18 June 2009 (Thursday) - A Visit to the Chokey

To HMP Slade for a visit. I met Chip at the train station – we went on the train, because I don’t like driving round towns I don’t know particularly well, and because if things were to get particularly fraught and emotional, I’d rather not drive home in a “state”. I’ve not blubbed on a prison visit yet, and I didn’t today. But it can only be a matter of time until I do. It’s not a particularly arduous journey, but had we driven there, the cost in petrol would probably have been a third of what we paid for train tickets. And they wonder why people don’t use public transport.

Before visiting the chokey we popped into McDonalds for some McDinner. Always a good move. I got chatting with a toddler about tomato ketchup, and as I went to sit down, said toddler got a severe talking-to from mummy about why she shouldn’t talk to strangers. Mummy was probably right, but I’m not a stranger. I’m me(!). Upstairs in McDonalds the “cool kids” were being cool, having their McDinner. Or most of them were. Sitting with them was a hairy freak child who was eating the sandwiches Mummy had prepared for him. They were in a Tupperware box; all wrapped in kitchen foil. I didn’t actually point and laugh, but it came close.

And so to the prison. I last visited on 1st May – some seven weeks ago. In the meantime I’ve learned to douse, done “Jack in the Green”, got my car MOT’d and had my fence kicked down. I’ve been on several cycle rides, and seen the new Star Trek film. I’ve acquired new fish and mucked about with my pond. I’ve installed a new bird-friendly waterfall, and induced flocculation. I’ve been to several pubs for food and had the occasional pint. I’ve lectured at the Astronomy club. I’ve buried an old mate. I’ve voted. I’ve had a new front door installed, and I’ve met Sir Patrick Moore. I’ve been camping with friends and family….
Jimbo hasn’t. It was a rather sobering thought that for him one day is just like the next.

We arrived, and were processed much faster that on previous visits. Apparently the chokey was recently inspected and had the “thumbs down” on how inefficient they were with dealing with visitors. We were thoroughly searched, and on chatting with the fit guard who goosed me up it seems that people regularly try to smuggle stuff in. We bought some supplies at the prison shop – six tins of pop, six bakewell tarts, three lumps of cake, three bags of crisps, six choccy bars. And this time we managed to scoff the lot between us. He needs feeding up – prison food’s not good, and he’s not eating properly.

Jimbo seemed in good spirits, considering where he is. He’s now noticeably gone very grey, but despite not eating regularly he seems to have put on a little weight since I last saw him. I mentioned about the search I’d had on the way in, and that I was amazed how people try to smuggle stuff in. Jimbo wasn’t. He told me that in this last week, prison warders have confiscated two freeview set-top TV boxes that had been smuggled in. Another prisoner had got a mobile phone secretly brought in. This had been discovered when he was dumb enough to ring Radio One to ask for a request for himself and all the other inmates on his wing. It turned out that he denied having the phone, but it was found on his person (or more accurately “in” his person) when he was X-rayed. Interestingly, it transpires that prison staff have the right to X-ray prisoners to find contraband. But having determined that a prisoner has a mobile phone where the sun doesn’t shine, they are not allowed to extract it.
We also heard that the prison is being fined by the Health & Safety Executive because the razor wire lining the tops of the walls of the prison is dangerous. But because it’s cheaper to pay the fine than remove it, the prison pays the fine. Whilst we’re on the subject of the ridiculous it turned out that he was allowed the mucky mag I sent in a few weeks ago due to changes in rules from the Home Office. Such filth was banned in prisons a while ago, but recently it’s been determined that denying sex offenders access to grumble mags is impinging on their human rights. So sex offenders are now allowed scruff.

All too soon the guards called time on us. Two and a half hours had flown by, and we left him and went for a pint to calm our nerves. The pub over the road from the prison looked to be swarming, so we adjourned to the Society Rooms – the Wetherspoons by the Railway station. A pint of Scorpio Porter, which was arguably the worst porter I have ever tasted. Followed by a pint of Cromwell’s Hat. I say “pint” – I left half of it. Next time we’ll brave the crowds at the pub by the prison….

1 comment:

  1. the beer was on the ropey side still feeling full after all that cake and sundry crap I have eaten today
    Good to see jimbo