Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Prison beds are a tubular steel frame. Metal strips take the place of any type of spring. The mattress is a slab of foam some four inches thick, which rapidly compresses to two inches. These are the pinnacle of utilitarian, budget driven thinking that gives no forethought to the consequences to a Lifer’s poor back.
For normal folk like yourselves, beds have a very limited range of purposes. For us, beds are a multipurpose item. This results from cells being very small and the prison refusing to supply us with sofas, the bastards.
And so beds are used by some during the day as their main resting place, chairs being for sissies. Beds act as the spare chair; if three or four people crowd into a cell and there is only one
chair, the bed becomes crowded.
Some short number of years ago, in a fit of misplaced security fears, our beds were bolted to the floor. Prior to that, beds were excellent pieces of exercise equipment, able to be lifted, twisted, and hung from. Now they are stripped of life, inanimate metal encumbrances that we have to work around as we try to arrange our cells to suit our needs.
Only on occasion does something interesting happen with a bed (the rumours about Lifers’ sex lives are not true). Once, I returned from work, ready to grab a kip over the lunchtime bang-up. It took a moment for me to realise that my bed was missing. It was one of those moments where you stand, bemused, struggling to make sense of the incomprehensible.
Who steals beds?? It was a desperate man along the landing, who had decided to use it to wedge a gate shut in an attempt to build a barricade. Quite what his issue was didn't concern me; that he'd used my bed risked me being roped in as a co-conspirator.
Soon enough, staff noticed the barricade and charged through it, breaking my bed in the process. Did I get a replacement? Like hell. I ended up sleeping on the floor for six months and found it quite suited my lifestyle.
Each morning I would roll up the slab of foam that passes for a prison mattress and wedge it in the corner. The space this liberated seemed to be huge, more than enough for my exercise, martial arts kata and meditation.
Since that time I have always been slightly ambivalent about beds. They take up a lot of space for little benefit. Perhaps I'm a natural futon person? Now, if only I was in a Japanese prison...


  1. For a particularly imaginative use of a prison bed see or

  2. I was going to make a comment about the state of Japanese prisons, but it occurred to me I already have in response to a past post. I will satisfy myself with a simple; "No. You do not want to be in a Japanese prison."

  3. Gosh yes, i remember those prison bed's, the most uncomfortable ever, but i have to say, my back was better for it. Some of the lifers had been so used to these beds that they didn't any longer notice. (i have to say a bed in police custody is worse) but i was an animal rights prisoner, and a reality check for me was that the animals at Huntingdon life science have no bed at all.

  4. Hmmm it's been 16 years and my experience was in a US prison for 18 months. These were not foam, but lumpy thick things.

  5. I think they should replace them with futon beds. I will have a read through the crime and sentence in a bit. P.S great Blog

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