Monday, December 14, 2009

Helpful Screws

In a fit of absent mindedness I seem to have overlooked mentioning screws so far. This may seem strange, in that the staff who are in the front line of regulating my daily life should be the ones who have the greatest effect. Far more of an effect than management.
This varies by prison and regime. This place, being tiny and all lifers, is extremely laid back. I am generally left well alone, with the most substantial interaction with staff being as they tick me off as I pick up my meals.

Even so, there are significant differences between staff. There are those who are plain lazy and to be worked around when things need doing. There are those who are efficient, taking a professional pride in doing a job. These tend to be swamped, as we go to these staff rather than the lazy ones.

Then there are the staff we happily call 'dogs'. And many of them are proud of the label. Staff who are dogs are particularly strict, their lodestone in life is the rulebook. I have always felt that these staff lack a sense of confidence, they have an inability to use their judgement according to the circumstances or the individuals involved. They are a pain in the arse.

And then there are 'sensible' staff. They do possess self confidence, they do appreciate that there is more to life than rules and their lodestone tends to be to get things done, and doing things which avoid raising tensions unnecessarily.

These are the staff that can make or break a prison regime. The proportions of these various types of staff are a key factor in whether a prison is a 'good' one or a 'bad' one.
This is by way of showing my appreciation for a couple of staff who have recently been presented with a situation and dealt with it with flexibility and common sense. But I won't be making a habit of this! And if only governors could be so sensible...

1 comment:

  1. Flat-bottomed, beached, indolent as the day is long, don’t let the Sun go down on me (how on earth can a redtop last that long?). I recall the idle, the punctilious and the kindly. I recall the pervasive stupidity. I recall guiltily the OSG I found reading the Guardian and mischievously reported to security as a dangerous subversive. Their eyes flashed blue lights. You can hate the system (hate’s far too weak) but not those who serve it, most of them, even some of those who ought to know better. Therein lies the perilous banality of evil. It can’t do anything for the self-esteem, working for a penal system that manifestly doesn’t work, which debilitates, but it makes it endurable if you write off all inmates as vitiated and incapable of rehabilitation. Treat them with humanity, throw away the key. I recall lectures by the security people warning us of the dangers posed by any prisoner with an IQ in three figures. Seductively, pathologically manipulative. That’s you, Ben. My ears were always deaf to such tosh.

    This is a topic on which it is impossible to entertain other than very mixed feelings.


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