Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Orderly Abuse

For generations it was generally the case that staff treated orderlies as little better than their personal slaves. In the early 1990's, when I was briefly on Wing No 1, the staff treated me as their perpetual tea and toast making machine.  I took full advantage and sold them cheese on toast at 10p a slice - the cheese being stolen from the kitchen.  I later liberated myself from servitude by selling the entire contents of their tea-room to a fellow con for £20.

I would hope that such days are largely passed.  While I'm content to wash up dirty cups as I clean the servery, it would be a daft screw who presumed to click his fingers and expect me to make his cups of tea.  As one Senior Officer recently told me, such practices constituted "orderly abuse".  But there are very tenuous and fluid boundaries, the lines drawn on a case by case, prison by prison, and orderly by orderly basis.

As I also collect and serve the meals, there lies within that access to food a far greater potential for staff to attempt to misuse me, and for me to misuse my position.  A snivelling worm of an orderly may be tempted to steal prisoner's rations and save it for staff, or help himself and leave his fellow convicts short. I take a strict view on this; every con must get his fair portion, if possible more! Then, and only then, am I content for staff to snaffle anything left over.

Although Governors have developed a new, rigid, stance on staff eating even leftover of prisoner's food. For me, if there is a load of soup or salad left over, why bin it if someone is willing to eat it?  Other orderlies will take their own view on this.

Obviously, what orderlies are willing to do beyond their strict official duties is a personal decision.  It is also a function of staff demands.  It would take a strong individual orderly to resist demands to slip into tea and toast-making ways.  This hasn't been an issue in my present position.

Prisoners can also indulge in "orderly abuse".  This takes the form of the orderly being asked to use his position to benefit the private interest of another prisoner; often by stealing goods he has access to.  In my situation, this may take the form of passing tobacco from cell to cell.  This is a very prohibited practice, as was made clear on my appointment.

That said, I always try to help out a fellow con, even if he's a total arse.  Our shared identity as prisoners is paramount.  Equally, this shared identity would prevent me from asking another cons to risk his job just to make my life just marginally easier.

Alas, not all cons share my views.  This block comprises a short corridor of fewer than 12 cells.  It is constantly monitored by the staff office and 2 CCTV cameras.  Asking me, then, to pass staff between cells, leading to certain capture and being fired, strikes me as being selfish and stupid.  That doesn't stop people from trying though.

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