40 Days in Mayfield Women’s Prison; Chapter 11 Prison Officer Diary: the first day

Today is the first day of my new endeavour. Six weeks of training, learning how to be a Prison Officer was being put to use. Due to me already been able to read court paperwork I was assigned to the reception. First day was an afternoon shift and up to about fourish it was pretty boring as the only prisoner I saw was the area cleaner but by 4 o’clock the ladies started to stream in from court.

It was easy to recognise the newbies from the ones that had been in out of the prison system. They had a swagger and were already pre-programmed to call you Sir and instantly knew what to do when they came through that door. The newbies came in looking lost, it took some time to make them realise that they were now in a place where rules had to be followed. The first one being not to lean on the counter but instead to stand on the white line, that they had to give their details with a clear voice and not to mumble and that any direction an officer gave they had to abide or suffer the consequences.

Categorising them was even easier than I thought. You had the Old School – knew every trick in the book and that they would find these newly trained staff easy to manipulate. You had the crazy loner – getting them to talk was hard work, getting them to comply without them kicking off would be even harder.  Then there were the nice ones – the ones that were yes sir no sir.  They were usually the ones in for high level crimes. Then the angry ones that were a handful, then the smack heads, who would be at the cold turkey stage by the time they got to us, begging for a blanket even knowing the temperature outside today was really warm, pleading and demanding to see a doctor, which fell on deaf ears, including mine. Then you had the criers – the ones who wanted everyone to feel sorry for them, the poor hard done by person who should never be in prison; the ones I noticed officers gave their time to them reluctantly, who with one hand placed their hand on their shoulder with the other doing a wanker sign to officers who would snigger in acknowledgment.

Before I knew it was 8.00pm and I already felt like a seasoned officer. I had witnessed and felt every possible emotion from my own anger caused by the women not doing as they’re told to the poor little crying inmates (sarcasm just in case you don’t realise that). I had done it all, well that’s what I thought.

We had been told that we had to stay open for a late arrival at 8.30pm, and so the last van of the evening rolled in. The inmate inside was refusing to leave the van. Apparently she had to be forcibly put on the van and it looked like she was coming off the same way. I tried to speak to her but her reply wasn’t the most flattering, and the well targeted spit over the door fell on its target of my eye.

The senior officer was called down who gave us the choice of waiting for riot gear or going on and taking her off without. We chose the latter which in hindsight was the bad choice. The aisles on those vans, only one person can walk down it at once so a traditional forcible move was impossible. She watched as three of us lined up by the door, me at the front of course. She told us she wouldn’t make it easy and boy she meant it. The cell door was opened and I went to take control but unfortunately she was a split second faster. Using the side to launch herself she came at me. I just about grabbed an arm as my head hit the cell behind. We fell in a heap but the other officers were quick to get on her taking control of her arms. She really tried to make it as hard as possible. I managed to get to my feet, the training kicked in and I controlled her head. Senior officer wasn’t happy and ordered her to be taken straight to the segregation unit which we gladly obliged to. Thankfully her steam ran out and we were basically able to just throw her in the cell instead of a full relocation scenario but I have returned home tonight after a lot of paperwork filled out, absolutely knackered with a massive fucking headache and I just wonder have I chosen the right career.

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