Eventually your prison truck will approach the gates of the local prison where you progress will be slow and checked and each stage until at last you are released one at a time handcuffed to an escort into the "care" of the prison where you will spend the future.
You have arrived at Reception.
As a first timer, you are in for another shock. You will first be registered, all belongings taken off you, photographed, fingerprinted and eventually held pending clothing. Then it is time to strip off and at this stage you might be searched internally. This must be done with more than one officer present and you do have the right to be searched by an officer of the same sex. Not all prisoners are searched in this way but if you are inside for a drugs offence it is quite likely that you will suffer this fate. You will then dress in prison clothes, these days a track suit. You have heard of one size fits all, this is more the reverse of all sizes fit one. These will be your clothes until the first clothing issue which could be almost a week away or during Christmas longer than that. You might be allowed to keep your own shoes.
If you are on remand then you have a right to keep your own clothing.
After waiting again in a holding cell it is time to meet the Nurse. It is important that you should advise her of any medical condition from athletes foot to diabetes or any disability. Your life in the prison will reflect your abilities and you should remind Prison Officers about this when appropriate.
You will probably have been asked already how you are going to cope with Prison and frankly you will not have the faintest idea. You will already be bewildered and frightened at where you have arrived. If you do feel in the slightest suicidal you should say so. You can talk to the nurse with some degree of confidence that Prison Officers will not get to know and that it will not be revealed to other prisoners. Around you you will see warnings about drugs and urging you to give up smoking. If you have an alcohol problem you can get help.
At Reception you will be given an advance of £4 on your spending money which you will repay over a few weeks. This is not real cash but you can spend it on tobacco and a phone card or on two phone cards if you do not smoke.
It might by this time be tea time and so you will be fed. Water and dried sandwiches is not an exaggeration. Food does get better, but not much. If you have diet or religious reasons for rejecting certain foods then say so and they will try to respect your wishes. If you do not speak English then you will not be reading this site but maybe someone is helping you through it. If so, then be aware that you have a right to be spoken to you in your mother tongue. Eventually it is time to pick up your bedding role and taken to the Wing.
In a holding area you will become the subject of curiosity by inmates. Some will greet others as long lost friends meeting up once again. As a first timer this will be frightening and you will feel suddenly lonely and vulnerable. It has the feeling of the worst of American prisons. You are no longer Mr X or Mrs Y but known just by your last name and number.
You do not have the right to choose your cell mate, you do not have the right to a no smoking cell. In older prisons, and most local prisons are old, you will soon realize that the image of prison as seen in Porridge is correct. You will be allocated to your cell and the door will slam shut behind you. BANG! Time to make the bed and get settled in. If you are lucky there will be a pillow, mine was hard as steel.
If you are lucky you will get on with your cell mate, otherwise life could be hell! You will quickly learn to swear, even if you do swear you will learn how to. Time to cry maybe and to think of loved ones.
You have arrived, make the most of your primitive surroundings.