In the eighth of a multi part series Joe C narrates his experience of arrest and time served in Portlaoise Prison where he evolved into an anarchist.
For the first 12 months of being in jail I would count time I was there. At first it was the days, then it was the weeks, then the months. After a while I just stopped counting.
Prison is the closest to being dead while at the same time being alive. While in jail, life outside passes you by, visits, letters and phone calls are when you hear about different events or problems that are happening outside. If something negative is happening outside that involves your loved ones there's not a single thing you can do about it.
A person in jail can experience being like some type of spirit looking over their loved ones from the afterlife. You hear about the good times and the bad times, but you can never take part in them, you just sit on the side watching and listening.
The main thing that changes in prison, besides people leaving the jail and new people arriving, is the changes in the season. In the summer it is roasting hot within the block, in the winter it’s freezing cold. In the summer you walk in the sunshine and heat in the yard. In winter you walk in the yard in dark evenings and grey, gloomy days. During the summer you look out your cell window (if you are up high enough in the block to be able to see out over the wall of the prison) you can see the countryside of the midlands of Ireland off in the distance, you can see the green of the country, plants, hills, and smell the scent of the countryside and nature. In the winter (likewise if you are up high enough in the block) on the other side of the block you can see Portloaise town in the dark, you can see the Christmas lights on people's houses and, far off in the distance, you can see the bright lights of a star shape on the steeple of a church.
Prison can be like a soap opera, at other times it can be like a comedy. Everyone knows each other's business. Some people try to go out of their way to find out all of your business. Some of these people are just nosey and are just looking for a bit of gossip. Others are trying to find out information about you that they may want to use against you at some point. The information they might find out they may use to create drama for you. Or a person may create drama and blame it on you. Drama can be created just out of badness or it might be because of power plays between people or groups.
Some people like seeing drama so they might shit stir to start a bit of drama. This all to break the monotony of prison life. Some people study, some people read, others go to the gym, but some stir shit to try help pass the time.
Some people take part in wind ups. These wind ups aren't usually out of badness, it’s mainly just for fun. I remember one wind up, one fella got out on TR (temporary release) for the weekend. While he was out, we went into his cell and glued his cutlery, piss pot and other items to the ceiling of his cell.
Another time, one guy had a favorite cup he’d had for years. He loved the cup, he drank tea from it every day. The cup had a picture of his favorite team on it, Manchester United. One day he left his cup on the long dinner table that was on the landing on E4. Someone got his cup and super glued it to the table. When the fella that owned the cup came back up to get it, he walked casually up to the table to get it, he obviously didn't expect it to be stuck to the table. When he first went to grab it he was in shock not realizing what was going on that he couldn't pick his cup up for a split second before it dawned on him what was going on.
There were loads of wind ups always going on. One of the best ones I saw was one guy got sentenced to 9 months (extremely short sentence for a person in Portlaoise). He could never get his head around getting the 9 month sentence, he done the time hard. A few weeks before he was due to be released someone managed to get a legal document from his cell that was from the state about his case. The person who took the letter went into the computer room, scanned the letter and doctored it and wrote in it that the state was taking an appeal against the leniency of the sentence against him that they wanted to put more time on his sentence.
The lad that doctored the letter gave it to a screw to give to him as a wind up. When the screw gave him the letter the fella nearly broke down, you could see his world was shattering. The OC of the landing had to calm him down and tell him it was just a wind up.
This same wind up was repeated about 2 or 3 years later on another prisoner. But the prisoner that got the letter went further in his panic, thinking he was getting extra time he rang up his solicitor's office demanding to talk to his solicitor, the secretary told him the solicitor was going away on holidays. Shouts and roars could be heard echoing around the block, screaming, "Do not get on the plane, do not get on that plane", with eruption of laughter following.