Everyone has a pin number to put into the key pad of the landing phone. Before I can actually make a call I need to fill in a form with the numbers I wish to call. This form is then checked by security. So in the first week, I look longingly at the bright blue indestructible metal box of modern 1980’s technology under a half a jaunty umbrella awning. One phone per 20 cells: one per floor.
How many of your friend’s phone numbers can you remember? I ask my wife to collate numbers and write them down post them in. I do not want to waste precious speaking time taking down digits.
I have organised numbers but failed to transfer money from my prison funds to my phone pin account. The prison is not designed for the individual. Pin money transfers are done on a Tuesday so another week before I can make a call. The isolation a prisoner feels is exacerbated at not being able to phone home.
I’m ready check and wipe the handset for grease, crabs or umsk.
Public pay phones? Yes, in that one’s conversation is overheard by the pool players, adjacent cells and of course the Screws who may or may not be listening.
This is not a private call.
In the morning break if someone is on the phone, have a shower instead.
The first time my son was put on the line by Mummy:
An unexpected shot in the heart. Such was my raw emotion I could not speak.
“My friend, blood shaking my heart”
Choked, as if my throat grabbed, trying to hold back tears in this public forum. Clearly, I have misjudged the strain I’m under.
I took great solace when one of the other Dad’s admitted crying over pictures of his children.
The hardest men cry. I have sobbed too.
A few days in and the conversations become easier but thinking about the kids makes me start to cry. It has reaffirmed my hope to spend more time with them.
80% of relationships have failed after a 5-year prison sentence. Reoffending rates are lower with those in a relationship. Thus, prison is doing more harm than good in destroying the connections with family and the real world.
I make a call today and my son says “Hello” but then their mobile signal cuts out. I cannot use the phone again for a few hours. This is to prevent people hogging the phone. So, if I call someone and it goes on to answerphone that is my call for the day. Time for a shower.
For the first week inside I’m checking my pockets for my mobile phone. It must be 20 years since I was last apart from the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning. A comment on modern marriages and society? I cannot look up any fact, news or weather. The cycle of checking mail, Twitter, Facebook, Guardian app. has been broken. So prison is not all bad.
No phones exist in prisons. This is the government policy on phones and as usual, is divorced from reality. Most days guys wander in showing me their iPhone 5.
“Do I want to look anything up?”
“‘I’m ok thanks”
“Phone your missus”
I do not want to be beholden. These contraband phones are found by the Screws and the numbers on them cross referenced with the registered numbers. This is not Sherlock investigation work. So using one of these phones will lead to the end of the line for many.
It’s a worry I do not want to engage.