Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Corrupt Prison Screws can Harass Prisoners

There are many aspects to staff corruption, and it is only the sexy end of that spectrum which grabs attention. The screws, for instance, who smuggle in mobile phones and drugs are always highlighted.  But there is the obverse to these malign activities - attempting to harm those prisoners who they dislike, or who - rarely - risk bringing corrupt activities to light.  Such is the very perilous situation in which I find myself.

Any screw who takes against a con has always had two avenues of action, the traditional activities of straightforward physical assaults, and spurious disciplinary charges.  In many cases, these go hand in hand; screws who assault a con invariably charge the victim with assault in an attempt to give the patina of legitimacy to their physicality.

The methods of harassment have developed as the prison service itself has been transformed into an edifice of bureaucracy and managerialism.  This has opened up a whole range of ways to harass any prisoner, and these have the benefit of using legal methods to meet some illicit end.

A recent example of this is when a screw here asked three Asian prisoners to step out of their cells during roll check - and then issued them all with IEP warnings for being out of their cells during roll check.  With a second bent screw as backup witness, these poor sods were nailed and had no escape.  Such is the nature of the modern prisoner service and the opportunities which its bureaucratic processes offer to abuse prisoners.

Physically beating prisoners is a risky proposition, and laying false disciplinary charges may fail.  There are occasional governors who have the stones to kick out dodgy charges though they are far too rare to make a difference.  There are distinct advantages to using the more bureaucratic processes to corruptly destroy a prisoner's equilibrium, or even his release.  And these advantages are hugely magnified in open prison.

The fingerprints of the corrupt screw may never even be evident on the process.  He gets one of his mates to lay a false charge and can then sit back and put his feet up while the bureaucracy does the rest. If it gets passed the governor, the risk assessment board then imposes a grounding.  The residential manager sacks the con from his job, takes his single cell and then the IEP board slashes all of his privileges.  To the untutored eye it can appear as if nothing at all improper has taken place.  And then all of this is fed into the parole process which, for a Lifer, could see him lose release.

This pervasive corruption is a malign strain that lives beneath the regular corruption of drug and phone dealing.

The modern prison service has spawned modern avenues of corruption.  To its shame, and my present distress, it has yet to develop anything approaching a modern process to tackle these insidious, poisonous practices.


  1. Laying false charges against a prisoner has no mileage just like laying false allegations against officers. I don't consider it corruption just poor practice.

  2. Just because it was 3 Asian guys does not make it racism. That's ridiculous! I doubt it even happened because surely an officer with keys would have to unlock the cell. It would never stand up! And calling prison officers "screws" is very derogatory. I think the blogger should take a close look at himself.

  3. I totally agree with Ben's post. I know there is much dodgy and illegal activity that occurs withing the bounds of legal practice in prisons in England. I know that there is a lot of intimidating, bullying and tormenting that goes on, quite often to mentally ill and very vulnerable inmates. This is my experience when I was very unwell in jail. Inmates because they are inmates are automatically wrong unless 'overwhelming' evidence is produced that proves the opposite. I feel that within the ranks of the prison officers there is much peer pressure of negative behavior. I have seen officers who I really thought were OK tell lies and practice other negative behaviors just because other screws were doing the same. Too many people in society automatically assume that the police and prison officers tell the truth and do the right thing. This I now know is a seriously wrong assumption. Having said that there are some officers who I had a still have a lot of respect for and if I saw them in the street I would shake their hand


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