Some staff are a little wary about my being in my present job. Now, I live in the Block, notebook in hand. The Block is the most confrontational and heated place in any prison; in some prisons that atmosphere has become a breeding ground for entrenched and outright violent staff. Obviously, having the likes of me lurking about could be problematic.
I'm not going to censor what I write, and I have always resisted censorship being imposed upon me. But that doesn't mean that I am going to be gratuitously unfair and hint that matters are other than they are. As ever, I shall point out the good and the bad, however and whenever they appear.
In some sense this is a slight shift away from my usual broad - and obvious - agenda, which is decidedly anti prison service. Perhaps I am feeling rather more reflective, my academic instincts coming to the fore as my campaigning instincts take a rest.
As I judge this Block so far, it is thankfully free of the pitfall of staff entrenching themselves in aggressive attitudes. This is always a risk. The Block is where staff face prisoners at their worst, and where staff are most likely to face violence. In those circumstances, an isolated shift of staff are always at risk of reaching for the steroids and hardening their attitude. Whether this happens is largely in the hands of senior managers. Some Blocks are notoriously violent and this is at best allowed to continue by managers, even prison service headquarters.
I have yet to detect any unusual anti-prisoner or aggressive attitude on the part of the Block staff here. This isn't a broad nomination for sainthood. I've overheard a few choice comments made after staff have dealt with a particularly difficult prisoner. I'm not going to make an issue out of that type of thing if it's said "in private". It is only human, and when a con has kept me awake half the night by banging on his door then my comments are a damn sight worse. I may instinctively take the corner of my fellow cons, but I'm not going to pretend that none of us can be a real pain at times.
So staff needn't be worried about my writing. As long as everything is kosher, I'm not going to poke at it just for entertainment.
This is an interesting and unusual position for me to be in. Literally walking the corridor with screws on one side and cons on the other, and both are making demands on me.
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Prisoner Ben Gunn, HMP Erlestoke