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What's it like in prison?
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:11 am    Post subject: What's it like in prison? Reply with quote

I've just been reading a thread on another forum where this question was asked.
One guy responded with this sobering tale.

"I caused an accident after losing control of my car. It was sideways straddling both sides of a B road, a motorcyclist coming the other way came around a blind bend to be confronted with a car blocking the road. The impact launched him over my (destroyed) car and dumped him on the middle of the road, unconcious. His bike had been thrown some 14 metres back the way it came. My car dangled precariously over the edge of a drop past the verge.

After about a minute or so of getting my breath back following the airbag deploying, I realised I'd caused a very serious accident. I'd seen the motorcyclist only for a split second before the impact imploded against the B piller behind my head and shattered every window on the car. My sunglasses had disappeared from my face, glass from the door window was mingled with blood dripping from my face.

There was no way of opening the drivers door, I clambered over the passenger seat and observed one of the worst sights of my life.

For about 50 metres down the direction I'd come from, were the tell tale black lines of a skidding car. These were only interrupted by gouge marks on the road surface where car had met bike. In the middle of this lay the biker, motionless, unconscious, a mess. Onlookers, other motorists, were out of their cars but nothing more than background fuzz.

By the time I got out of the car, some other bikers had begun trying to help the badly injured guy laying on the centreline of the road. For a long minute, he didn't move, he didn't seem to breath. I'd just killed a man. Then some movement, some spluttering. Blind panic from someone who's just woken up to wish that he hadn't. His girlfriend, who had been a few minutes further behind on her own bike, arrived. Screaming and wailing, wondering how this has come to happen. No doubt a million thoughts all arriving at once. Most of them fearing the worst.

First aiders helped on the scene, I didn't know how to help medically. I was guilty, impotent and wondering how I'd gone from an enthusiastic drive to a potential killer in the space of 50 metres. It only took 3 or 4 minutes for the Police to arrive, I volunteered myself immediately as the guilty party. I was breath tested and questioned on-scene, sat in a Volvo, bleeding on the back seats whilst in full view of the prone motorcyclist, by this time being worked on by the paramedics who'd arrived, hoping the patient could last long enough for the air ambulance to arrive.

I'll never forget that poor man, lying there screaming for his helmet to be taken off, his girlfriend in tears and despair and me, not badly injured, no reason to have caused this, other than wanting to enjoy the road.

The motorcyclist spent days in intensive care, being treated for most of his right arm being smashed to pieces, his collarbone wrecked, serious head injuries, damaged eye socket, chipped bones on his ankle and a massive nerve injury. A year later and even after a number of operations, he still has many to go to correct his broken body and his impaired eyesight. The nerve damage to his dominant right arm means he'll never regain full use of it. He can no longer support his children by working on the rigs as he did beforehand.



My car was impounded by the Police and kept from the day of the accident, 30th April 2006 until the July. I was first formally interviewed in June 2006, then again in September. I was charged via postal summons in November last year. Magistrates passed the case to Crown Court on 13/12/06, as their sentencing powers were not sufficient and at that point I knew I was going to prison.

10 days short of a year after my accident, I pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and banned from driving for 3 years, for dangerous driving. Aside from the odd speeding conviction (I was driving 65,000 miles a year for the previous 10 years), I had never been in trouble with the Police before.

There was no feeling, no shock, no crying or anger when I was sent down from that court room. Just numbness. As the judge finished his sentencing, I had just one opportunity of shouting to my other half how much I loved her, before being lead into the downstairs of the court. The guard, a nice guy in his late 50s, explained that he had to handcuff me to himself, and down I went. Immediately down, through a number of locked, barred gates, to a booking in counter. All my possessions, and my belt, taken. My height measured. All my details recorded. Then 4 hours in a windowless cell with nothing but a wooden bench and contemplation for company.

4.30pm on a sunny Friday afternoon, leaving a happy looking Carlisle, but for me, in the back of a paddywagon. Watching people leaving school and work with a smile on their faces, looking forward to a weekend of choices. I was heading to HMP Durham.

You can say what you like about prison, and how easy it is, how great you think the facilities are, how prison is like a holiday camp. It's none of those things. It's a demeaning, soul-less place full of sad and sometimes evil people who have lives none of us would ever want or even imagine. All the freedoms you take for granted are removed in the name of control and security to the point that you're constantly reminded how little value society as a whole places on your miserable little existence.

I could write reams and reams about the prison system and the feelings being in it evoke, but I fear to do so would be heavy reading for the casual PHer. I would be happy to answer any questions people have about prison or my ordeal, though".
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He continues with a diary-like entry:

"Day 1, April 20th 2007

When I left that courtroom, my friends, family, normal life and worst of all, Jilly [my OH] I felt nothing but numb. Only a few steps behind the courtroom and youíre in a whole new underground world. The guard handcuffs his arm to mine, heís a decent guy in a sh*tty job, my chirpy small talk is probably a pleasant change for him. Iím only hiding the shock, though.

We arrive at the holding cells area of the court to a reception desk, where itís goodbye to my belt and tie- you know why, too. Lots of form filling follows, whilst my now worldly possessions are removed, inspected and logged from the bag Iíd brought with me. Never has a pair of grey briefs looked so f*cking pathetic. Iím told I canít take most of the toiletries Iíve brought with me, such as toothpaste, shower gel (no soap on a rope) and shampoo. Theyíre bagged up separately and given back to my barrister upstairs. HMP Durham is the usual first port of call for custodial sentences from Carlisle, but as the prisons are so full, the guards downstairs canít confirm where Iíll be going tonight.

Four hours in a bare cell with just a wooden bench. A million thoughts are still gliding aimlessly through my mind. I canít complain, this is all about punishment and no better time to start than now. ďgez scouse on tourĒ, ďkellez kendal krewĒ and hundreds of other works of art list the previous tennents whoíve enjoyed my surroundings. At least reading those takes my mind off the stench of p*ss.

Itís about 4.30pm, another short walk, handcuffed again, and weíre on the wagon. At least itís movement, at least somethingís happening. Itís confirmed Durham have space, and with that, weíre off. The cells in the prison wagon are about half the size of a plane toilet, you sit on a hard moulded plastic seat, and the cell wall in front of you has a cut-out for your knees. At 6í I just manage to fit in without struggling, god knows what itís like if youíre pretty tall? Thereís a window to look out of, youíre on the other side of those blacked out windows that press photographers try to snap through when someone (in)famous gets a ride from Her Majesty. Itís a warm, sunny late spring Friday afternoon and as we head out through the Carlisle traffic, the everyday people are leaving their everyday schools and jobs, planning their everyday, legal Friday nights. In freedom. Itís hard not to begrudge all those happy looking people, very hard. I wonít be planning my Friday nights, or any other night for a while. For now my nights, and my days, will be planned for me.

Around 6pm we arrive at HMP Durham. Itís moments like this you realise how much your freedom is a gift, as four of us are unloaded and herded into the prison, up the stairs and into the reception area. Five or six prison guards are behind a large desk, scurrying around, creating the paperwork to put us into the system. Weíre told to wait in a large, perspex walled waiting rooms until our names are bellowed and you begin answering what become standard prison questions; ďBeen in Durham before?Ē, ďBeen in prison before?Ē, ďDrug problems?Ē. Somehow I feel unique in answering no to all three. Iím asked if I know what to do if I discover a prisoner whoís overdosed. Iíve never really thought about it, to be honest.

Back to the perspex room and wait for another shout, where Iím given my prison number, VT4352, and handed some of the clothes Iíve brought into prison with me. Iím allowed 12 items of clothing, a couple of writing pads and my nearly empty toiletry bag. Every item is logged, signed for by both the guard and me and the items I canít have are put into storage.

Next up is another room to be fingerprinted. No high tech, just an ink pad and sheet of card. I stand against the wall as my photo is taken and ID card is produced. Mustang Sally is playing on the radio and the guards donít waste an opportunity to take the p*ss. Thank god these guys are human.

At the back of the same room is a hatch manned by inmates, where Iím handed my prison issue clothes; two T-shirts, tracksuit bottoms, sweatshirt, prison jeans and a short sleeved shirt. Then itís into a cubicle where Iíd stripped and searched, my suit put into storage, I wonít be wearing it for a while. Luckily Iím allowed to put my own clothes on. As sad as it sounds, familiar clothes have a strange comfort to them, like theyíre braving a strange journey with me.

A quick interview with a nurse, weighed, then another guy in another office. The three question repetition; ďBeen in Durham beforeĒ, ďBeen in prison before?Ē, ďAny drink or drug problems?Ē, no, no and no. Still.

E Wing is an induction wing, I arrive clutching a clear plastic bag full of my clothes, bed sheets and paperwork. Like all the staff so far, the officer greeting me was very polite and very concise although a little flustered by having so little time due to staff shortages. He runs through some of the basics, hands me my pack of plastic plates and cutlery then explains some of the routines, but by now itís passed 9 oíclock, Iím emotionally and physically wrecked, thereís too much to take in. ďYouíll pick it upĒ he assures me. Not like Iíve got much else to do, is it?

Iím given some emergency phone credit and use the phone by the wing office to ring Jilly. Iím too headf*cked to crack up over the phone, but itís so amazing to hear Jilly on the other end. Only 9 hours ago I was holding her in the waiting area of court. It feels like that happened in a previous life. Iíve found out youíre allowed a special reception visit when you first come into prison where loved ones or friends can come for one visit in the first few days. Jilly, Mum and Dad have already phoned the prison and booked themselves in for tomorrow. I wish it was tomorrow, now. As much as I try to reassure her Iím OK, sheís cracking up. Itís harder for her than for me.

Mark, my new cell mate, is a star. I arrive at cell 3-15 like a lost puppy, a bag of clothes in one hand, linen in the other and more cloth in my head than both put together. Without a prompt Markís got me organised. It takes him a minute to do what would have taken me hours, sorting the bedclothes, putting stuff in cupboards for me. Finding someone decent for a cell mate has been the first good thing of the day. The only good thing.

Having a portable TV in the room was a godsend I wasnít expecting. More useful as background noise, helping me doze during the evening, proper sleep wasnít going to happen, so I grab a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Iím not exactly a conversational masterpiece".
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Old-Nail
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the unfortunate honour to be able to confirm both the process and sentiments of the above writer.
I was attacked in a road rage incident on my way to work in the notorious Cheetham Hill area of Manchester back in 1998.

Unfortunately for the attacker, I am a 'no-nonsense' type of guy and defended myself well... or rather too well according to the judge who sentenced me to spend six months at her majesties pleasure in the category A Strangeways prison for 'causing bodily harm' to the attacker!

At the time I was 38 years old, a company manager with excellent credentials, no previous convictions, a mortgage, two kids etc.
My attacker was a angry skinhead youth of around 27, driving a beat up old escort and looking for trouble

During our clash he got from me what he thought he was going to dish out to me, and yet I was imprisoned in one of the countries toughest category A* prisons and made to serve the full term there.
* Category A Prisons house the highest category criminals i.e. Murderers, armed robbers, drug barons etc)

As a consequence of my imprisonment I lost my job, and then my home as my employment prospects plummeted because of the criminal record that I now had.
The family finally collapsed because of arguments and recrimination resulting in divorce after 23 years of marriage.

I finally found regular work as a nightclub doorman, ironically the only industry where my criminal record didn't appear to matter. I worked the doors for several years until yet another of NuLabours 'initiatives' was introduced - the removal of all doorstaff licences if they have a previous criminal record.
Once again I became unemployed!

I appealed against the loss of my license which would mean the loss of my livlihood yet again, despite having seven years of continuous work in the security industry without complaint or incident, despite having professional qualifications, and testimonials to my ability and professionalism from former employers, nightclub/bar owners, and customers alike my appeal was rejected on the grounds that I had once spent a term in prison and therefore must be the kind of person this law was targeting. (Their words)

I ended up alone, unemployed, in a council flat at 44 years of age and nothing to show for a life spent 'doing the right thing'.
All this from setting out one morning to go to work as normal, a thing I had done a thousand times before, never suspecting that life could change so unalterably in the space of a few moments on what seemed 'just another day at the office'!

There but for the grace of God go I should be the thoughts uppermost in the mind of anyone who reads such cautionary tales, It can and does happen to 'ordinary' people like us...and when it does, the law makes no distinction in dealing with you!
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62rebel
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i could never comprehend the speed with which your liberty is removed. you truly have my sympathies, and i wish i could do something to help other than think positive thoughts for you. so what were you supposed to do when attacked? run? let the cretin beat you to a pulp? i'm in a fog about this enforced inability to act in your own defense.
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Old-Nail
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to the Rt. Honorable Judge that sentenced me, I should have ran away - or failing that I must only use the minimum force required to fend off the attacker until such time as I could then report the incident to the proper authorities.
(who as we all know unfaillingly track down and punish such people - NOT!)

During that entire legal process I learned an incredible amount about the actual as opposed to theoretical workings of our British legal system, I would hazard a guess that most ordinary law abiding people (like me) would be horrified at the ineptitude displayed by several institutions related to the defence of each persons liberty.

Examples would be the solicitor that advised me to enter a 'no-plea', which entailed several months of court appearances. It seemed strange to me to be advised that as I had wanted to plead guilty from the beginning, after all I did commit assault albiet under extreme ly provocative circumstances.
I later found out that the solicitor had advised that plea simply to play out the length of time before sentencing as, over a several month period he was collecting exhorbitant additional letter writing and court appearance fees which a simple guilty plan would have precluded!

It's such an eye opener to be exposed to this kind of money grubbing corruption, especially from the person entrusted with defending your liberty!

There was so much I learned from the experience of my incarceration that today, when I tell anecdotes of those dark days people are quite often shocked, they think something like that could only happen to 'criminals!'

Despite the terrible experiences I have been lucky enough to find a new partner who is also an Artist. We spend the days painting and make a living through our art so things can't be that bad, and for anyone interested I am currently working on a book that chronicles my 'adventures' of the last decade.... guarranteed interesting reading!
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62rebel
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wasn't it your chap Shakespeare that quipped "first, we'll kill all the lawyers"? smashing good idea, that; nothing worse than a barrister on a case; they're like sharks in bloody water. over here, the sheer amount of civil litigation clogs up our court system so badly it's incomprehensible.
it's long been my opinion that there are two places to stay clear of at all costs; the hospital and the courtroom. if you end up in either one, you're as good as dead, or wishing you were. did you ever wonder why doctors and lawyers both call their professions a "practice"? it's because they don't have the first clue how to HELP you, only how to subtract your cash from your person. rant over.
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PACresta
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your true life story Old Nail sounds so unbelievable, i admire your true grit and am pleased to hear you are making things work for you now.

Many people (probably including myself) would have totally buckled under those sort of conditions and ended up shabilly dressed and on the streets.

Wishing you success for the future Very Happy
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pigtin
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once had a friend who was a magistrates clerk and had a very cynical outlook as regards our legal system. He told me that in the UK, you would get the law. not justice.
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Old-Nail
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's something none of us 'ordinary' folk actually even think about - being imprisoned I mean.

Unless you are inclined to trouble and accept arrest as an 'occupational hazard' then there's absolutely no reason why one should give it a second thought which is what makes it all the more shocking when you realise that you are suddenly on the wrong end of the law.

Here's a story from todays newspaper:

MANCHESTER A man who stopped to help at a motorway accident has made an official complaint after police hit him with a baton, handcuffed him and arrested him.

Graeme Deacon was on the M67 near Hyde, Manchester, when he saw the accident on the opposite carriageway. He crossed over and helped the driver to safety. Then a second car drove into the back of the first and caught fire. Mr Deacon helped to free the young driver. Police arrived and offered to drive him to his vehicle. But Mr Deacon said: ďThe carriageway was empty. I could have crawled across on my hands and knees. There was absolutely no risk. A police officer said, ĎYouíll wait as long as it takes, whether itís five minutes or two hours. Youíll stay there.í I went to walk off and three of them pushed me face down in the gravel, hit the back of my legs with a baton and handcuffed me. One said, ĎShut up or Iíll spray you with CS gasí.Ē

Mr Deacon, of Glossop, Derbyshire, was released without charge after an hour in custody.


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2532563.ece

It's happening day after day, week in week out, nationwide. This country is sleepwalking into oblivion, and because it is happening individuals one by one, the general public are not aware of what is happening - and until they wake up to the injustice that is being commited in their name then nothing will change.

(edit: fix link RJ)
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62rebel
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

you are definitely correct in noting that enforcement agencies are becoming ever more powerful in reducing the rights of the citizen. it's become so simple to delegate authority to the enforcement officer for increasingly important issues which SHOULD be seen to by much more senior investigators and magistrates, yet they are dealt with on a lower level in answer to a need to keep the dockets clear. so instead of getting JUSTICE, you (and I!) are dealt the LAW by persons with no professional education in the subject other than ENFORCEMENT. the cop on the beat should have no other duty than to keep the peace; answer simple complaints and make arrests for such crimes he may witness or answer in his duties. let the appropriate investigation units process CRIME; let the Bobby make his (or her) rounds.
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