03 Jul Day 3
Friday 3rd July 2015
Quarter to Five
I was awoken by the loud jolts unlocking the door at 6.45am for sentencing. It wasn’t the most pleasant alarm clock but I couldn’t exactly bang to turn it off without getting myself in further trouble. I started to get ready and although I would have really enjoyed having a shower, they said I didn’t have time to have one yet they made me wait 20 minutes in my cell. Good, I thought, I’ll look more disheveled for the Judge and he’ll go easy on me hopefully. Instead I kept myself busy by pondering and sitting around.
I was taken for processing and given my creased suit back for court. It stunk so I must have sweat a lot on it. I really did look the part of posh kid does two nights in the nick. I was walked to the van in my cuffs and I was so aware of them this time as they cut into my wrists. I now understand why they make us wear them because I would have loved to have escaped from this situation but then I remembered that I would get 7 years for escaping. I was then driven to Leeds Crown Court which took ten minutes and I think we arrived for 9am. Going into Leeds Crown Court was a lot different than a few days a go. This time I was taken through the side entrance like an artist ready for the concert of a lifetime. I was then escorted to the green room which turned out to be a holding cell where all the other performers were. Have you ever seen the movie ‘Green Mile’? Now I am not dramatic but I had a court guard attached to me and I had to walk down a long corridor past all the other cell doors. Dead man walking is all I can think of.
Unlike the other times I have been in a holding cell, I wasn’t alone this time as there was a few guys all waiting like some surreal doctors surgery waiting room. It was mostly quiet apart from the same old question, ‘What are you in for?’ before turning back to reading newspapers which they put them down as they were called through the door not to return. What the hell is this place?
Anthony or ‘Ant’, as he had tattooed on his neck, is convinced all this was just a scare exercise by the judge to me and I will be let off today. He doesn’t think he will have the same fate. Ant has 146 convictions and this was the 10th time he’d been done for burglary.
Ant left the room for 30 minutes.
He came back in and said with no shock or surprise on his face, ‘I’ve just got 5 years, less the 10 months I spent on remand.’ Shit, I’ve just seen a guy lose 2 years of his life in this place and he doesn’t even seem fussed. He had a smirk on his face and a bit of arrogance in the sway of his arms and the way he moved. I could see someone who didn’t want this life. I hope he was actually pissed off about it because who would seriously be happy about having their life taken away from them?
I was taken out of the graffiti room and moved into an interview room to meet Ben, my barrister. He gave me a brief about the day and was hopeful that it would go well. After seeing Anthony’s sentence, I was just placid and accepting of my situation.
Back in my holding cell I couldn’t stop pacing. I was ready to find out what was in store for me after two days of built up anticipation. Finally, I was called in to court at 11.05 am. I could see my family through a tinted piece of glass which felt like I was looking through a time machine into the past. I have spent two nights here and already I feel like I am not the same person as I was. Then I was reminded about how I have disappointed my family and all they have stood for. I hope no matter what happens I can work towards meeting them on the other side of this sentence.
The judge read a letter in private which I wrote to him last night and then asked me to stand. I was happy to realise that my stomach wasn’t rumbling this time thanks to my bowl of muesli and UHT milk.
The judge turned to me and explained that I am an intelligent person who has brought a bad name upon my family. I had no real reason to sell drugs and yet I have lots of encouraging character references. I also pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. He paused and my heart was beating out of my throat and I was a mixture of both excited and terrified. He started at 3 and half years and I gulped and my knees went weak. He continued to reduce it to 28 months because of my guilty plea. So I looked to my family where I could see my mum broken down in tears, dad and Helen had tears in their eyes, Mark had the warmest smile telling me everything would be ok and although I knew Colin was there I didn’t see him as my glance was so quick.
My mind began rushing as I was taken back to the waiting cell with Anthony and within 30 minutes I was called out to see Ben. I’d already worked out that I have to do 50 weeks, just short of a year. I told Ben my workings and he smiled. He was frustrated that 2 years and 4 months was just 4 months off a suspended sentence. He said we could appeal and get it reduced but even then it would be up to the judge to suspend the sentence. It was too much of a risk to take as they could always extend my sentence too. I told him not to feel bad; he put up a brilliant defence and gave me the best mitigation possible and that we wouldn’t be arguing over 4 months if I hadn’t of sold drugs in the first place. I felt I deserved it and this was my chance to pay for what I’ve done. He retorted with how, ‘It was a very mature view considering the position you’re in and I respect that.’ We then shared a smile and I hoped he would have tea with my family one evening whilst I was in here and perhaps I could enjoy a meal with him and his Mrs once I‘m out, who knows?
Up until now I feel like I have been a zombie waiting for this moment in time and now that it has happened I feel as though I now need to make the most of it. I will learn, I will grow and I’m not sure what it is but I am sure I will find something positive from the end of this experience.
A few hours later
Back in the sweatbox, the lads were all barking from their cages about the air con not being on or the driver hitting the corners a little hard. I am sure they were all actually frustrated at the fact they had just been sentenced. I laughed at their remarks to the officer complaining about how the chairs don’t recline and they don’t like the movie selection (there are no TVs on the bus). I could only laugh because what else was I meant to do? I am one of them now.
Once we arrived back to the prison we went through another ‘check-in’ procedure but the staff left us in the van for another hour and thirty minutes whilst they had their lunch. That was a little tiring but I wasn’t going anywhere fast. At one point, all the guys in the van started rocking their little cubicles. I must admit, I joined in – what could they do? Send me to prison? It felt like we were going to tip over but I am sure these sweatboxes are designed to withstand a few caged animals swaying about. I found it all quite funny like I was one of the cool naughty school kids.
We were each led inside for yet more processing. I was the only one with a suit on which really made me look like I was done for fraud which everyone kept assuming. It might have been easier to say I was but I simply contested and explained how I was a failed petty drug dealer. It tends to get a few laughs and also helped me connect with the lads a lot more as no one can trust a fraudster because they lie. I have been honest about my offence which helped break down the ‘posh kid thinking he’s better than everyone else’ image I seem to carry a lot.
Something has changed within me and I now feel a part of this community. The guys respect me for who I am and I don’t feel I need to adjust my attitude, elocution or ambition to feel welcomed. There’s something about having a sentence and being locked in this place that gives us all common ground.
The Lads then told me that being on tag is actually 16 weeks which adds up to my sentence. In my workings out of my sentence I thought I’d have about 38 weeks to do but I will actually serve 42 weeks. This is plainly due to being unfortunate of having the 31 day months and the leap year in my sentence. Dammit. To be fair, I planned for 18 months so I won’t complain.
41 weeks and 5 days to go then!
As a guy who likes to have a plan I am now thinking very far into my sentence and thinking about my release and more importantly how I can work towards it. I should be moved to a category C or D prison within four weeks and have enhanced privileges within 6 weeks (if not sooner). In a category C/D prison I will be allowed out of my cell, have my own key to it, play pool and go to the gym as much as I want. Even if I don’t get moved to category C/D, I will be allowed a piano keyboard and Spanish learning material at least. I may as well put this time to some good use.
I hope I will have a good job as I am the only person I know in here with a degree so perhaps I could use it to teach or mentor? I want to see others grow because of my incarceration.
A couple of hours later
Where was I?
I was taken back to the ‘First Night Centre’ for my third night in a row where I was put with good old Stephen again. We have caught up and I told him about my sentence and we have distracted ourselves by watching some TV. Tea is chicken supreme and chips.
I still haven’t showered yet today or been out of my cell for exercise since I got here. I am sure once we get to the new wing it will be much better. Stephen reckons we will be here for the weekend now, I hope not.
Time to eat =)
Ahh just showered, it was so nice!
I have now been told I am moving to C wing which is also Stuart, the peer advisor’s wing, with Steven (I was spelling his name wrong before apparently!).
Steven is 39, as you know, he has 20 months left and has already served the best part of 6 years at Hull prison. He has a son 3 years younger than me – I think that’s why he’s so calm around me. It’s amazing how much you can find out about a person when you are stuck with them all day and everyday!
Moved to cell C-4-17
Our new cell is on the top floor so I now officially feel as though I am staying in a penthouse! Steven has started unpacking and the possessions he has acquired over the years is phenomenal. First of all, we have our cell TV, that’s fine, but he has two DAB radios, an endless DVD collection (with DVD player), a few books, a cupboard full of sauces, pickles, condensed milk, hot dogs, pineapples, tuna and so much more. (he even has Yorkshire Teabags – mmm!) However, the best part is the patterned rug he has for the floor, he’s made it in to a home. In prison if you have a rug you have made it. It’s an item I aspire to to achieve as there is not one piece of carpet in the whole prison so it would be nice to have a little bit of luxury and home comfort. Something I can wriggle my toes on when I get out of bed in morning. Ahhh.
I have the staff and well-behaved prisoners all looking after me as the ‘naïve kid’ who’s taking it too well apparently. Many have said they were scared when they arrived in prison. I question, what is there really to be scared of? Be polite, keep my head down and stand my ground with opportunists and I reckon I will be fine. But then there are the rumours of prisoners which can be scary which makes you wonder what could happen to you the next time you walk around the corner.
Tomorrow is Saturday and we get an hour and half out of our cell in the morning. Its time for me to send ‘apps’ (applications) to get my food, jobs, piano, gym and most importantly call time all sorted.
Tonight, ‘Flatliners’ with Kevin Bacon is on TV; I only watched this with Emily last week cuddled up and relaxed. I miss that already. I could ask Steven but I think that kind of think it’s frowned upon in here.
I’m ok so far but would obviously rather be with my family, I wonder how they’re coping?