Is there such a thing as a good day as a prisoner? Well I guess it would depend on what one would class as ‘good’. Many would class a good day as just being able to mark another day off the calendar. For first time offenders getting through your first day without someone trying to kill them is probably a ‘good’ day, well that’s what they believe after watching ‘badgirls’ prior to entering a women’s prison. It actually makes me laugh prison programmes and documentaries that appear on our TV screens, I wonder if they get a brief to exaggerate, edit and give an unrealistic view of prisons? I suppose it’s a good way of encouraging the negative view’s they have of female offenders.
Do not get me wrong I am not saying women’s prisons are an idyllic setting because they are far from that and some of the rumours that exist about prison are true, just the same as some are made up to scare and intimidate women entering the prison system.I remember on my first day I felt afraid and alone, and I was not a newbie to the Criminal Justice System so imagine what first time offenders feel like. Being placed on a first night unit with every woman that has arrived at the prison recently is a chance to be inducted into the prison regime but is also a chance for individuals to learn. You can be educated about the use of drugs, different offences and the different types of prisoners that you will be accommodated with through out your stay. May I add this education is not part of the prison induction programme; it is delivered by the more experienced inmates.
Within the prison population you can pin point the different types of women; the newbie, old school, long-term, lifer, young offender, the seasonal inmate and there could be many other groups. You could go on labelling each of the women until you have stereotyped them all into a ‘group’ but what people fail to realise is they all deal with prison life in a different way and not necessarily because they choose too. Often when we enter somewhere that is new we are thrown out of our comfort zone and look for reassurance and comfort from others. We relate to other peoples opinions, actions and experiences and before we know it we are classed as being in that ‘group’.
You need to be aware of some prisoners who are experienced at preying on the vulnerable first time offenders; they will befriend you and then more often than not betray you. As long as you supply the gold they will be at your side. By gold I mean the items that are classed as gold in prisons; sugar, coffee, tobacco and food. They will manipulate you in to becoming their follower and take advantage of your inexperience. Then soon as trouble brews they will try to blame you and make you an enemy.
Many prisoners are that wrapped up in their own world and looking after number one when they first enter the prison, they fail to notice other people that need help and that are struggling themselves. But it only takes one individuals action to make everyone on the unit stop, listen and look around even if it is only for a short time. When you hear the call for a code blue to healthcare echoing off the officers radios you immediately know something is wrong. When you hear an officer trying to kick a barricaded door in and shouting for assistance you understand it’s serious. But when you find out a women has killed herself because she was that afraid, lonely and ill that’s when the reality kicks in that you are only one of the women in prison with multiple needs.