New Year in Jail
A buzz went round the prison this evening as news gets round that a prisoner has escaped. Apparently he got over or under the fence sometime before the end of his shift somewhere down at the worksheds. Back in the billets the guards count everyone two or three times to confirm we're one short and apart from visits the jail goes into lockdown. It's a bitterly cold evening and I wouldn't fancy being out there against the elements. The cons tune into the news to see if there is a report, but there is nothing reported on tv or in the newspapers the next day.
New Year's Eve and I am allocated a cell. It's a closed billet, there is a corridor with fifteen cells, nine down one side and six down the other, with a shared toilet/shower room. There is a heavily barred door at the end to lock the corridor in but prisoners are allowed free movement within. The cell is about the same size as the smallest room in your house. It is a square room about ten feet by ten feet. There are two single beds and some assorted cupboards and a small television, cream walls a barred window with curtains and a bright flourescent light. It's the kind of room you could probably live quite comfortably in yourself but with two sharing you are going to be living on top of each other. there is only about three foot gap between the beds so if one person is moving around the cell, getting dressed for instance the other guy has to remian sitting / lying on their bed until it is in his turn otherwise you will spend all your time bumping into each other. Your bunk is about the only space in the prison that is your own, whether in the dorms or the cells you seem to spend most of your time sitting or lying on it, not through laziness its just that there's not a lot else for you to do.
There are a few seats around and you wouldn't really have room for them in the cell anyway, you wouldn't just stand about or walk up and down the corrridor or stand against the toilet, so you just go to your cell and sit or lie on your bed. At least in Low Moss the prioners are considered low CAT and have a degree of movement throughout the day, to the worksheds or dining hall. In Barlinnie for instance most prioners are confined to the cells for twenty four houys a day unless they fancy a half hour walk round the exercise yard.
I introduce myself to my co-pilot whom I culd be sharing this cell with for the next few months. he's in for drug offences and is doing a similar sentence to my own. He's just a normal guy in his mid thirties and he hasnt done much jail time although he has done a few months of this sentence.
The rest of the cons in our billet system seem a pretty mixed bunch of all ages, although there is a
hard core who seem to stick together more than the rest, always together, in each others cells all the time and generally carrying on together. I am immediately wary of this group and I think if anything is going to 'go down' on this billet this group won't be too far away from it.
New Year comes and goes, we didn't expect any first footers and we didn't get any. Like Christmas, New Year was very low key and i think most of the cons just try to get it out of the road. You can make yourself feel bad by thinking of everyone at home having a good time so it's best just not to think about things like that, better to try and keep your head, just like your body, firmly inside the jail.
The days following New year are 'holidays' for cons and staff so not much movement around the prison. A con in one billet has a 'parcel' (package containing drugs) launched in from outside. I assume whoever was launching the parcel in was trying to get as close to the billet as possible but made a poor job of it and the parcel ended up stuck on the perimeter fence unknown to the cons at the time. The parcel stuck on the fence and has alerted a touch sensor and alerted the guards who decide to watch it. For a while to see if there are any further developments. They are not disappointed.
The cons hatch a plan, it is a formula which has been used in the prion before with some degree of success however it is a high risk strategy. At one end of each billet there is a fire/panic door. In the event of any emergency the cons can get out of this door and into the main compound. As soon as this door is breached an alarm goes off and the guards will be there within minutes. The cons know this and know their movements will be caught on camera. Up top ten cons put pillowcases over their heads and breach the door, two of them make for the fence in an attempt to get the parcel while the rest simply mill about in an attempt to confuse the watching cameras as to the identity of those outside. The plan would then have been to to get the parcel inside and stashed before the guards arrive. Unfortunately for them, the watching guards are in the billet within seconds and apprehend everyone.
Eleven cons in total from the billet are put in the digger apart from one who ran straight into a lamp-post and has a nasty gash on his head.
Next day all eleven are RTB'd (returned to Barlinnie). The cons knew the consequences of their actions but were prepared to take the risk. Just like the con in the methadone queue, its clear these guys are desperate for drugs. It's said there was an ounce of heroine in the parcel, who knows, but whatever was in it, they weren't going to give up on it easily.