My first days in prison
I am on my way to the prison for the first time. HMP X is one of the biggest prisons in the United Kingdom. HMP X is a category B men’s prison. That means that inmates do not require maximum security, but escape still needs to be made very difficult. Am I afraid? No. I plan to follow security instructions very carefully. This is what I can do. I tend not to worry about the things I cannot influence. Definitely I am curious.
I am almost there. Five bus stops to go. And then I receive a call that due to organizational reasons my first day in prison was canceled. Too bad. Whenever I asked other coaches from our NGO what the biggest challenge about working in prison was, they answer: “the system”.
My second attempt on the way to get into prison. My gate pass is already arranged so everything should go smoothly. One never knows. The yesterday’s training was entirely canceled.
Mission accomplished! I was there!
This time everything happened without major delays. They awaited me at the gate, prison officer checked my ID and confiscated my mobile. I was handed a prison ID and the journey started. We had to wait for couple of minutes until the first automatic gate opened. Another officer, second ID check and light door to pass. Then my colleagues had to pick up keys from special closed and coded wardrobes. Another few minutes of waiting until they opened next high security gate. We passed through some kind of a yard and a tunnel between extremely tall metal fences. Another key, door, key, door again, corridor, then next two huge metal doors to open. Stairs, light door and finally our workshop door. You need to have a key even to go to the toilet!
How the main, let´s call it residential, part of the HMP X looks like? Exactly as you know it from the movies. It is an old fashioned prison similar to those you know from Prison Break or Shawshank Redemption. Rooms are located around the bigger lounge and are accessed from an outside corridor. I am sure there is a special name for it but I just do not know it.
How was it?
Great! Better with every minute.
Prisoners started to arrive few minutes before the start of our session. At the end it was five of them. Age 21 to 24. From two months to seven years still to serve. All in gray sweat suits. The session started slowly. At first they didn’t really want to talk, with time they started to open up.
We do not know their crimes or full length of sentences. For security reasons we are not allowed to tell them anything specific about us, they just know our names. It creates a bit tricky situation because we want them to trust us and give us their souls on the plate but we cannot offer anything even slightly similar. It works anyway. Don’t ask me why. Just trust the process.
I am on the way to prison, again. It is so early that the tube is full of workers with dirty shoes and t-shirts. I am also dressed very modesty. I am a women, even though 20 years older than most of the trainees, I still have to avoid any sign of being attractive. I am going south; the train is partially empty. Lucky me, I can sit and prepare.
Done. Great day! One person from yesterday did not turn up, which seems to be normal there. Other four participants were absolutely enthusiastic, cooperative and involved. They talked a lot about themselves and I have a feeling that they understood the whole idea around the hero`s journey. It is easier to be a victim of circumstances, but to be a hero of your own life story tastes so much better!
I had to leave before the end of the session to pick up my little one from school. It was ok because my co-coach was very experienced and could easy handle everything by himself.
The last part of the session before I left was very powerful. One could literary see the sparks in the boys` eyes. I like the idea of helping young people on the way out of prison. If it changed life of one of the boys one day, I would consider it a great success!
I’ve almost forgot. One of the boys told me: “you are good people, Miss”. Thank you G!