Finally they came and one by one escorted us to cells on A wing, which was daunting to say the least, although I shouldn’t have been too surprised as in reality when I thought about it, it looked exactly as the images I’d seen in the newspaper or on television, every time a prison story had been reported in the past five years. The cells themselves however were a different story. The door clanged open and I was deposited in a room about 10ft long by 8ft wide, with a set of bunks along one wall and two small desk like tables along the other, followed by a wall about 4ft high which screened the toilet and hand basin — well, I say screened… It may have stopped anyone who looked in through the narrow glass observation panel in the door from watching you while you took a shit, but there was no privacy from the fellow on the top bunk should he choose to look!
My cell mate was a huge black guy of about 60, from Jamaica, although he had lived in Britain for almost his entire life. He was quick to regale me with stories of his conviction. He was a heroin dealer, but had not been arrested for drugs. Instead he’d had a client who hadn’t paid, so he and a couple of mates had been driving over to this fellows house to “cut ‘im up wit da machete, mun,” When the police had stopped them for speeding, searched the car and found the machete, hidden in his shirt down his back, so he had been charged with holding a prohibited weapon, and sentenced to 28 days prison. He reckoned he’d had a lucky escape, although he was worried about his stash. Evidently he was also a carpenter by trade, and had been renovating a clients kitchen, so had concealed some £50k worth of gear under the floorboards of the house whilst he worked there, however now he had been away for three weeks and had not found anyone he could trust to go back to the premises and collect it. I envied him. If this was the worst of his problems, he was in a far better place than me!
Actually he wasn’t as bad as I’d first thought. He soon gave me a running commentary on how things were run here, what the routine was and what to expect regarding food, hygiene and lock-up times, which was lucky really, because apart from dumping me in the cell with a complete stranger who could have been an axe murderer for all I knew — and almost was, the Prison officers hadn’t told me any of this. I learnt that there were manual jobs available where you could earn money, and also education courses which also entitled you to a payment, although neither was going to make you rich, in fact it was barely enough to pay for an ounce of tobacco a week, and the way I was wasting it due to my lack of rolling skills, I would need at least two! He showed me a copy of the education course list and most of it appeared to be fairly basic English and maths, but that was really the least of my problems.
They had given me a phone pin, and told me that if I needed to ring anyone, I would have to do it that afternoon before I’d been locked up, but the only phone available was in the holding room where we had eaten our dinner, and it hadn’t been working, so by now it was Saturday night, and no-one knew where I was. I needed to get hold of Tom,and organise for him to go and collect all my belongings, as at this point in time I wasn’t even sure that the flat was locked!
By 5.30pm we were locked up for the night. My cellmate asked if I minded if he prayed on the floor in front of the toilets it was the only area big enough to lay out his prayer mat. Frankly, compared to what I’d imagined might happen to me in here, praying was a relief. By 10pm he was finished and soon fell asleep on the top bunk, but I knew that it would be many hours before I could even contemplate retiring, so I sat down with a couple of pieces of scrap paper, and started to make a list of all the contents of the flat. Next, I made another one of all the people who owed me money, and then rearranged them in order of how likely I was to get it out of them. I knew that most of the people that I’d been dealing with had been low-life scum, and had refused credit to them, but there were a handful who I had rightly or wrongly called friends, and now that I was in here without the benefit of being able to prepare for it, I would have to rely on these people to pay up, so that I could survive!
I then made another list of all the contents of the storage shed I’d been renting around the corner in St John’s Wood. If I was brutally honest with myself, I would have to start to make some plans to have all these arrangements wound up, and someone would have to dispose of all the excess assets I had lying around the district because it looked like I was going to be here for quite some time. Besides, giving myself something to do kept my mind off the horror of where I was, and what might become of me — I seemed to be in a bit of a daze at the time, and couldn’t quite believe what had happened. Eventually I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, and fell into a troubled sleep.
I woke with a start at 9am as the cell door clanged open. Mr B, My flatmate was off to church. I would have gone too, in order to get out the hideous cell for an hour or so, but as I wasn’t on the list, I wasn’t allowed. Evidently the pastor would be around to talk to me, and I could put my name down if I decided to go next week. Left again to my own devices, I spent the morning revising my lists and making others, this time of names of possible people I might ask to help me out, with the number of chores which were on my next list to be carried out in the coming weeks. This was all well and good, but I still hadn’t been able to get hold of anyone on the telephone anyway, and now I would have to wait until my numbers had been added to my pin, and God only knew how long that would take.
Mr B arrived back at around 11.30am, and then half an hour later we were unlocked for lunch — just enough time to walk down to the servery, line up while our orders were read out, collect it and walk back to the cell. As I had only just arrived, I was on default so got what they had spare, from the looks of it. Lunch was a fry up,and not exactly a culinary delight, but certainly better than I had thought it would be! Maybe things wouldn’t be as difficult in here as I thought.
After lunch as we were locked up all afternoon, My thoughts turned to washing and showering. I hadn’t had a shower since midday Friday, and by the looks of it, I would be waiting a while longer! Mr B had said that they usually opened the shower room for an hour or so every second day, and two landings would have to jockey to get a spot, but on weekends it was never open. He had quite openly told me that he had given up,and would have a shower when he got home a week later, as it was too difficult to manage in here. I had been used to a shower at least once a day, quite often twice, so I was damn sure I wasn’t going to wait until I got out of here — that could be months, or even years away! I’d been in the same clothes for two days continuously too, so as much as I hated the idea of my prison issue garb, and in the absence of a shower, I decided I would at least feel a little fresher in a clean tracksuit and underwear. I probably looked horrendous, I couldn’t tell because there was no mirror, but then I reasoned, there was no one so far in here worth looking pretty for!
We didn’t have a television either. My predecessor had sold it to another inmate for a bag of ‘spice’! Mr B had asked the officers repeatedly for anther one, but apparently the answer had been the same on each occasion ‘Not our problem, there are none spare, you’ll have to wait until you’re moved to another wing.’ So far Mr B had been on this wing for the past three weeks, and it looked like he would be here until he was discharged a week later, so it also looked like there would be no television for the foreseeable future.
Monday morning dawned and I awoke early, keen to get things sorted and find out what was in store for me over the coming weeks and months. Mr B had a maths class scheduled for the morning, however as yet, I had no idea what was to happen with my day. Eight o’clock struck and a deafening siren rang out across the wing, followed by someone screaming out ‘free-flow’. Apparently the doors were open for 20 minutes or so to enable inmates to travel from their cells to their places of work or education. Mr B was off, and I was left standing in the doorway, with no idea what to do.
Before long an officer came along and handed me a strip of paper. I was to see the sexual health nurse. Evidently they wanted to take some blood tests and screen me for Hep B. I had already told them I had been inoculated for hep A and B, but that didn’t seem to matter. I had no idea where to go but that didn’t matter either. ‘Down the end of the landing, turn left’ He bellowed at me, looking at me as if I was demented. I followed his advice and knocked on the door, and waited. ‘What the hell are you doing hanging around here?’ another one demanded. Evidently I was just supposed to open the door and go straight in. Who knew? I was at my wits end. I had no idea what to do or where to go, with no one to point me in the right direction.
There was always someone bellowing whenever I was out of my cell, but as disgusting as it was, the best option seemed to be just to stay there and not venture out. Anyway, once inside the sexual health clinic they were much friendlier. The nurse told me to sit down while she prepared everything, then fastened a tourniquet, pulled out a needle and tried, without success to take my blood. I must confess, my arms were a bit of a mess, but I had become so used to self medicating by now that I could normally hit a vein within 3-5 seconds, in fact, after about four attempts, I even volunteered to find it for her, but of course that was not allowed! Eventually they decided to get me back later in the week when the doctor was in, and try again with him, so I was allowed to go.
Just then another siren went off, sounding a bit like those blasts you hear on movies when submarines are in trouble, and the word ‘lock-down’ blared across the loud speakers. Again I had no idea what was happening, but the nurse was quick to point out that I would now need to stay here until a full head count had been done, as there was either someone missing, or there was an ‘incident’ somewhere on the wing. She made me a cup of coffee, and we sat chatting about what I had been doing on the outside. Not the drug fucked orgies, but the writing and film stuff, and she was fascinated, only stopping to ask ‘What on earth are you doing in here?’ This was a question I would ask myself numerous times over the coming months, and only served at this point to illustrate how incredibly stupid and foolhardy I had been!
After about half an hour,an officer came running into the clinic, before yelling, ‘What the hell are you doing in here?’ It seems they had been looking for me! I was the ‘incident’. I was promptly escorted back to my cell and locked up again until lunchtime. Before long another officer opened the cell door ‘Where the fuck were you?’ He demanded ‘They wanted you for education assessment!’ ‘No one had told me, and even if they had, I wouldn’t have known whereto go anyway!’ I replied. Frankly I’d had enough of being treated like an idiot! ‘Can you try not to sound so fucking superior? With an attitude like that you can fuck off!’ As he slammed the cell door again and stormed off. I would gladly fuck off! Idiot! Where did he think I could fuck off to?
I was in despair at how I would ever get used to this place — there was no rhyme nor reason to anything they did. I would have thought that being on an induction wing they would show you where everything was, and how everything was supposed to happen, but clearly that was not the case. Lunch was served at 11.45, and I’m afraid the quality had slipped from Sunday’s fare. Potatoes which looked OK, but had obviously been boiled without being washed because they tasted not only of dirt, but of rotten potato blight as well. These were accompanied by a rather weak looking stew or curry or something, the taste was indecipherable. Wet and brown with bits floating in it, was the only way to describe it, but I didn’t manage to eat it. Two mouthfuls of potato and I started heaving my guts out, so I made do with the 3 slices of bread which came with it.
The following afternoon was torturous. Mr B had nothing scheduled for the afternoon, so he spent the entire time until dinner,pacing up and down the cell. On top of this he had developed a nervous twitch and his lips started flapping together which made an annoying hollow clapping sound, relentlessly! I tried concentrating on my lists again, but it was too much so I lay on my bunk staring at the ceiling, wondering how the hell I was ever going to extricate myself from this mess.
I had another more immediate problem as well. My case had been bound over for the crown court on the 5th of March, approximately a month away, and I was without legal counsel. The little guy with the dreads who had represented me in the police station, had given me the details for his boss, but as I still had no access to a telephone, I couldn’t call them. I decided I would have to write a letter, but at present I didn’t have anything on which to write it. It seemed the further into this mess I got, the less chance there was of ever getting out of it!
I was jolted from my thoughts by the door clanging open again, this time to a tall skinny woman who called my name and then took me outside onto the landing to ask me some more questions. ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Marital status?’ ‘Have you ever been a victim of domestic abuse?’ ‘Are you on medication for depression?’ ‘What’s your occupation?’ ‘ Do you have a drug or alcohol problem?’ I had no idea where these questions were leading? Who was this woman? And why the hell should I tell her all the intimate details of my life? For all I knew she would be around to my house while I was in here, and clean the place out? When I asked her she muttered something about providing assistance for dealing with family issues on the outside, but I didn’t need help with family — I didn’t have any family in Britain, what I really needed was access to a phone, help in engaging a lawyer, and someone to tell me exactly how everything in here worked so that I wasn’t constantly running up against brick walls all the time!
Interestingly though, the Drug and alcohol question got me thinking about drugs for the first time since my arrival, and I realised that I couldn’t in fact be addicted to crystal meth, as I’d been told I was, because until this woman had mentioned it, I hadn’t even given it a backwards glance, which only served to prove my point, that it wasn’t in fact ‘highly addictive’ as all the do-gooders made out, but rather a bloody good excuse for bad behaviour! Throughout the whole ordeal over the past twelve months I had been convinced that I could give it up if I’d wanted to, but that was just the point — I hadn’t wanted to. And now I came to think of it, I would have loved a long, cold Gin and Tonic, and a nice, big, fat line of coke to top it off!
I’d started to get bored with everything now. Left alone with too much time on my hands I started to think about things which I shouldn’t have been. I’d completed all the lists I needed, and for the moment had drawn a blank on where to source paper and a pen to write letters to all my friends and acquaintances whose addresses I remembered. My thoughts then started to turn towards how I could have run the drugs operation better, how I could have foiled the police for a while longer, and how I could have got away with it, or rather how I would getaway with it when I set up again after I was finally released from this hell hole.
I was still angry with the police, because they had acted so superior about how they had managed to capture me, and disrupt one of the biggest drugs cartels in London, when in actual fact, it was only a one man affair, there were no great import processes, In fact it was most likely not me they were after at all, but the guys above me who had been forcing me to sell their shit, under penalty of violence and abuse for some months. The reason I had got caught, I realised now was that because I had only started off intending to deal a little to my friends in order to fund my fun, but also to make a little bit of pocket money in the short term, I hadn’t given any thought to how the operation was set up, and how big it would grow!
Because initially it had just been friends, I had allowed them to collect from my apartment, which had meant that I had to have a supply of everything on the premises. I had started off very carefully, however things had very quickly spiralled out of control and within the space of just a few short months I had a database of some 3000 clients, so in a sense I had set myself on a path of destruction from the word go.
Later on in the proceedings when I had been getting away with it for some months, and had been entertaining a string of boys who had beat a path to my door every day for months on end I had become ambivalent to all precaution, and in fact had become rather sloppy, however the very fact that I’d been caught was testament to the fact that I hadn’t been running the ‘sophisticated and elaborate affair’ that the idiotic police had been claiming, and I wondered whether if I told the solicitor this, it might in fact form quite a robust defence, coupled with the fact that I had been under duress to sell huge volumes of the stuff, in order to escape harm for me and those around me. Surely if I told the truth, the judge would be more lenient, as just by the sloppiness of the way I had been caught, surely they must see that I was no professional at the game!
Once I was finally released though things would take on a whole new shape and form. Gone would be the store of product in my flat. I would set up a delivery system during the day using keypad storage padlocks, which I had already sourced from China, and that way I would be able to deliver in advance and then give them the pin code when they paid the money, and I was damned sure there would be absolutely no credit! To date I was owed some £14,000 if one included the money that had been stolen from me by one of my ex-clients, and one of my ex-employees. Just in little people alone around the district and my so called friends, I was owed some £2,700 which I was pretty sure could be accessed fairly readily, as they were all good for it, but again it got back to the point that I needed access to the bloody phone, and my two phone numbers had still not been added to my pin, however, when they were, I would be ready, with all my lists in place.
Double Bubble is the third book in The Chemsex Trilogy — a series of books written by Cameron Yorke about his experience with Chemsex, addiction, and imprisonment in the UK.
We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the second instalment in the serialisation. Read the first instalment.
The Chemsex Trilogy
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“Pentonville was inhumane…”
On the road again to my new ‘residence’, my head was swimming with all the options, angles and problems which had been thrown up today. I didn’t know what to do, and at the time was too tired to think clearly about any of it. I had been up since 6 am and had spent the entire day locked in the holding cells at Blackfriars Crown Court,apart from my five minutes in court and 15 more in a meeting room with Alistair. We had been meant to depart around 3 pm, but in reality had not left until 4.30 pm, and then had to collect others from Inner City Court around the corner, so by then had hit rush hour traffic and it had taken a good two hours to make the journey, and then there had been three other buses in front of ours, so we had finally disembarked the sweat box at 10 pm, when we were led straight into a holding room and given a styrofoam pack of fish and chips for dinner, whilst waiting for our paperwork to be processed.
This seemed to take an eternity. First of all we were photographed and given an ID card, then called one by one to see the nurse, and I realised with a start that I would have to go through the entire medical history process again, have my re-scheduled throat biopsy re-scheduled again, along with all the other medical processes, including my new dentures, although I supposed I could have them sent from HMP Pentonville once they were ready. Next we were taken to another room and strip-searched, before finally gaining possession of our personal effects again.
When it came time to sign for mine, I noticed with horror that my Prada bag with all my valuables was not there. I had noticed it being loaded onto the bus at Pentonville, and seen it being unloaded at Blackfriars, but everything had already been reloaded before we had been allowed to board, so I hadn’t had a chance to see it for the final journey. The officer in charge just said it hadn’t been on the bus so I would have to fill out an App! We were allowed a three minute phone call, so I called Tom to tell him where I was. I hadn’t had access to the phones for the past few days so I hadn’t had a chance to tell anyone that I was moving — hell I hadn’t known for sure myself until this morning!
Next we were led outside across a lawn to a side entrance of a huge modern looking building,and into a more modern version of the wing set up at HMP Pentonville. We were given a pack containing a pillow, duvet, sheets, towel, and plastic plates and cutlery, and shown to a cell. This was a far cry from Pentonville! There was the standard bunk set up down one wall, and built in desks along the other, but in the corner nearest the door was a mini bathroom, complete with toilet, basin and shower! This was heaven compared to what I’d been used to, in the month at Pentonville I think I had probably only had a shower about four times.
HMP Thameside was run privately by Serco, and had attracted a lot of adverse publicity when it first opened because many felt the facilities were too luxurious for a prison. Compared to Pentonville I had to agree, they were like chalk and cheese, however with the vermin problem, lack of maintenance and cleanliness, and antiquated facilities, Pentonville was inhumane. Trust me, speaking from the limited experience I had at this stage, it was such a monumental shock to lose ones’ freedom, choice, income, assets, lifestyle, family and friends, that I regarded this as punishment enough, without having to be subjected to squalid conditions which affected ones health, both physical and mental as well!
I had been so tired, and anyway not generally disposed towards making friends in here, so hadn’t really noticed the others off the same bus as me, apart from a guy sitting across from me in the holding room who had seemed rather upset, but had resolved to keep to myself so hadn’t paid too much attention to him or anyone else for that matter, but it turned out that he was to be my cellmate for the next day or so at least.
Mark had been done for money laundering and his Lawyer had advised him that he had done a deal with the Crown Prosecution and he would be looking at a suspended sentence, so he had travelled down from Wales that morning, expecting to be home in time for dinner, and had instead been sentenced to 3½ years prison. He was mortified, and his and his family’s entire life had been turned upside down because of it.
We had both been given smokers packs, so we sat talking well into the night, smoking roll up cigarettes — my first since my initial smokers pack at Pentonville some four weeks earlier. I knew that having come this far without them I should probably have continued to abstain for good, but I was still so anxious and worried about things that they did in fact help relieve the pressure.
At least now it looked like Linsey may have been right. Things were definitely more comfortable here. Duvets and real polyester pillows for a start, as opposed to the crochet style hospital issue blankets and rubber covered foam pillows from Pentonville. A shower in the cell was a real bonus, and we also had a flat screen TV, which doubled as a computer, although for now neither of us had any idea how to use it. We had also been told that once we had completed induction we would have a telephone in-cell as well, meaning an end to the relentless waiting in line for the communal ones on the landings.
Mark was probably the best I could have hoped for as cell mates went. He was intelligent, had been self-employed almost all his life, a conservative like me, and also a keen competitive horse rider, so in fact we had a lot in common. Eventually we turned on the television to find Les Miserables playing on one of the channels,and started watching it, but soon fell asleep. Next morning I awoke to abject silence. It was late, around 10.30 am, with no sign of life around whatsoever. This was weird compared to what I had been used to, with the foghorn-like sirens going off each morning, and cries of ‘free flow’, doors clanging, and loud music or inmates yelling at each other across the landing.
Eventually we decided that something must be wrong, so I pressed the emergency call button. A voice answered almost immediately, informing us that there had been a flood on one of the other wings so there were no staff available to attend to us, but someone would be around shortly with lunch. Sure enough, within half an hour a trolley came round serving out hot soup and sandwiches. We were locked up for pretty much the remainder of the day apart from a half hour out in the freezing cold of a small exercise yard which opened off the end of the wing, but it didn’t matter really because we were both quite happy sitting in our cell watching the racing on channel 4.
I had noticed a couple of familiar faces of guys who had been at Pentonville, but as I had kept myself to myself there, they didn’t know me, and I had no desire to strike up friendships with them either. As it was the weekend, a similar procedure was adopted for Sunday as well, although we were allowed out onto the landing for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon, and Mark, being far more social than me, quickly struck up a conversation with a couple of others who had similar cases to his. One poor fellow had been charged with money laundering on quite a large scale — £50 million to be exact, and had been tried with six other co defendants in front of a jury at Blackfriars Crown Court, but the case had been in progress for nine days now and they were all required to attend every day, meaning the same process of searches and transportation back and forth each time. I wondered what the cost of that was to the taxpayer, not withstanding the added pressure on them for the long hours they must have been keeping. We were to learn later that Serco were paid £350 per prisoner per journey, plus mileage, so each day must have cost over £1000 per person per day in transportation costs alone. I couldn’t understand why they hadn’t remanded them to a facility closer to the court, at either Brixton or Inner London but we were soon to learn that the last thing on the court or prison systems’ minds was cost cutting, budgeting or austerity measures!
Obviously because we had just arrived, and as it was also the weekend, we had been placed on default vegetarian meal options, but even so they were infinitely better than that at Pentonville, which for the most part had been inedible. All in all it was a fairly comfortable weekend spent chatting and watching television, and I was the most comfortable I’d felt for quite some time. Monday morning came and we were all herded up for induction, where they explained about the telephone system and the CMS or Computerised Messaging System, where we were able to book everything on our in cell computers. This included ordering canteen, booking gym and library sessions, applying for education and work, ordering meals, and booking visits. It all sounded amazing, and we couldn’t wait to get back to the cell to try it out. They also told us that our funds, if we had been transferred from another prison, should already have been credited to our accounts, and that we could order canteen up to and including Tuesday night at midnight, for next day delivery. Similarly there was another service from the same company as email-a-prisoner.com, called secure-payment-services.com where friends and relatives could send £50 at a time directly to our spends accounts and if transferred before midnight, it would be available by mid-day the next working day. This was heaven. I had known there must be a way to facilitate these most basic of tasks, however it was only available through privately run prisons, the government ones were too lazy and institutionalised to bother to install it.
Once back in our cell after lunch, They came suddenly to tell me I was moving. Once again I packed everything and followed the officer across the landing to D wing, where I was shown to a cell at the far end of the concourse. James, My cellmate was an affable sort of a chap. A self-employed painting contractor from Essex, he had been given two months prison for refusing to get into a taxi which was driven by a Muslim, however he told me it had been pretty easy to run his company from here for the past two months, owing to the fact that he had the phone in the cell. His employees couldn’t phone him, but he could call them, and did so daily. He was being discharged the following day, so I would have seniority over the cell when he left and I inevitably got my third cellmate in three days!
James was fairly social and there was an endless stream of guys in and out of the cell, to whom I was introduced. Rab, as the name suggests was a Scottish fellow, who had been caught on New Years eve with a corkscrew in his pocket so had been charged with possessing an offensive weapon. He had been on remand for the past 5 months awaiting trial, and would be in court in four weeks time. He had been in a similar situation to me, in that he had been arrested, and unable to reach anyone by phone, so now had in all likelihood, lost all his possessions, job and flat, and would have to start all over again when he was released. He had been in and out of gaol all his adult life so was no stranger to this, but by now, at the age of 52 it was becoming more and more difficult. His sister in Glasgow helped him out financially with a little cash every few weeks, but he was starting to worry about what he would do when released. He was pretty certain he would be released straight from court with time served. When you were released from Prison, by law they had to give you £49.00 but if you were released from court, you got nothing. Furthermore, being in a remand prison, he would then, with no money in his pocket, have to hitch hike back to the prison to collect what few belongings he had.
It didn’t bear thinking about and I couldn’t understand how the government could allow this to happen and either turn a blind eye or be completely oblivious to it. How on earth could they possibly hope to address issues of rehabilitation and reducing re-offending, which they so often debated on television, when they were deliberately setting these people up to fail! For most in this situation, homeless, jobless, and with not a penny to their name, they had no option but to steal, sell drugs, or just opt out and get high, and no-one was doing a thing about it.
19-year-old George was lovely kid who’d had a pretty rough upbringing. His mother had married again, and his step-father was a renowned cocaine importer, and he was the eldest of 6 children. He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the block, but he was honest and kind, and would give you the shirt of his back if you needed it, however he had been diagnosed with ADHD, and was prone to a fairly quick temper. He had however secured himself an apprenticeship when he left school as a landscape gardener, a job which he loved and of which he was immensely proud. He had moved in with his childhood sweetheart, and she had promptly fallen pregnant. George had been ecstatic about the baby, and when it had been born had again been over the moon and extremely proud. That is until he came home from work early one evening to surprise his girlfriend for her birthday, and found her in bed with his best friend, so he calmly went outside to the shed, grabbed the petrol can from the lawnmower, soaked a couple of sheets from off the clothes line, carried them into the kitchen , dropped a match on them and walked out. He had been charged with arson, and was lucky no-one was hurt or it could have been much worse, as it damaged the neighbours flat as well, but there had been no doubt that he had meant to kill the bitch! He had been on remand for over twelve months, and was due in court the same day as me. He was pretty confident of also being released with time served, as his lawyer was pretty certain that they couldn’t give him any more than a two year sentence, and something which I hadn’t known before was that in Britain, for sentences up to 10 years, you only serve half in prison, with the remainder on licence, or probation, and would spend the remaining time reporting to your probation officer, and having to advise them of your whereabouts etc, but at least you were out of gaol.
In George’s case because by the time he went to court he would have already served 12 months, if he did in fact get a two year sentence he would walk free. I felt sorry for him, he was a good boy, but very naïve and easily led. He had got involved with some older guys who had peer pressured him into doing spice, and had become quite hostile towards the prison and its officers, and I couldn’t help thinking how sad that he had become so angry and bitter towards society at such a young age. I only hoped that he could get himself back on track once he was out, but his parents didn’t seem to be the ideal role models either, and with a criminal record, he would find it extremely difficult.
Next morning I said goodbye to James, and wished him luck. He was moved out at around 8 am, and as I had no activities scheduled for the morning, I was left to my own devices in my cell, so was able to unpack the few belongings I had, have a long leisurely shower, catch up on some of the telly I had missed over the past month or so. When the prison had been built, it had been equipped with full free view television, but for some reason this had been switched off. There were a number of rumours and conspiracy theories behind this. One was that they had terminated it because the paedophiles had been watching Ceebeebees, a BBC Children’s network. Another one was that too many guys had been wanking to babe station. More likely, we were to decide later, was that the officers just disconnected it as a power play, but whatever the reason, it had been circumnavigated. By cutting the fixed cable for the aerial, which was routed through a junction box, and poking the raw end out the window, it picked up the signal perfectly, giving us a full complement of 170 channels.
The officers knew that everyone was doing it, and pretty much turned a blind eye to it, unless you got on the wrong side of them, and then they could be nasty and vindictive, and enforce disciplinary action for it, when absolutely every other person on the wing had done the same thing. Other times they would conduct cell searches, and disconnect all the aerials from all the televisions, purely to make a point — that they were in control. Either way, I was thrilled to have access to whatever I wanted to watch at this point, rather than the regulation eight terrestrial channels on offer at Pentonville. I had already learned that the officers here were a far cry from those at Pentonville. They had been hard as nails and deliberately hostile and unhelpful. These were mostly either quite young — between 20 and 35, or obese, and either way, as weak as piss. They were all social outcasts with a lust for power, and encouraged everyone to call them by their first names. We had very quickly joked that the reason for this was that if they made friends with everyone, there was less chance of being beaten up! I certainly wasn’t interested in making friends with them, in fact I wasn’t even interested in knowing most of their names. As long as they locked and unlocked me when they were supposed to, did their job and answered my questions, that was the extent of my involvement with them. On the outside I wouldn’t have even given them a sideways glance, much less include them in my list of friends!
The door opened suddenly and I looked up to see Mark standing there. He was to be my permanent cell mate for the foreseeable future. I was quite pleased with this arrangement. There were far worse people to share a cell with! We very quickly got into a routine. That afternoon involved education induction but as I had already done mine a couple of weeks earlier I only had to hand in the copy of my test from Pentonville, but being newly incarcerated, Mark had to sit the Maths and English aptitude tests. Once this was done we were free to apply for jobs and education, and this could all be done on the computer. I put myself down for the level two spreadsheets and database course, thinking it was a good opportunity to brush up on my skills, however once I’d started it, I realised that the computers were all loaded with pirated versions of Office, and old versions at that, and there was very little contained in the course in which I wasn’t already proficient. It did mean though that I now had Excel and Access loaded for use on my in-cell computer, which gave me an idea.
I had long since been talking about writing my memoirs, and I very quickly realised that if I got Word loaded onto my account, I would be able to write books in my spare time while my cell mate was away at work, or education. I wasn’t too keen to enrol in the word processing and presentations course though, only in order to get access to Word! I would have to think of another way.
Meanwhile Mark had all sorts of personal problems to deal with, besides coping with his new life in incarceration. It had been a huge shock for he and his wife when he had received such a harsh penalty, and it had left them completely unprepared. She had panicked about how she was going to manage things in his absence, and understandably blamed him for basically dropping her in it. There seemed to be a pattern emerging here from others I had spoken too as well, whereby the Crown prosecutors would agree an American style deal or ‘plea bargain’ style arrangement, in return for defendants pleading guilty, dangling the carrot of the 30% discount on sentence for early plea, and then reneging on the deal, leaving the poor fellows in shock having prepared for a far lighter sentence on the advice of their Barrister. One could argue that this was on old wives tale, or an urban myth, but there were just too many incidences of it for there not to be some element of truth to it.
On a more positive note, within 4 days of his arrival, Mark had been categorised ‘Cat D’ which meant he was eligible for transfer to open prison immediately, so he would be allowed home on weekend visits once he had completed a quarter of his sentence. He was thrilled by this news and it rather buoyed his spirits, however the down side of this was that he started strutting around like a crow, boasting of his new status and telling everyone how good life would be once he was transferred, and the rest of us very quickly became tired of it!
The next step was for the outside contractor, Catch 22, otherwise known as the OMU or Offender Management Unit to complete a sentence plan which detailed how he would spend his sentence, any courses he would need to complete in order to address his offending habits. This had to be done before he could be considered for transfer, however we were now being held in a Cat B prison, which was medium security, so in theory they should move him immediately, however it was not that simple. He’d had a chat with his case worker, and she had agreed to contact him as soon as possible to have the sentence plan completed, as he was also keen to be transferred closer to his wife and family in North Wales.
Meanwhile, we had finally been notified of our library induction session and had both decided to check it out. Without work so far, we had quite a bit of time on our hands and were kind of getting under each others feet, so had brokered a deal whereby we would both try to book sessions for activities apart so that we each had sometime to ourselves, to make private phone calls, or even just time alone, as it seemed we were surrounded by others 24/7/365.
As soon as the door opened in the morning someone would be walking past or dropping in, and because Tom had sent me money, I had a good stock of things like coffee, sugar, teabags and of course tobacco, which was rather like currency in here, and pretty much set me up as a target for every man and his dog to come knocking on my door every time they were short, which seemed to be all the time. I didn’t mind at first, but after a few days it started to become a bloody nuisance, and there was an endless stream of guys adopting me as their ‘best friend’.
On this occasion though, we had no choice of the session time so went together. The library itself was small but it had a really good range of books available, and also offered extra activities such as Rosetta Stone language courses, DVLA Driving theory tests, and a book club which operated weekly, run by two volunteers from a charity who alternated the sessions. We were given the books to read and were then allowed to keep them afterwards, so we both signed up for it.
Neil, the Librarian had been really proactive in creating and running the library, and he had also been responsible for an endless stream of well known authors who donated books to be read, and then came in to take part in the book club groups and answer questions about themselves. This was of course a huge source of inspiration for me, and made me more determined to write my own books. To begin with I had decided that I would write one, but I quickly realised that there was so much content, I could quite easily fill three volumes.
Whilst we were both there, we managed to have a look at the Prison Handbook, and therefore Mark was able to decide the Category D prisons which would be best for his transfer. His first choice was HMP Sudbury, so he was quick to attack the computer once back in the cell and advise the case worker of his choice. Gym induction was another story altogether. We had been summoned after the first week, and had completed our gym induction, and been told that we should be able to schedule gym sessions the following morning, but so far it had been over a week by now and still neither of us were having much luck. I had sent a message on the CMS to the gym and they had come back saying that we should ask healthcare to authorise that we were medically capable. This apparently should have been done after our initial healthcare screening, however now it seemed we would have to book a session with the nurse in order to get it done. A prime example of the typical prison ‘box ticking’ gone wrong, but luckily I had an appointment scheduled with the sexual health nurse, to follow up on my hep A & B boosters, so I resolved to ask her about it while I was there.
Jayne, the sexual health nurse was amazing! Probably about my age, she was a lovely, bubbly person, so friendly and helpful, and I warmed to her immediately. She was also able to access all the other areas and book me in to see other specialists, and very quickly had me on the urgent lists for everyone. I was having trouble eating anything of substance without my teeth, and needed the dentist to get the dentures sent from Pentonville as they would be ready by now. After a month of no drugs my feet were not much better than before I came in,and were extremely painful when I walked so the Podiatrist was probably a good idea and I also needed to have my throat biopsy re-scheduled, but to do that I needed to get a referral from the GP. I had also developed a rather irritating itch and wondered whether I might be allergic to polyester sheets, or maybe the detergent they used to wash them.
She had a look at it for me, and to my horror, said she thought it was scabies! This she said could have been contracted from anywhere within the past six weeks, and was extremely contagious. Apparently you only had to sit on a contaminated chair or a bed for 12 seconds to catch it, and they were little bugs which burrowed under the skin. It was all over me, and extremely uncomfortable, but it made me sick to think that I could catch such a horrific thing. She prescribed some lotion for it, which she said would be available in three days. I thought that I had probably caught it at Pentonville, as we had showered and changed bedding so infrequently that there would have been ample time for infestations to take hold and spread. It literally made my skin crawl! Oh,and when I asked the nurse on the desk about the gym authorisation she of course blamed the gym staff for not processing it, but funnily enough, the following day, my booking ban was lifted, and I was able to book my first session.
I had never been much good at exercise. In truth it bored the shit out of me. In Belsize Park I had made noises about joining a gym, and Suzie, my uber-fit Jewish Princess neighbour had even gone as far as giving me a three day trial at the super stylish celebrity establishment she frequented just down the road from us. To be honest, I had gone once, in my extremely out of shape state, and been immensely intimidated by Gwynneth Paltrow and the like looking extremely chic in their designer sportswear with not an ounce of fat on them, so I had scurried away with my tail between my legs retreating to the anonymity of my sitting room, however it got worse — they had rung after the three days was up, to ask me what I had thought, and I had been too embarrassed to tell the truth, so had coughed up the £1400 annual membership fee via Mr Mastercard over the phone, and then never again crossed the threshold!
Later of course, once I had discovered the joys of crystal methamphetamine, I’d had no need for a weight loss regime — a couple of slams, and a three day sex party had been enough to keep me trim and flab-free for the past 12 months, however it had not been able to give me any muscle definition. Up until now I had not had time to even think about fitness, but now time was something of which I had an abundance, and with a free gym on my doorstep, I resolved to make the most of it, which in some ways would make up for the monumental waste of money my last effort had been. I therefore booked my self a daily session for the next week.
The facilities were amazing! Downstairs there was a huge indoor basket ball court which were also marked for tennis and badminton, and a full compliment of free weights — extremely popular with those brawny types who weren’t really interested in fitness, but liked to look muscle bound. They would hunt in packs and compare notes with each other and it was all a bit intimidating. There had been a number of options for booking sessions, but I had chosen cardio, which was upstairs, in a room which was decked out with 5 treadmills, bikes, cross-trainers and a couple of rowing machines, along with a full circuit of weight machines as well. The only problem was that apart from the treadmills I had no idea how the other machines worked, and as there were some thirty odd other inmates working out at the same time, I was too self conscious either to ask someone else for help, or to attempt anything other than what I knew for fear of being ridiculed or laughed at, so I was restricted to rowing, running or sessions on the cross trainer, but actually I was so unfit and out of shape that that would have probably been all I could manage anyway!
For the first time in my life I felt feeble. I still hated it, but every day I dragged myself out of bed to be ready for 8 am and made sure I used every session. I knew that the minute I skipped one, It would become a habit and I would not keep it up. Mark was also scheduling sessions, but later in the day from mine, so we would compare notes, about how much we had managed, and it had the effect of spurring each other on, competing as to who could run faster, longer further, and later on, what weights we were able to lift. He was a good deal bigger than me, but had been riding horses daily so was fitter,and what I hadn’t also realised was that as I had been so skinny when I’d been arrested, I had also been quite weak,and it would take quite some time to build up my strength.
On a more worrying note, my valuables still hadn’t turned up. I had sent off an app, and this time the prison had replied to say that Blackfriars Crown court had not handed them over so they must be still there. They recommended I ring them, but I had no access to their phone number, and when I asked Edd to look it up for me, and then tried to add it to my phone pin, they rejected it as a forbidden number. This sort of contradiction was to occur quite regularly throughout my stay here. This was mainly because the staff were either so stupid or so lacking in basic training that none of them knew what was and wasn’t allowed, and of course anything that implied any sort of blame apportion or anything which required a modicum of work on their part, was automatically denied, ignored, or lied about. Whenever you asked a question they would automatically look upwards to the left, avoiding eye contact and immediately stating it wasn’t possible. This was of paramount importance to me, as they had somehow ‘lost’ about £5000 worth of items, however it wasn’t so much about the cost. Items such as my gold cigarette lighter, and Cartier watch had immense sentimental value as they had been given to me as gifts.
Meanwhile Tom had finally managed to get his hands on my keys, but had not been able to access the flat, so he had rung the landlord, who had informed him that they had packed up all my belongings and put them into storage, but that I owed him two weeks rent of £840. It could of course have been far worse, but I was forced to give Tom my banking password in order to draw out the cash. I urgently needed to be able to collect those debts owing, but in here it was impossible to find anyone’s phone numbers. I had also given Tom my password for my iCloud, but he had insisted that there were only 60 contacts in it, when I knew there should have been over 3000, so something was wrong there too.
Tom had kindly offered to pay the £840, collect my belongings and store them at his place, however when he had been around there, one of the bikes had been missing and the others one’s brake cables had been cut. He had taken it home anyway and wondered whether he should get it into the mechanic down the road to have it fixed, however it wasn’t much use to me in here, so for the moment it could wait. I went through my lists with him over the phone and there were a number of things missing, but I marked off everything he had collected on my list.
It was clear that the landlord had stolen anything which could be used in their flats, so all my kitchen utensils, electronic equipment, bedding, television and small items of furniture were all missing, along with various unopened bottles of alcohol, and all my Louis Vuitton luggage.
I wasn’t so worried about this stuff. It could only have been either police or the landlord which had helped themselves to it, so I would simply file a police theft report and let them sort it out, but of course when I tried to ring the police on 101, which was a toll free number, I had to wait until I had added it to my pin, and when I finally got that done they charged me 19p per minute to call it, so by the time I got through to anyone, I had chewed through £20 of phone credit. I then had to put through an app to complain about that, and then a complaint form which came back advising me that 101 should in fact be a free call, however to this day they have never refunded the charges. I lodged a complaint form about my missing valuables too, figuring that at least it would force them to come up with a solution, but again it came back saying that they had no knowledge of it, and I should take it up with Blackfriars.
As I couldn’t reach them on the phone, I decided to wait until my court hearing in three weeks time and deal with them direct, but I also worried that the longer they were missing the less likely it was that they would be found.
Double Bubble is the third book in The Chemsex Trilogy — a series of books written by Cameron Yorke about his experience with Chemsex, addiction, and imprisonment in the UK.
Read our interview with the author.
We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the ninth instalment in the serialisation. Go back to read earlier instalments.
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