where I felt that I had to drink every day. There were days I didn’t drink at all. Not many, but they existed. Having said that, I did drink most days, and the average amount that I drank was upwards of a litre of vodka or white rum every day. To say that I had a bit of a drink problem is more than a bit of an understatement. But then, a few years ago, it all changed. Continue reading
For as long as I have been in prison, I have heard other prisoners describe work in jail as “slave labour”. I used to always disagree with this on the grounds that we are paid and, if we refuse, we are not thrown to the lions. However, it was pointed out to me that whilst we may not be thrown to the lions, we are frequently subjected to other, alternative punishments such as loss of privileges. In addition, we may be paid, but so were the slaves of ancient Greece and Rome, albeit a meagre sum – not too dissimilar from the amount we receive in prison. It strikes me that different prisons have varying attitudes towards work and I have experienced most of them. What I didn’t expect was the unique approach I experienced on arrival here at Grendon. Continue reading
Here at Grendon there are no less than five different types of meeting that we are required to attend on a weekly basis, and that’s just on the assessment wing. I hear that when my assessment is complete and I move to a therapy wing there will be even more. One of these meetings is called a ‘minute meeting’ and this raised an interesting question for me: When is grassing, not grassing? Continue reading
On my second day here at Grendon, sitting in my friend Ray’s cell (all names are changed on this site), I looked out of the window, across the small wing exercise yard and through the yard fence just ten metres away or so, to a large area of grass. There, for the first time in nearly two decades I saw a rabbit. Continue reading
Walking onto the assessment wing here at Grendon for the first time was unlike arriving on the wing in any other prison I’ve been in. The wing gate opened onto a wide corridor and, as I pulled my trolley full of property onto the wing, I noticed that there were only half a dozen people around and there was no noise whatsoever. In most jails I’ve been to it is very different. Most are beyond loud. The sheer chatter of between 30 and 200 prisoners (dependent upon the size of the wing) all talking to one another soon mounts up into a cacophony of voices that feels like a wall of sound, separating you from the various established groups of prisoners who each stare down at you (usually over the rails of a higher landing) as you struggle on your own to heave multiple bags of heavy property behind you. But not here. Here it is different.
After waking up early yesterday, I was raring to go. My time had finally come and I was to be transferred at last. We were unlocked at 5 am and I immediately did a circuit of the wing. Everyone I knew, everyone I had been a neighbour to, everyone who had been a friend to me, they would all be going to work in a matter of minutes and I couldn’t leave without saying my goodbyes.
It is exactly 5am and I am writing this in bed on what will be my last day here at HMP Wakefield. That’s right. Today I get transferred. So much has changed since I was lasting posting here regularly. It’s hard to know where to start.