Friday, October 21, 2011

Call me Ishmael

Or Sir, Boss, Guv, Officer... Just how do you hail a screw? Not by shouting "Oi, Screw!" And no-one calls staff Sir either, which is a level of obsequiousness that prisoner culture finds nauseating.

Lately I've been hearing a lot of cons calling staff "Boss".  It grates on me, carrying with it shades of the plantation, and "Massa". And like slavery, "Boss" should be buried in history.

For me, a straightforward "Guv" (as in Guv'nor) has always served in any situation, being neither disrespectful nor obsequious.

Strangely, there is no generic equivalent for staff to call prisoners.  As a group we may be "cons", but if a screw wants to get attention of a con, he never calls "Oi, con!". Ever.


  1. Referring to someone as Boss has become more common in recent years, but generally in the context of a paid relationship, or where there is some form of teacher/student relationship outside of a formal environment (such as a sports club).

    Its use in relation to an Prison Officer seems strange though, as I could never imagine anyone referring to police officer that way, although I could imagine it in relation to a train guard.

  2. Of course, each and everyone could call each other by the first names eg Ben, could they not?

    It would be a positive example for prisoners to be able to call the 'screws' by their names - after all, that is what we do out here in the community.

    My loved one who was in prison was called by his first name by 1 or 2 officers and what a good relationship they all had.

  3. Then there's the humanising effect of using names, which would be of benefit to everyone involved.