Authors: Jeffrey Archer
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Prisoners, #Prisons, #Novelists; English, #General
A Prison Diary
Volume Two Wayland
One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it’s worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.
Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for ‘ee
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.
You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings.
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he’s worth ‘em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.
His wrong’s your wrong, and his right’s your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men’s sight -
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can’t bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot – and after!
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
It is a glorious day: a day for watching cricket, for
drinking Pimm’s, for building sandcastles, for mowing the lawn. Not a day to be
travelling in a sweatbox for 120 miles.
Having served twenty-one days and fourteen hours in
Belmarsh, I am about to be transported to HMP Wayland, a Category C prison in
Norfolk. A Group 4 van is my chauffeur-driven transport, with two cubicles for
two prisoners. I remain locked in for fifteen minutes awaiting the arrival of a
second prisoner. I hear him talking, but can’t see him. Is he also going to
At last the great electric gates of Belmarsh slide open and
we begin our journey east. My temporary moving residence is a compartment four
feet by three with a plastic seat. I feel nauseous within ten minutes, and am
covered in sweat within fifteen.
The journey to Wayland prison in Norfolk takes just over
three hours. As I peer through my tiny window I recognize the occasional
familiar landmark on the Cambridge leg of the trip. Once the
is behind us, I have to satisfy myself with a glimpse at signposts
whenever we slow down at roundabouts to pinpoint where we are: Newmarket, Bury
St Edmunds, Thetford. So for this particular period of my life that very
special lady, Gillian Shephard, will be my Member of Parliament.
The roads become narrower and the trees taller the further
east we travel. When we finally arrive at Wayland it couldn’t be in starker
contrast to the entrance of Belmarsh with its foreboding high walls and
And – most pleasing of all – not a member of
the press in sight.
We drive into the yard and come to a halt outside
the reception area. I sense immediately a different atmosphere and a more
casual approach by prison officers. But then their daily tariff is not gangland
murderers, ERA terrorists, rapists and drug barons.
The first officer I meet as I walk into reception is Mr
Knowles. Once he has completed the paperwork, he signs me over to a Mr Brown,
as if I were a registered parcel. Once again, I am strip-searched before the
officer empties my HMP Belmarsh plastic bag onto the counter and rummages
through my possessions. He removes my dressing gown, the two large blue towels
William had so thoughtfully supplied and a blue tracksuit. He informs me that
they will be returned to me as soon as I am enhanced.
‘How long will that take?’ I ask.
‘Usually about three months,’ he replies casually, as if it were
a few grains of sand passing through an hourglass. I don’t think I’ll mention
to Mr Brown that I’m hoping to be moved within a few days, once the police
enquiry into Baroness Nicholson’s complaint concerning the Simple Truth appeal
has been seen for what it is.
Mr Brown then places my beige slacks and blue shirt on one
side, explaining that I won’t get those back until I’ve been released or
transferred. He replaces them with a striped blue prison shirt and a pair of
jeans. After signing over my personal possessions, my photograph is taken,
holding up a little blackboard with the chalk letters FF8282 under my chin,
just as you’ve seen in films.
I am escorted by another officer to what I would describe as
the quartermaster’s stores. There I am handed one towel (green), one toothbrush
(red), one tube of toothpaste, one comb, two Bic razors and one plastic plate,
plastic bowl and plastic cutlery.
Having placed my new prison property in the plastic bag
along with the few possessions I am allowed to retain, I am escorted to the
induction wing. Mr Thompson, the induction officer, invites me into his office.
He begins by telling me that he has been in the Prison Service for ten years,
and therefore hopes he will be able to answer any questions I might have.
‘You begin your life on the induction wing,’ he explains,
‘where you’ll share a cell with another prisoner.’ My heart sinks as I recall
my experience at Belmarsh. I warn him that whoever I share a cell with will
sell his story to the tabloids. Mr Thompson laughs. How quickly will he find
out? Prison would be so much more bearable if you could share a cell with
someone you know. I can think of a dozen people I’d be happy to share a cell
with, and more than a dozen who ought to be in one.
When Mr Thompson finishes his introductory talk, he goes on
to assure me that I will be moved into a single cell on another block once I’ve
completed my induction.
‘How long will that take?’ I ask.
‘We’re so overcrowded at the moment,’ he admits, ‘
it could take anything up to a month.’ He pauses. ‘But
in your case I hope it will be only a few days.’
Mr Thompson then describes a typical day in the life of
Wayland, making it clear that prisoners spend considerably less time locked in
their cells than they do at Belmarsh, which is a slight relief. He then lists
the work choices: education, gardening, kitchen, workshop or wing cleaner. But
he warns me that it will take a few days before this can be sorted out. Nothing
is ever done today in the Prison Service, and rarely even tomorrow. He
describes how the canteen works, and confirms that I will be allowed to spend
£12.50 per week there. I pray that the food will be an improvement on Belmarsh.
Surely it can’t be worse.
Mr Thompson ends his dissertation by telling me that he’s
selected a quiet room-mate, who shouldn’t cause me any trouble. Finally, as I
have no more questions, he accompanies me out of his little office down a
crowded corridor packed with young men aged
to twenty-five, who just stand around and stare at me
My heart sinks when he unlocks the door. The cell is filthy
and would have been the subject of a court order by the RSPCA if any animal had
been discovered locked inside. The window and window sill are caked in thick
dirt – not dust, months of accumulated dirt – the lavatory and the wash basin
are covered not with dirt, but shit. I need to get out of here as quickly as
possible. It is clear that Mr Thompson doesn’t see the dirt and is oblivious to
the cell’s filthy condition. He leaves me alone only for a few moments before
my cell-mate strolls in. He tells me his name, but his Yorkshire accent is so
broad that I can’t make it out and resort to checking on the cell card attached
to the door.
Chris is about my height but more stocky. He goes on talking
at me, but I can understand only about one word in three. When he finally stops
talking he settles down on the top bunk to read a letter from his mother while
I begin to make up my bed on the bunk below. He chuckles and reads out a
sentence from her letter: ‘If you don’t get this letter, let me know and I’ll
send you another one.’ By the time we are let out to collect our supper I have
discovered that he is serving a five-year sentence for GBH (grievous bodily
harm), having stabbed his victim with a Stanley knife. This is Mr Thompson’s
idea of someone who isn’t going to cause me any trouble.
All meals are served at a hotplate, situated on the floor
below. I wait patiently in a long queue only to discover that the food is every
bit as bad as Belmarsh. I return to my cell empty-handed, grateful that canteen
orders at Wayland are on a Friday (tomorrow). I extract a box of Sugar Puffs
from my plastic bag and fill the bowl, adding long-life milk I munch a Belmarsh
apple and silently thank Del Boy.
Exercise: there are several differences between Belmarsh and
Wayland that are immediately apparent when you walk out into the exercise yard.
First, you are not searched, second, the distance you can cover without
retracing your steps can be multiplied by five – about a quarter of a mile –
third, the ratio of black to white prisoners is now 30/70 – compared to 70/30
at Belmarsh – and fourth, my arrival in Norfolk causes even more unsolicited
pointing, sniggering and loutish remarks, which only force me to curtail my
walk fifteen minutes early. I wish Mr Justice Potts could experience this for
just one day.
On the first long circuit, the salesmen move in.
‘Anything you need, Jeff?
They’re all quite happy to receive payment on the outside by
cheque or cash. I explain to them all firmly that I’m not interested, but it’s
clearly going to take a few days before they realize I mean it.
When the barrow boys and second-hand salesmen have departed
empty-handed, I’m joined by a lifer who tells me he’s also sixty-one, but the
difference is that he’s already served twenty-seven years in prison and still
doesn’t know when, if ever, he’ll be released. When I ask him what he’s in for,
he admits to killing a policeman. I begin a conversation with a black man on
the other side of me, and the lifer melts away.
Several of the more mature prisoners turn out to be in for
‘white collar’ crimes: fiddling the DSS, the DTI or HM Customs. One of them,
David, joins me and immediately tells me that he’s serving five years.
‘No, spirits,’ he confesses.
‘I didn’t realize that was against the law. I thought you
could pop across to Calais and…’
‘Yeah, you can, but not sixty-five times in sixty-five days
with a two-ton lorry, carrying twenty million quid’s worth of whisky.’ He
pauses. ‘It’s when you forget to cough up eight million quid in duty that the
Customs and Excise become a little upset.’
A young man in his late twenties takes the place of the
police murderer on the other side of me. He brags that he’s been banged up in
six jails during the past ten years, so if I need a Cook’s tour he’s the
‘Why have you been sent to six jails in ten years?’ I
‘No one wants me,’ he admits. ‘I’ve done over two thousand
burglaries since the age of nineteen, and every time they let me out, I just
start up again.’
Isn’t it time to give it up, and find something more
worthwhile to do?’ I ask naively.
‘No chance’ he replies.
‘Not while I’m
making over two hundred grand a year, Jeff.’
After a time, I become sick of the catcalling, so leave the
exercise yard and return to my cell, more and more disillusioned, more and more
cynical. I don’t consider young people, who are first offenders and have been
charged with minor offences, should be sent to establishments like this, where
one in three will end up on drugs, and one in three will commit a far more
serious offence once they’ve received tuition from the prison professors.
The next humiliation I have to endure is prisoners queuing
up silently outside my cell door to get a look at me. No ‘Hi, Jeff, how are
you?’ Just staring and pointing, as if I’m some kind of an animal at the zoo. I
sit in my cage, relieved when at eight o’clock an officer slams the doors