I was having a lunchtime kip one afternoon midway through the media course to sleep off a migraine when there came a knock to my door. I’ve suffered with migraines since my 13th birthday, usually at times of stress, and though I was pretty relaxed most of the time in prison the general situation of being incarcerated probably isn’t one you can be completely relaxed about. The knock was an officer telling me I had to pack my stuff up for I was being moved to D Wing. Hurrah! This was something of a surprise, although I’d heard a rumour that I was high up the list as far as I knew I wasn’t yet eligible, but I wasn’t going to argue. Eligibility to be moved to a resettlement unit, which is what D Wing was, is usually at the quarter point of your sentence, although this only counts if you have less than 2 years (I think) left until the halfway point of your sentence at which time most prisoners expect to go home. Or at least hope to. The quarter point of my sentence wasn’t for a full 2 months after I moved to D Wing but from what I gather there was something of a lack of prisoners suitable for resettlement at the time. They were all far too naughty. The thing is, resettlement isn’t just about living in the place where you’re not locked up any more, have the key to your own room and have an ensuite shower. It’s so much more than this. Because if you live on D Wing the chances are you’ll be allowed back out in society before you go home. Exciting stuff.
Amazingly (or not) the migraine was soon forgotten and I started the usual rigmarole of taking my photos off the wall and cleaning up the sodding toothpasty mess. It really is annoying. I packed my stuff up into the three, yes three HM Prison Service bags it now required to contain all of my stuff. So much bloody stuff. And what was worse was that no bugger was around to help me move it all so I had to make three trips, each time dragging it a bit, resting it on my hip a bit, trying to haul it over my shoulder a bit. I looked a right tit. Eventually I made it. At which point I realised it was canteen day and I’d have to go back and collect that. So I stood outside B Wing, now locked, shouting “Officer….Officer…..OFFICERRRRRRRR” to attract someone’s attention. The gate is at one end of the wing, the office is at the other. Rubbish. At least my canteen didn’t weigh a ton when I eventually got it, in spite of the fact I’d bought loads of chocolate. The canteen’s a funny thing. When I first got to prison someone mentioned it and I thought it was an actual shop you go to. Not so. When they’d stopped laughing at me for being an idiot they explained that you get a list of items you can buy and once a week you submit a form with what you want on it. You then collect it a couple of days later. Simples. You’re limited to how much money you can spend each week: usually your wages plus a limited amount from the money that people have sent into you, if you’re lucky enough to know nice people that would do that. I have a lovely generous family and lovely generous friends so I always had money in my account. The amount you get from that account depends on whether you’re a standard prisoner or an enhanced one, i.e. a naughty person or a really good one. I was, of course, a model prisoner and if I hadn’t been there’s no way they’d have been sending me to D Wing. You can buy all sorts of stuff on the canteen: stationery, stamps, toiletries, tobacco, chocolate, crisps, cake, sweets, drinks etc. No alcohol or narcotics though. Most of my money was spent on phone credit so I could ring the boys every day and chocolate. Lovely lovely chocolate.
So, I got to D Wing and moved my stuff in to my lovely new sunny room overlooking the birds of prey. Hmmmm, I hadn’t realised how screechy they were. Shhhhh birds of prey, you noisy bastards. Someone else from the media course was moving into the room opposite me as well. I didn’t like her much, she seemed a bit up herself although that was largely because of her infamy. And further than that I can say no more. But what’s this? Could she have some of my chocolate? Erm…I suppose so. Cheeky bitch! That seemed like a suitable time to shut the door before the rest of my canteen did a disappearing act. While I mourned the loss of my mars bar I had a cup of tea, rearranged the room and toothpasted my pictures to the wall AGAIN. This was the fourth time I’d moved in 6 months, I really didn’t want to have to do it again. I looked around, and said “yay!” to myself. I was ridiculously excited about this. I rang my mum to tell her how brilliant it was. I think she was a bit bewildered. Then I rang the kids, they were definitely bewildered. “But I’ve got MY OWN SHOWER!!!!” I protested. Oh well, maybe I was being a bit over the top about it. But there would be no more baths behind a shower curtain fearful that some pillock wouldn’t notice the flip flops I deliberately left poking out underneath it or the loud splashing I was doing and walk in on me. That did happen once. I was not pleased.
Back to the media course the next day and I was surprised to find that some people were funny about the fact I’d made it to D Wing. Not my friends, though, they were as pleased as me. Some people are just odd and jealousy is an ugly thing. I didn’t care. I was on D Wing. I had my own bathroom. And birds of prey. Screechy harris hawks and a poxy eagle owl that goes “hoooooo” half the night. But I had a bathroom, my very own bathroom, did I mention that?
Around this time the company that ran our course started talking about job opportunities they had planned for when the course was finished. We were the first group to take part and although there would be new students when we had finished they also wanted some of us to stay on and work there making programmes for the prison. The idea was that this would be rolled out as in-cell TV for anyone that wanted to watch it. They also had two positions available for production assistants to work in the London office on day release. As I was near the date where I would possibly be allowed out and already resident on D Wing I applied. I REALLY wanted to get this job. I had already applied for my very first town visit (a weekend day where you are allowed out until the early evening and can go anywhere within a 40 mile radius of the prison…within reason) and had also applied for a home visit, essentially a weekend at home. If approved by the board (which comprised various governors and principal officers and considered the opinion of the probation service) I could do these things once I’d passed the quarter point of my sentence. I was overjoyed when both the town visit and home visits were approved, I couldn’t believe my luck. It meant I could see my children at home for a proper overnight stay rather than sitting in the visits hall. There was an application process for the job, a form to fill in and then an interview and when I had mine I was really nervous. There were two people from the company asking questions, one of whom was quite involved with the course and the other who we hadn’t seen as much. But they put me at ease and I’d done enough job interviews in the past to get through it. I thought I did OK. Then began the waiting. And waiting. And more waiting. In reality it was probably only a couple of days but it seemed like forever. Then one morning I got in and was handed a letter. I GOT THE JOB!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was going to work, in London as a production assistant and I was still in prison. I was even going to get paid. More phone calls were made only this time there was less bewilderment. I was very, very happy.