Monday, November 23, 2009

Property & Possessions

Lifers used to be notorious for the amount of property they carted around the system. Well, it was the total of our worldly goods and we tend to hand onto stuff. This went to the extent of one transfer where I and my escort were in one van, with a minibus carrying my prop (mostly books) following behind. Happy days.
Then some people tried to escape and ruined it. They were terrorists attempting to break out of a Special Secure Unit (SSU), which hold those who pose the greatest threat to society. Escape from SSU's is intended to be impossible.
These guys made it out but were captured within minutes. The official report into this episode (the Learmont Report) was a travesty, but did uncover an unfortunate fact. It was hard for staff to search the cells of these cons because of the sheer amount of property they held. One man even had a bicycle, which makes even my world-weary eyes boggle.
And so the Home Office brought out new rules on property. All we own must now fit into two smallish boxes. That's our lot. Which makes me wonder; if you are going to attempt to create and sustain a psychologically acceptable life behind bars, what possessions do you need? What is the bare minimum?
I throw this open to readers. Imagine yourself stuck in an empty concrete box for a decade or two. Start off with a bed, chair, and locker. What items would you need to psychologically sustain yourself for all those years?


  1. You've given me one more use for the Kindle e-book readers.

    Storing thousands of books in the space taken by just one is bound to be of considerable interest to prisons, and other space restricted users.


  2. Hmm...

    1) I'd need my cat to keep me sane.

    2) As Ian suggests, some electronic device for keeping thousands of books on.

    3) If this was prison, I'd ask to have a bird table outside my window or one of those feeder trays that stick on the glass. I can take or leave humans, but animals are a major source of joy to me.

    4) CD's. I cannot function without music, but if we have a limit I would just confine myself to Slipknot and Bach (yes, weird combo, right?).

    5) Some paints and brushes, few canvases and some clay.

    6) My crystal collection.

    7) A compact digital Camera with video function.

  3. @IanVisits

    Except that without a means to add content to said e-book reader and the hassle of transferring it back and forth and waiting while it gets searched by incompetent screws . . .

    But yes an original pattern iPod with a capacious hard disc.

    The books I reread every year or so, about 5 at a pinch. A textbook of Physiology because not being able to check something as it ocurred to me would be torture. And an Atlas.

    A very compactable treadmill (I just HAVE to run) and some running shoes. If I can't run then I would go stir crazy in less than a week.

    That's about it. All the other pastimes I have would not fit. If I can read, think, listen to music and run I would be pretty content.

  4. Ben, I am too like you I am still studying so I have lots of books. Two little boxes is not enough room to hold my knickers let alone some books :)

  5. I'm not sure that I can imagine being sustained for years in such circumstances, Ben. I think the books are right. And the music. Drawing, or rather doodling, stuff. Being occasionally able to glimpse a birdie or two - like Gaina, I fancy myself as a bit of a bird woman of Alcatraz, under those circumstances. So a bird spotter's book. On those, I guess I could get by. But it's the loss of freedom, of the ability to go where I wish, the loss of easy contact with my loved ones, that would be what would get to me. Not to mention the laptop... And the food. Christ. My stomach would pack in, in protest. And not to mock, or taunt, but you could do a helluva lot better than a Big Mac :)

  6. Kitchen sink and maid to wash up after me, etc.

  7. Pens, paper, stamps and envelopes.

    Books, Radio/cd player. and toiletries, love a lotion and a potion, with my luxury item being a bottle of perfume.

    My cat.

  8. You've got the two most important things that don't go in shoe boxes. Your intelligence and your self dignity. Know the latter can be taken away by the screws, but you can retain it ?

  9. I'd fill both boxes with pornography.

  10. one would have to be inflatable

  11. The books I rehash consistently or something like that, around 5 when there's no other option. A reading material of Physiology in light of the fact that not having the capacity to check something as it ocurred to me would be torment. What's more an Atlas.