Friday, June 17, 2011
Peace and Quiet
So, 21 days in the Block, the euphemistically titled "Care and Separation Unit". That's about double what anyone else here has been clobbered with for a mobile, but as I've previously noted, revenge was in the air. My appeal has been lodged.
The disciplinary hearing was a farce, as expected, though conducted with a veneer of civility, even humour. But the governor refused to address my defence and prevented me from asking a witness the questions I wanted. The conclusion was foregone, so I spent the time racking up points of appeal.
The most obvious point in my defence, and the governor flatly refused to explain it away, is how I can be in possession of a phone at 11.30 when even the screw who nicked me says that I was 400 yards away!
Meanwhile...The Block. Hardly a massive strain on my psychological resources, though I realise that it has been well over a decade since I've stared down a few weeks in solitary. I'm such a bad boy, eh?!
The routine is dull. The Block is an exercise in dealing with 23 hours a day of Nothing. The door is unlocked after 8am, for me to make any applications, complaints, hand in mail, the paperwork housekeeping that is such a large part of prison life. Declare whether I want a shower or exercise. All this is conducted across the doorway, the cell is only left for the shower or exercise, everything else, meals etc, are delivered. It isn't a bad level of service...
At some point in the morning, the duty governor, a medic and a chaplain will appear, all making the same enquiry, "Everything okay?" Today, it was two chaplains and two governors, making me wonder just what I have to do for peace and bloody quiet?
That's the high point of the day...the rest is just me and the four walls. And I've ran out of antidepressants. Bugger!
All my old tricks for filling the time come back on demand. Reading, sleeping, writing, pacing...lots of pacing. This cell is, bizarrely, larger than the one I have on the wing, so I can actually stretch out a bit, 7 short paces from door to window. I say window; I mean a collection of small opaque glass bricks. With a loo and running water, I'd be quite content if they welded the door shut. All I'd really miss is internet access...
As my default setting is "leave me the hell alone", this isolation is no great hardship. For others, it is debilitating. Some people truly are social animals and the company of others is essential for their wellbeing. They find the Block particularly difficult.
Even in the most banged-up of prisons, there are moments in the day when doors are flung open, if only briefly. To move to work, to collect food...and these can be intensely social minutes, everybody running around conducting the small exchanges and favours which are the oil that smoothes prison life. A stamp here, spoon of sugar there, who has today’s newspaper, can I look at your TV guide... These are what my present situation denies, the minutiae, the genuine contacts with peers. That said, on the wing I'm notorious for locking my own door, and not just cos I was on the phone!