20th April 2020

By Anonymous Prisoner

23 March 2020: A week ago when people in Italy were dying and Boris was talking about herd immunity, in prison we were business as usual. “What a larf this corona lark is” – idiots sneaking up on each other and giving people surprise hugs and shaking every hand they could grab…

Jails run out of a lot of things, but after 6 years I’ve never seen anything less than a mountain of soap bars in the store cupboard. Not anymore. The Hall Manager comes in like the town crier to summon everyone from an already packed section to huddle round him so that he can tell us about ‘social distancing’! Nothing about the routine is going to change, he says, but there has been a reported case on our flat.

faces-3597203_1280He told us that if anyone reports a cough or a fever they will be carted to the digger [segregation] for 7 days, their co-pilot [cell-mate] will get 14 days (with no vape, no books, nothing).

The funny thing is that there had been a steady background din of muffled coughs up until the hall manager laid that on us…then it was like everyone had an instant Lemsip, you could hear a pin drop. One guy, bold as brass, shouted to the gaffer “No cunt’s gonnae declare it then!”

Well, after that, life went on as normal, apart from now every dafty in the hall thought it was hilarious to walk up to folk (especially in the queue for food) and cough on them: “Ha ha, you’ve got the virus!”

A week later the hall manager returns with the same cry to crowd round him, only now even Boris has started to take things a bit more seriously and Italy had 1,000 deaths over the weekend. Now the hall manager seems less town crier and more harbinger of the apocalypse. A new regime is imminent and social distancing is a must, he tells us. If there was an award for cognitive dissonance, the SPS (Scottish Prison Service) would field all the candidates.


Here is the reality inside a Scottish prison:

  • I saw an officer eating his lunch with gloves on after touching every surface in sight.
  • There are disinfectant wipes but you need to elbow your way through a pack of prisoners to get to them.
  • No one-way systems have been put in place, even in crowded/narrow areas.
  • We have to make a journey through fully populated areas to the desk for a single toilet roll.
  • Guards won’t wear masks because “it doesn’t stop you catching it.”
  • Prisoners can see guards coughing at work, but there is no way they are going to take a trip to the digger for saying so.

Some officers and prisoners are trying to be “socially responsible” but it is like trying to empty the sea one thimble at a time.

This article will be published in the May edition of Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners and detainees.

Images: c/o Pixabay

Punishment, Citizenship and Communities