Thursday, 30 December 2010

From the Inside - Reception

These quotes from former prisoners were originally published on the No More Prison Website

"I had been in institutions all my life and I knew that for self-survival, it paid to be deferential. Peter was new to the whole regime and held his head up high, nonchalantly acknowledging the officer's commands. His resistance was not to last long.

'Oi, you, Paki! You're in detention now,' screamed one of the screws and whacked him around the ear. Another grabbed him by the collar and threw him to the ground. The other screws closed in and began laying into the poor bastard, who was only a fragile lad. At the same time, they shouted obscenities and racist names at him.......

Peter was probably thinking that this was a tough way to start detention but, in fact, the reception ritual had barely started. We were bundled from one room to another, all the time being told what little scumbags we were and how we were going to be sorted out. In one room I was told to look at a poster of the Firearms Act on the wall. A screw told me to look at it more closely so I leaned nearer the wall.

'Even closer' he ordered, so I pushed my face an inch away from the wall. I'd gone totally boz-eyed and couldn't read a thing but pretended to, all the same. Suddenly, he punched the back of my head, smashing it against the wall and busting my nose. Blood was pouring everywhere and he just looked at me and laughed"

Frank Cook (1998) Hard Cell Page19/20

"Well it was nothing I had ever expected, I didn't know anything about prison. I had never read anything about prison. I was sitting there in total amazement, watching this happen to me. I wasn't actually participating in it. It was total isolation from it. I was in shock, sitting in a room with chairs, in dressing gowns, so called, with your clothes folded up beside you, with women who appeared to know each other and didn't know you."

Judith cited in Mary Eaton, (1993) Women after Prison, Page 23

"I put on this act that I was hard, prison was nothing to me, I wasn't scared and I was going to get through. I went to prison in one of the little cubicle vans, like a van but inside its got lots of cubicles. You were locked in. You sit there in a cage until you get to the prison and file out. Although I'd pulled myself together to a certain extent, it was like a dream, it wasn't like it was really happening, it was like I was taking precautions in case it really was happening. I was chatting away with the other girls like it was a normal thing, an everyday thing to go to prison. And when we were going through reception we had to take all our clothes off and do a twirl in front of the officers. I'd never experienced anything like that before in my life - absolutely stripped naked with nothing, nothing at all, not a ring, nothing. And you had to stick your arms out and twirl. You do it because there's all these people in uniform there and you're frightened that they'll pounce on you if you don't and they probably would if you didn't anyway. I think that woke me up a little bit, after that I was really frightened."

Cara cited in Mary Eaton, (1993) Women after Prison, Page 24

"Reception! A word that can conjure up a variety of functions. The wedding celebration; the formal party; the ovation that may greet the appearance of any public figure. The average person would never connect it with prison. To me, now, it can never mean anything else. Even those who have been inside for ten years or more the first hours of imprisonment are as indelibly printed on their minds as though they had happened only the day before."

Joan Henry (1954) Who lie in Gaol Page 17

"They shone a torch down my gob, made me strip naked, checked my hair for lice and handed me a prison uniform"

Ricky Tomlinson (2003) Ricky Page 134

"the prison officer at reception checked and logged my belongings......I had the first of many strip-searches to come. This was a terror for me. I thought they would poke around inside my private orifices. To my enormous relief they did not. I got looked up and down and turned around, but was allowed to keep the top or bottom half of my body covered at any one time - an embarrassment nonetheless but a lot better than I had feared.

Then I got locked in a room with six fellow prisoners being booked in with me. Five of them were heroin users and the sixth was on remand for stabbing her violent boyfriend when they had both been drunk."

Ruth Wyner (2003) From the inside Page 17

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