Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Answer Time (cont...)

4. I expect a "pecking order" goes on with respect to crimes that people are inside for and which are deemed of "higher status" than others. However, an insight into that "order" and maybe a rationale would be very illuminating. (Nathan)

A: This is a PhD in its own right! I would recommend you read "The Prisoner Society" by Dr Ben Crewe (OUP) for a real treatment of this topic, because it is way too large for me to address properly here.

Prisons are fluid and diverse, with each prison being its own small community. What may be a valuable personal attribute in one may be worthless in another. Whilst one's crime and sentence is a constant, the meaning and influence of that attribute cam vary enormously.

In a prison full of short termers, having Life on one's cell card may accrue some small status. In this prison, where we are all Lifers, it is meaningless! I have never come across a Grouty figure, a "daddy"! No matter how tough a man may be, if he steps out of line he can be taken down - one way or another.

The sources of power and influence are subtle and various. I have been in prisons where I had some influence amongst my peers, but they were 'activists' and politics were feverish. In this prison, which is moribund, then I am merely a useful source of information on prison law and the like.

The most recent transformation in the social structure has been "poder power" - the ability to acquire and supply heroin. But this power is temporary and extremely fragile.

And social structure may be more honoured in the breach than is actually professed. I recall when Roger was transferred. Within minutes of his leaving, my mates at the time began slagging him off as a scumbag, a man who had killed his young child. "Hang on", I said, "How come no one ever told me this before...? Oh, I know, its because he had a great supply of dope and we were all too busy sitting in his cell smoking it..."

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