December 2005 Archives
My strategy of non-association until my depression lifts is finished when I am shifted over to low Moss. Guard told me around Friday lunchtime and we were processed out of Edinburgh and arrived at Low Moss around three.
Low Moss is a prison near Glasgow made out of an old military establishment that was put up during the war. It's a scattering of wooden huts and portacabins and probably hasn't changed much in the last sixty odd years.
There are five of us from Edinburgh and when we arrive at reception we find seven guys arrived just in front of us from Barlinnie. So twelve cons are sitting in a small room waiting to be processed in. The Reception Passman brings in seven plates of stew and potatoes for the Barlinnie cons. We are told we weren't expected so there was no food for us. We sat there and watched the other guys eat. The stew looked good.
It took around three hours to process us all into the prison. Each con is called out to the front desk. You go through a few forms with the guard, then he goes through any belongings you might have with you. He decides what you can take in and what you can't. I get to keep my books and toiletries, tobacco, stamps and training shoes. He keeps my notebook and envelopes, tells me your not allowed lined paper in Low Moss. He doesn't say why he keeps the envelopes.
You then take off your clothes which are stored away and take a shower in a cubicle at the desk. After the shower you are led over to a dog box (which is like a cupboard with a flat seat). In there your jail clothes are waiting. You put on your jail clothes and wait for the rest of the cons to be processed. The first con through was in the dog box for almost three hours.
We are led over to Billet 1 (there are 12 billets in all) most of the billets have rows of two man cells in them but a couple are still dormitories. Billet 1 is the admissions billet and is a dormitory.
The Billet is about sixty feet long and has a row of single beds down each side. There is a locker in between each bed for your belongings.
The place is filthy.
Think Bad Lads Army then think squalor. There is a small tv in one corner with a few chairs round it. There is a bathroom with one urinal, two toilets (one out of order) with half doors and one working shower. The whitewashed ceiling is yellow with nicotine and there are tea stains and graffiti on the walls, in some places the plasterboard has been stripped off showing bare wood.
When we arrive there are eight admissions already there and two passmen, our numbers fill the billet to twenty-two cons. Usually cons are only held here for a night or two until they are allocated a cell but we are told the jail is full and no-one will be leaving till next week s we could be there for a while. I settle into a bed in the middle of the billet and am given a sheet, duvet cover and pillowcase which I am grateful for to cover the stained bedding.
Don't really get much sleep at all on Friday night as there seems to be a lot of excitement amongst the other cons. Most of these guys have been banged up for days at least are catching up on getting to know each other. The T.V. was on till at least three and in another corner a con has a cd player which bangs out 'Dire Straits' till dawn. My position in the middle of the room meant I got both at the same volume and couldn't tune into either. However we don't have to get up early as there is no breakfast at the weekend.
Over the weekend I gradually get to know the other guys. Most of them have short sentences and are out in a couple of months. I have a shoplifter on one side doing four months and a fraudster on the other doing nine. The shoplifter is broke and came in with nothing, so as I put my smokes out he makes roll ups with the doubts. I notice the other cons picking them up off the floor. By Saturday night, the minute I start to roll, cons will come up and ask for 'twos'. They ask for shampoo, shaving foam, stamps, sugar. It's not just me, everybody is asking each other and everybody is watching to see what each other has. There is nowhere to hide, and 'gear' that was brought in was burned or blown on Friday night, Saturday goes to Sunday (the T.V. stays on all night) and it is Friday before there will be another canteen issue. I get the feeling it could be a long week.
Sunday is another 'lie in'. Some joker guard wakes us with some 'tannoy' about getting ready for the Christmas Five Mile Fun Run. Because of the festive season our personal cash has not been transferred from Edinburgh yet so most cons have no money to get phone credits. I kept the 30p credit given to cons on Friday to let people know you've been transferred so I could make a call today. I decide to phone my youngest son and for a minute or two he tells me what Santa brought him. Other cons aren't so lucky and the situation becomes a bit tense as they complain to the guards. The guards say there's nothing they can do. After a long afternoon we go to the dinning hall for dinner. I was surprised to see an effort had been made and a turkey meal was provided. Although as the 'new boys' we were last up to the serving hatch and missed out on potatoes and gravy. It was a good meal and cheered the place up a bit. Then back to the billet for a night of T.V., Dire Straits and cups of tea.
Most of the cons are sitting around in groups and for a while we don't see much of the guards. Then about eight o'clock one appeared, at the door, a small Irish guy with a kind face, he spent an hour or so taking all the cons who wanted to, out to make a quick call to their families, I got to phone my oldest son. After he left the mood was really good. The music was up a little louder and there was a lot of laughter around. The guard didn't have to do that, but he could see we were all a bit desperate, I guess he was our Father Christmas this year.
Appeal refused, I am processed out of the court and taken to Edinburgh Prison. At the prison reception my clothes are taken and I am given a pair of white overalls to wear. After a brief interview and a few forms I am led up to the cell blocks. The wing I am taken to is a wide cream corridor with cells on both sides. The end we enter from has a metal gate which stretches right across. Near the gate is a serving hatch for meals and a few shower cubicles. In the middle of the corridor are a few plastic tables and chairs and a pool table. A guy from the borders who is in for growing plants comes over and we are both put in a cell at the end of the wing. The cell is cream also and has a matching cream metal bunk bed. Across from the bunk bed are some formica units and shelves with a small sink and mirror. In one corner is a toilet with a formica panel round it, and we have on plastic chair. There is a heavily barred window with two pillowcases for curtains and the walls are covered in graffiti and white dots (which I later find out is toothpaste which was used to stick pictures to the walls.)
I lay down on the bottom bunk and George the Plant Grower sits on his heels on the plastic chair, we more or less stay in these positions for the next three days.
Twice a day around noon and five pm we are let out the cell to go to the serving hatch for meals. The food is not good. Curried vegetables with rice or cold pie with cold chips. I am by no means a fussy eater but find it difficult to eat this stuff. Most of the three days I try to sleep, every time I wake George is in his perched position on the plastic chair. He's a soft spoken guy with a broad accent and he talks constantly. He openly admits he has mental health problems and I think he's on strong medication. It's hard to get any sense out of him so I give up trying and concentrate on sleeping. On the second night I get a chance to phone home. I tell the family I'm in Edinburgh and it makes me feel better to hear the boys. They seem to be getting excited about Christmas coming and are in good spirits.
Having been to prison before twice already for this offence I kind of know what to expect. I feel very low just now but I know this will get better and this is the worst part of the sentence. After my phone call last night I had the chance of recreation for an hour but I didn't go. I just don't feel like talking to any people just now. It's better not to associate these first few days rather than go out feeling depressed and get off on the wrong foot with people. Other cons may handle this in a different way but this is my way. It's a different environment than you are used to, so you have to adapt to it. It's not a life sentence I am doing its only six months so already there is light at the end and you have to deal with the in-between.
Went to Edinburgh today, I met a good guy who is a QC working in the high court. His opinion on my case was that we should not debate the points of law too much as it might upset the appeal judges. If we do offer our opinion that the crime I commited was not high enough up the scale to merit the sentence that was delivered.The appeal judges will get upset and opinion that it was, and he thinks there would be no value in getting into a debate about it. After all I did plead guilty... Thing that really sticks with me is when they start talking about who you might be in front of and it depends on the weather and what mood they might be in....Wait a minute....I'm an electrical contractor and the standard of my work would not depend on the weather or my mood....or I would hope so. This is peoples lives you are dealing with so come on.....Anyway....between the lines I think the legal ranks have closed, I have been sentenced, and as respected as the sentencing judge is, I get the impression that no one wants to contradict. So I cant get anyone to challenge the ruling, only an appeal on the grounds of mitigation, i.e. I have very little previous convictions.
So, that is the mood, tomorrow I go to prison, wish I was a millionare and could have argued the case a bit more with the help of a couple of top briefs, but I'm not....And can I say now had anyone been injured or serious damage to property occured I would not have appealed because of my own moral principles. However they wern't and if your aunt had baws she would be your uncle so you can debate this all night. However I feel very tired of it all now, Had a long day and just want to go to bed....
Its the last weekend before Christmas and for the first time I'm totally organised, although I wouldn't quite say prepared. The kids presents are bought and hidden away, cards have been sent out to friends and relations, the house is as tidy as its ever been (although no tree this year), bills have been paid and it is great to just relax with the boys, go to the movies, play around and chill out together. A great feeling you would think, not quite..I have a knot in my stomach which has been growing bigger all week, my oldest boy has been sullen and snappy and the youngest wondering whats wrong with him. He knows whats wrong but he cant tell, whats wrong is that I'm going to prison this week and wont be back for a good few months.
It's not my first time in prison but my third, and they have all been this year. My offence? I wont go into too much detail just now but it was a road traffic crime and no one was injured.The first time was when I was charged and took to court the next day, I was refused bail. It took my lawyer two weeks to get me out. Two weeks in Barlinnie not really knowing from one day to the next what was going on. I then spent a few months waiting for the hearing. I plead guilty and was sent to prison. I then appealed the severety of sentence and a short time later, about a month actually, I was released pending the appeal which is this week. I do not expect the sentence to be reduced to a non -custodial one.
No, it has not been a good year so far, but you have to remember no matter how bad things are going... they can always get worse !! So, off I go again, into the unknown, where I will go? I dont know, not up to me. I will be prisoner number such and such and i will do whatever they tell me untill they let me out and I can return to my life. Follow the path of least possible resistance, just try and get by, try to get on with my fellow prisoners and hope I can keep my head straight and not get too down. I plan to keep a journal, which with help from a guy we hope to keep here. Its not really about me, but just a journey through a prison sentence.