Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

One of the staff here, now a governor, once equated sharing a cell with being married. "What's your problem? I share a house with the missus."

As ignorance goes, this is pretty standard amongst our keepers. They share a near-universal view reminiscent of a Daily Mail editorial, that is, we live the life of Reilley.

We share the same space as them for most of the hours in each day and yet they have absolutely no idea of what our lives are like, of what it means to be a prisoner. This isn't only a failure of imagination but of knowledge; they have to be wilfully blind to do their job year after year and still not "get it".

The sharing a cell conversation was a perfect illustration. Being locked in a small room with a stranger and a toilet is just like choosing to share a house with someone you love... Doh!

Depending on the personalities, cell sharing can be a nightmare of constant battles. If there is sufficient give and take, enough common ground, then it is merely a huge source of stress. But at no point does taking a shit in front of a stranger become a good thing.

Are you of different ages? Because this influences your life history and so your interests and conversation. A middle aged family man has less common ground with a single 21 year old raver. You may, literally, have nothing to talk about.

What music do you like? What TV programmes do you like? Do you prefer to have the light on, or off, in the evenings? What time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up? How noisy are you first thing in the mornings?

You may share a cell with a person whose lifestyle is completely different from your own, where the ground for compromise is a narrow one. But even if you share many interests, the complete lack of privacy and forced company for up to 23 hours each day will slowly grind away at your nerves.

Anybody who thinks that sharing a cell is like being married is a moron. They certainly should never be allowed to govern prisoners.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry, I buggered the last comment up. I'll try again..

    Just as my friend had to withstand pepper spray so she knew what it felt like during her Police training, I think prospective prison officers should have to live the same way prisoners do for a certain amount of time so that they know what it feels like to be on your side of the door.

    Actually I think anyone who wants to pass judgment on any human being should live their life first before opening their traps!

  3. Errr, ben, a lot of married people i know live like that too.

  4. another difference is that in modern society you get to pick your spouse, usually after several years of voluntarily spending time together to determine compatibility. I very much doubt cellmates are selected in the same manner.

  5. no although there are some cell sharing assessments done first, a lot of which were introduced after Zahid Mubarak was killed at Feltham YOI.

  6. Anonymous May 20: Are they matched on the deepest levels of compatibility?

    I didn't think so..

  7. Actually, while i was in i found that an age/interests mismatch can make for the most interesting cell-based conversations...