Saturday, February 13, 2010

Screwing the Screws

There is a tradition amongst prisoners that we will cheerfully nick anything that belongs to the system. As we say, "it's a big firm, it can afford it". For most of us there isn't even a twinge of morality involved in this.

This was beautifully portrayed by Fletcher in an episode of Porridge, where he nicked the bell off a screw’s bike. He had no need for it, no use could be made of it, but the screw left it vulnerable. He also had a roaring trade in eggs stolen from the chickens he looked after on the farm detail.

Should we be pressed then we can produce justifications. We are held against our will and so the system is our enemy. Thieving from them is seen as a militant act.
The system also ensures that we have to struggle to obtain even the simplest of things and happily overcharges us for the privilege. In such circumstances, robbing some of the kitchen's sugar (for example) is just good sense.

My greatest coup in this respect was when, unaccountably, one prison offered me the job of "Wing No.l". This is a deeply ambivalent position, involving being a screw’s tea-boy. So I spoke to the post-holder and inquired about the potential for perks. That is, what could be robbed?

This particular No.1 job had great scope. I was in charge of the wing tea-room, an old cell equipped with a cooker, microwave, kettle and stocked with pies, pasties and vast quantities of chocolate bars. Staff paid in cash.

This could be the mother lode of blags. As long as the money tallied with the stock, all was happy. My fiendish brain worked out a plan. Each morning I had to feed the screws with tea and toast for breakfast and I thought I could add some value. A mate began nicking blocks of cheese from the kitchen, which I offered as cheese on toast to the screws at an outrageous price.

This money then allowed me to dip into the stock and yet the money reconciled. It became a regular practice, my stolen cheese being sold to the screws for cash which then allowed me to sell boxes of Mars bars for dope. When the wing Senior Officer found out where the cheese was coming from he went a bit barmy. Flogging stolen goods to his staff seemed just a tad cheeky. The staff thought otherwise, their view of the morality of nicking from the Firm being as flexible as mine. A blind eye was turned and business carried on.

Perhaps the dope this scheme was funding went to my head but I got bored. The job entailed close and sustained contact with staff, which in that prison wasn't necessarily an easy situation. And so when I was approached by a con waving a £20 note requesting I prepare him some food to take on a transfer, I stuffed every pie and pasty I had into the oven!

No sooner did I deliver them than the Senior Officer (SO) began hounding me. "Who were they for?" I tried to persuade him that they were for a screw from another wing, "don't know his name guv". Being a very persistent man, the SO phoned every screw in the nick, he even put a notice on the front Gate, "Anybody bought pasties from the A Wing tea room?"

Of course, this phantom member of staff couldn't be found and that evening the SO approached me sorrowfully. "Time for you to hand in your notice, don't you think...?" What the hell, I'd had a good run and nothing was proven. One - Nil to the prisoners.

1 comment:

  1. Great story to illustrate one aspect of prison commerce.


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