Wednesday, February 9, 2011


When a prisoner dies, why do staff clear his property out of his cell by putting it in bin-bags?
The prison service has its own line of bespoke property bags designed for - wait for it – prisoners’ property. To choose to use bin-bags for a dead man's possessions is a matter of choice.
It may just be a little thing, but it is the little things that comprise the fabric of prison life that inform the prisoners' views and attitudes of our keepers. And being categorised with rubbish is a useful indicator of management’s private view of us.


  1. Really? i thought they had done away with those clear bags with a blue HMP on it, as ex-cons were selling them (along with hmp shirts, lighters etc) and also, not nice if you have just been released from jail, with your travel warrent, on a train, with all your things in a clear bag, with HMP on it for the world to see.

  2. Hihi

    Well, perhaps not when leaving, but if they're dead, really, what harm can it do? I'm pretty sure they're past having an opinion on it... It might embarrass the relatives to receive personal effects in HMP bags I suppose...

    I suspect it's more thoughtlessness than actual malice, I doubt the sort of people who take jobs with the prison service go in for subtle displays of symbolism to be honest, heh.

  3. I agree with Ben, it is highly symbolic to use rubbish bags to clear property out of the cell of someone who has died, and as prisons employ psycologists nowadays I would have thought this should be pointed out to staff. Of course the dead don't come to any harm from it, but how does it make their mates feel?

    I liken it in a way to my experience of working in a home for young people. When they moved on (to foster care, another home etc) we had a golden rule NEVER to use bin bags to transport any of their things. They already felt like rubbish as it was, as do many prisoners I fear.

    Also, my friend came out of prison last November with all his property in the transparent 'prison issue' bag, so it still happens. A final bit of humiliation to deal with.

  4. Well said Jules, but it is not only humiliation the prison system wants, it is the de-humanisation of prisoners, even when they die.
    The perpetuation of the myth that everyone in prison is scum, deserve no rights or dignity that allows this to continue.
    We need reform. None of the political parties are interested,nothing in it for them is there?.

  5. To be fair, most people clear their dead relatives' property with bin liners, it's not unique to the Prison Service.

  6. @ Evo, true, that is what I was thinking too. It happens around my way (a council estate), it is upsetting when someone dies, and it is hard being in prison too. I am sorry for you Ben and hope you are able to move and be released soon, best wishes x

  7. Sounds like ben has a challenge for utilitarianism.
    (i flippin wish he could read these his mates send him printed mail?? is that poss? is he interested, i'm new here, i'd love to see some of his retorts)


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