Arrival at the Prison

Finally you have arrived at your prison after an uncomfortable trip in a “sweat box”.  The van will pass through various security doors until it arrives at the prison reception. After the van drivers have completed some basic paperwork you will be taken one by one into the reception area. A prison officer will put you into another holding cell, which could be along with other prisoners while they start to process you into the system.

The process of getting into the prison is slow. After you have been waiting in the holding cell you will be collected by a prison officer and taken into a small private area. You will be subjected to another more thorough search, probably a strip search where you will be required to remove all your clothing,  and asked to sit in a special chair (called the BOSS chair) which checks that you haven’t hidden any electrical/phone equipment inside your body. This process is humiliating and intrusive but you don’t have the option to refuse so it is best just to get on with it; the prison officers don’t enjoy it any more than you do.

After the search you will be asked a number of questions by the prison officer and then placed into another holding cell. From this cell you will be taken to meet with the medical staff in the prison who will deal with any immediate issues. The medical staff in reception do not deal with any long standing problems or issues you may have and are focused on making sure that you will be OK overnight or until you can get to the medical staff on the wing within the prison.  Your picture will be taken and you will be given an identify card which has your name, picture date of birth and your prison number. You will be expected to carry this card with you at all times, and your prison number will be needed for almost everything you do within the prison! Each of the departments you are processed by will have numerous forms for you to sign. Within the prison services these forms are called “compacts” and are basic contracts which specify what you can and can’t do, and what the prison will do as a consequence of this. If you have a problem with reading these compacts, and whilst you will be given time to read them if you ask, you are rather pushed into just accepting what you are told is in them.

You will also be taken to meet with a senior prison officer who will ask you yet more questions. These questions are aimed at deciding if you are suicidal and a potential danger to yourself or other. If you are a smoker the officer may allow you to be issued an “emergency smokers pack” which contains cigarette papers, tobacco and lighter. If you are not a smoker you may be given a “non smokers pack” which contains some biscuits and orange squash drink. You get one or the other, not both packs even if you ask!

Finally you will meet with an INSIDER, who will not be the same person you met at court. If you have met an INSIDER at the court you will still have a host of questions about the prison, so don’t be afraid to ask again.


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