Thursday, December 15, 2011
Prison life is littered with small indicators of our status, particularly how far we are trusted - or not.
Does a screw step aside on the stairs to ensure that you aren't walking behind him? When he's talking to you, does he look over both your shoulder and his own? In these and other small ways our untrustworthy status is signalled, often to my frustration.
Open prison is the epitome of this. Some are festooned with CCTV cameras, even on the landings. In others, the windows in the rooms don't open more than a few inches, assuming we'd be heading for the horizon if clambering out was made too easy. Not that a pane of glass hindered an escapologist but as a signal of trust, it suggests that management focus more on "prison" than on "open".
Here, my window opens wide. So wide that I have to use caution not to fall out when I pull it shut. If we wanted to recreate the Greatest Hits of Colditz, circumnavigating a pane of glass wouldn't be on the list of perilous obstacles. I have a key to both my door and the one at the end of the landing. There is no perimeter fence of any significance - the one that does exist is said to be there to deter travellers from sneaking in and joining the dinner queue.
These are small things, but they signify acts of faith on the part of our keepers. Some, a tiny minority, break with that faith and they duly pay the price.
For me, these are significant signs that I am being invested with a measure of sense, that doesn't happen too often in prison.
Labels: open prisons