Bats In The Belfry

Door wraps at 08.30am and I’m pleasantly surprised that my roof and cavity wall insulation are early. Before letting them go about their business I ask if they are also doing the walls and what time they will be finished at? Oh, that’s a different mob they’ll be here separately. The guy gives them a call and I’m informed they will be here round about lunchtime. Job’s a good-un and gives me a bit of time to write this and sort out a few other odds and ends. Mum’s coming over for coffee as well so all in all a pretty social day with much interaction with other members of the human race ‘not’ involved with prison and or criminology.

Started my spring cleaning yesterday! I know – shock horror! When I was moping my living room wooden floor that old familiar smell came back. Hot water and detergent. I mopped away to my heart’s content thinking of all the landings and cells I’d mopped in six different establishments over a six year period. Inwardly grinned and thought ‘Prison Works’ as I’ve become a great mopper and tackle it so effortlessly. Yesterday was howlin’ a gale so I though oh I’ll wedge the patio doors open and let the wind and fresh air do its work. As I sat outside in my office chair getting buffeted by the wind my mood blackened as i recalled the last time I wedged a door open to let the air dry the floor. What follows is a short excerpt from my book which partly describes not only the pettiness but how petty punitive prison rules are used as a weapon by staff. Alpha, is a set of portacabins joined together and called a staging area for Foyleview resettlement unit (another set of portacabins) or a progression on one’s way to semi open conditions. When I was first interviewed by the two officers in this clip a couple of years previously they called me a ‘C###’ and told me I would never be allowed into Alpha as I’d made too many complaints. The Governor had over-ruled them and they were rather non-plussed at my arrival:

“10.15 am Saturday morning
Decided to clean and mop my floor as there is nothing for me to do. Tried to read but there’s too much noise. AC/DC is blasting from the mini gym. The ‘A’ team are on duty. ‘A’ does not represent ‘Alpha’ – more A-holes.

10.30 I leave my door wedged open by the end of the bed and head out into the yard for five minutes whilst the floor dries. Officer A calls me into the office: “I will only give you a verbal warning this time. I know you are on an adverse [red entry in England]; I would normally give you an adverse. So, I’m being lenient.” A security S.O. who’s hovering said “he would you know.” I hear officer F in the background shout “I don’t believe I’m hearing this!” They think it’s funny. Officer a starts to tell me about my contract and ‘it’s in my contract.”
I say “I apologise, I did not purposely leave my door open to break the rules. Thank you for being so considerate but many other prisoners do the same and do not seem to have an issue when waiting for their floors to dry.”
Officer a says “I’ll deal with them too if I see them.”How fuckin sad is this state of affairs; grown men trying to go about their business… prison really is a petty set up. This is them demonstrating their lenience. I think I’ll stay in my cell and watch the golf for the rest of the day, much safer. Mind you, nothing is safe with these guys at play.
Oh forgot, ‘they’ phoned over to ask if I need a travel warrant for Monday. This has happened Thur, Fri, Sat; officer G just smiled when I told him. This progression really is a battle, a whole set of values. Ho hum! I can now fully appreciate why some guys say ‘sod it, just let me out when I’m done, I can’t handle all this shoit.’ Personally, I’ll have to continue all in the name of science. My phenomenological research must continue. I’ve just realised that after five years of imprisonment and having ones door constantly flung open to the wall and in the control of someone else…. Agghh you know what. Fuck them all! Take my beta blocker, really mad now. Every day in this place of progression is a fucking battle and it’s going to get worse because, well why am I surprised I knew it would.

14.30 called to the office, officer a and officer f are there; the ‘A’ team. My stomach is in bits, churning with fear. I try not to show it and be polite officer a says “you have your home leave papers here, you should have got them yesterday he starts to read out the conditions but only the one that says about curfew and what I’m ‘not’ allowed to do. Why does he only read out the cannot, god he is so predictable, so fucking petty, so full of complete childish bullshit. This paperwork has nothing to do with him, nothing whatsoever why must he feel as if he has to show his authority and belittle every single interaction. I ask if I can have a copy, he says ‘no. you have to ask the governor.’ I’m then asked to sign my governor’s request to send a letter to officer H (an officer terminally ill with cancer). I’m then read out my official verbal warning and asked to sign it. I do so and say ‘thank you.’ Leave the office feeling like shit. Want to die, this is relentless and frightening. Keep hearing echoes of a safer custody meeting where a P.O. said “I want to be able to go home at night knowing that all that stay in Alpha go to sleep in a good frame of mind.”
Oh boy, are you all so fucking disillusioned? How does any of this make me a better person? Seriously, How? Chip, Chip, Chip every fuckin day.”

I lost over a stone in a few weeks in that place. Every single day I was called into the office to be poked and prodded by the A team. All they wanted me to do was crack. It was a constant game. They used me to fight the Governor of the prison as after all it was them who ran the prison not the Governor. I beat the two adverse on appeal and set a precedent where prisoners could appeal within the time frame it took for the punishment to run its course. There was never any point appealing because it took them so long the three or four months it lasted for would be over by the time they got round to it. I did it just for badness – and won.

Tried to dismiss these thoughts yesterday but hey came back this morning as I sat on my sofa, with the sun warming me through the big glass patio doors as I listened to the workmen up in the attic. It got me thinking. “Could I ever share or live with another human being again?” I’m out nearly tow years now and I should be ‘adjusted’ by now. Shouldn’t I? Boy, do I dislike that word ‘adjusted’ why should one have to adjust in the ‘seamless’ transition from nick to citizen so fondly used by officialdom.

Even, when I go out I spend a lot of time on my own. It’s cool because of the choice. I decide when to go out and this doesn’t always fit into other people’s lives; which is only natural. Or, is it more than that. Have I become so protective of my well being that i can’t ever fully share with anyone ever again? After completing my PhD submissions last week i said to myself “Right my boy time to go out and let the proverbial hair down.” And, I did. Two days – Wednesday and Friday (hangover in between) traipsing round Belfast and Lisburn Bars. To my astonishment I found the staff in all but one establishment most helpful and polite whilst getting one served and dismissed as quickly as possible. I attempted to strike up a conversation in each and every bar I attended as none of them were actually that busy – no joy. Have I lost my touch? Am I not adjusted. It was only when I spoke to guy in the Titanic Pub & Kitchen Belfast on Friday night did I understand. One of the most hospitable cities on the planet with the loveliest of people is so busy being hospitable its forgetting to be friendly – or vice versa. Had a great chat with the Manager there, till the wee small hours even though he was busy.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion I do not have Bat’s In The Belfry and have not only adjusted but adapted and overcome the duty of care of the criminal justice system. Despite them. I do look forward to the day that I can sit here and type something and say I’m waiting for the girlfriend to get up or my lodger has just… Or maybe I’m just getting too old and set in my ways. Who knows. I certainly don’t.

Have a lovely day folks. Stay safe and be well.

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About micsirwin

I'm a Postgraduate student at Queens studying Criminology, writer, poet and lover of integrity, dignity, respect and morality
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