Ten Inside

I’ve been talking to Ross Greenwood again, and picking up more unusual and unexpected tips on what life is like inside a prison.  This is a distillation of the things he’s said, and it makes for interesting and in places uncomfortable reading.  But if you want to portray a life inside, working in one or two of these points may help bring a new level of realism to your story.

  1. New inmates often arrive hungry. Having been in court all day and then stuck in transport van, they haven’t had the appetite or opportunity to eat. Newspapers make out that all prisoners are hardened brutes who sneered at the system, but all except the insane fear the courts. Hunger isn’t a concern until the verdict is in.
  2. Some new inmates will arrive in the clothes they were arrested in on the Friday night, even though it was then Monday.
  3. New inmates may be afraid to shower, having watched too many prison movies. So you’d give them a faded stiff towel and a bar of plain soap, and tell them to use the sink.
  4. A significant proportion of prisoners (of both genders) have mental health problems. Many were victims before they were villains.
  5. Prisons are not holiday camps, but they could be more spartan.  However, locking people up with nothing to do and no TV when they already have mental health illnesses is inhumane. If they’re struggling with life before jail, that is not going to help.
  6. Most murders are clear cut. The perpetrator normally knows the victim. Often, it was their partner.
  7. Most of those accused of murder plead guilty when put in front of the Crown judge, but it is rare for them to be sentenced on the spot. They usually have to return to court to be sentenced; often about two weeks later.
  8. Those two weeks will be spent in jail and the reaction of the prisoners to the wait is fascinating, the weight could be seen falling off them. The nights are long as they wait for the axe to fall. People age years.
  9. Hygiene is not high on inmate priorities. Brushing teeth is not, for many, a regular occurrence.  Toothache affects a significant portion of prisoners. The stench of their breath is indescribable.  See point 3, some don’t shower for their entire stay.
  10. Gob watch (Ross’ term not an official one).  When prisoners are on medications, these have to be passed out and someone has to check that they are taken, but prisoners are adept at hiding pills for a later buzz, suicide attempt or to sell, so an officer has to check their mouths. It’s easier to hide pill in teeth with holes, see point 8, so they have to be checked, try not to imagine the stench.

One other thing that Ross did add was this: 

The Coronavirus has given us a glimpse into that world. It feels surreal, unnatural, claustrophobic, stressful and boring, and we’re only under house arrest. All our plans have gone to pot. We don’t know if we’ll have a job when all this is over. How will we pay the mortgage? We’ll miss weddings and funerals. Will life be the same afterwards? Could we lose hope?

This is a point on which I total agree with him, see my blog “New Year, Old Lockdown.”

An image posted by the author.

Why not take a look at Ross’s Amazon Page for more information on him and his fabulous books.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ross-Greenwood/e/B019JRK0AY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Or follow his page on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RossGreenwoodAuthor/

I hope these general pointers help others with their writing, and want to say a big thank you to Ross for being so open and honest with all he’s had to say on the topic. 

New Year, Old Lockdown.

Being in lockdown hasn’t been easy – even for those of us who enjoy staying home. Lockdown has started to feel very ‘old’ for most of us. But it’s still important if we don’t want to watch our country decimated by disease.

What everyone should have learnt from this experience is that it doesn’t matter how many comforts and luxuries we have around us, when our freedom of movement is curtailed, we struggled. The loss of that freedom is difficult to bear and live with. 

One of the things I struggled with was not seeing much of my children.  In 2020 we probably only spent about 6 hours total with our eldest. Missing our families and not being allowed to see them was one of the toughest things we all had to face. 

Even work life changed dramatically. Working from home for those that could, furlough, or worse, unemployment for those who couldn’t. Real life meetings swapped out for on-line conferences. Video conferencing becoming the norm, but can never fully replace the benefits of face to face meetings. We discovered that internet connection is less of a luxury than a necessity, as we all stayed at home and education was expected of parents not in a position to educate.

We all felt we were in prison.

That in it’s turn should give us all a new appreciation for what prison is actually about.

There have been complaints about how ‘easy’ prisoners have it in jail, but remember that being in prison isn’t about punishment, being in prison is the punishment.

Prisoners live in small rooms (what most would probably call a box room). They don’t have any freedom of movement. Most don’t have the luxuries that some papers suggest they do. Few have TVs or internet access. They don’t get to spend time with their families or friends. Even mobile phones are banned (though okay, they do get in).

This article is not arguing that prisoners should have more. This article to meant to open some eyes as to just what prison is about, and it shouldn’t be out of sight, out of mind.

If you want to see understand some of the difficulties about being in Prison, you’ll get a feel for the atmosphere in my book “Locked Up”.