You will slowly adjust to the fact that you can make no decisions, there is no where to go, there is no way out. You have to make the best of it and look forward. I am not sure how I could have coped with a long sentence but the prospect of a few weeks or months was not too worrying - but still frightening.
A local prison is run to keep you locked up, so don't be surprised if you are locked up 24 hours a day unless you are collecting your meal. The day starts with noise at about 6-30 am as the milk for breakfasts is delivered. Around 7am those going to court are got out of bed as they have to go to reception to change into normal clothes, to be searched before traveling in the lovely white truck to court.
You will also hear the shout "Servery" that is to get the servery workers out of bed to distribute the breakfast. Or, "Cleaners" to get them on the job. Every command is shouted every cell door a loud and menacing clang. For us the most annoying was a PO who incessantly whistled "The Great Escape".
For the rest of you 8am approaches and you can hear everyone being unlocked cell be cell. Most likely the PO will say nothing at all but this is likely to be breakfast. The UHT milk cartons will fly into your cell and be quick to push outside your cup for hot water. You should have some tea bags to make a brew. We soon found that if we quickly poured the hot water into a flask we could make one bag do two cups. It looked like tea but tasted - well nothing like tea I have ever had before or since.
At weekends, breakfast is served at the servery and is a cooked breakfast.
Click here for a typical daily routine.
In a flash that is breakfast. Around 8-30 you will hear those going to work being let out of their cells and then around 9-00 all goes quiet. Maybe time for a sleep or to see the Benefits Agency to talk about problems with your house and fears it might no be there for you when you come out of prison. What happens if you get behind with your rent - they can sort it out. For the first time perhaps these people seem helpful - remember they are civilians doing their job. They will try to help.
But perhaps all goes quiet and it is time for a letter home, reading a book if you have one or sleeping.
In no time it is approaching noon and time for lunch. You will hear the workers coming back and being locked up. Remember lunch is your first meal since tea time at 4-30 the previous day. There will be a vegetarian choice and special meals for those who require them for religious reasons. If you don't like the meal on offer - bad luck you starve. In the old Victorian Prisons you will hear "1s, get the 1s." then "2s" or "3s and 4s". Eventually "any more B wing". If you hear this and have not had a meal then press your emergency button. If you are lucky it will be answered before the food is all gone. If not, you starve.
You are let out to go down to collect your meal. Take with you your cup to make a cup of tea of coffee. Do not take your flask. In my prison the flasks were only to be used at night but we quickly learnt how to get two flasks full at lunch time and also a cup. With extra tea bags or decent coffee bought from canteen we were able to have a good brew any time of the day.
After eating lunch behind locked doors the door will suddenly open to the shout of "Trays". This means you have to put your tray outside the door. A sadistic PO can take this opportunity to kick or thump you but I never encountered this. Most of the time the POs were swearing, threatening, rude and uncaring but none of them were violent. Just one of them was human and would talk.
Tea at 4pm is the last meal of the day and very similar to lunch. I happened to be inside over Christmas - how could you tell it was Christmas? Well for lunch and tea we had sprouts, the rest of the time it was cabbage and carrots.
The last call for trays means you are locked up for the rest of the night.
Most prisons take you in on the Standard Regime - here are your entitlements:
Remand and Prisoners awaiting Trial
You can move up to enhanced after 7 weeks subject to your application being approved. You can drop a regime by order of the Governor.
Discipline is maintained by a system of strikes. Any Prison Officer can give a Strike. At one time these used to be a hit with a stick or strap but today it is a paper exercise. 3 Strikes within 8 weeks and you are on basic regime. Although you are determined to keep your nose clean it is easy to get three strikes in 8 weeks. Frustrations easily lead to loss of temper and given the amount of swearing by Prison Officers it seems to me unjustified that a fellow inmate got a strike for telling a PO to "fuck off".
On basic regime you get no Association, no Gym, no Work and no Education. £2.50 only buys one phone card and no tobacco. It is times like that that Prisoners commit suicide or slash their wrists.
Below Basic Regime is the Block. You are liable to go on the block for fighting and other offences against other prisoners and Prison Officers. The Block is solitary confinement, dark dingy damp cells, meals passed in through a hatch. The next thing to death.
Rights of Appeal
If you have a genuine grievance with the award of Strikes or Down-Grading you can make an application to the PO of the Wing you are on giving the grounds for your appeal. If you are still unhappy you can use the usual avenues of complaint. ie Governor's Application or Request Complaint Form.
This seems to be a futile exercise. The Wing PO will always support the Prison Officer who gave you the strike. In any event the procedure is to request a complaint form. It usually takes up to 7 days to get one - everyone will resist giving you one. Once filled in don't think that this is actually making you complaint - all you have done is given all your case to the Prison Officers for them to prepare their defence and eventually you will get the actual Complaint Form. To get a grievance heard could take weeks and all of this time of course you have lost your regime. What is lost can never be got back. Getting to see the Governor is as easy as escaping.
If you happen to get through the procedure and win - the good luck to you. Prison Officers will not forget. There are though some exceptions to this as there are some good Prison Officers who will help you. If you are decent with them they will repay your decency.