My first day in custody started tomorrow, one year ago. Being convicted, I was taken from the defense stand; I wasn’t behind glass, as I’d represented myself. “You stand convicted” said Judge John Plumstead, a professional sadist. I think that sheer boredom keeps him in a state of frisson when someone is “found” guilty. Walked behind the glass, to an elevator: down, down, down. Handcuffs are placed on my wrists.
Are you suicidal? Yes. No. I don’t know. Underneath the Court is so different. Gone are any distinctive markings. Concrete walls. White concrete, yellow concrete. First I am processed. I will be processed many, many more times. Down a small corridor there are a series of rooms. I am allowed to “get a number” from my iPhone. I try to send an SMS. The guard notices. Stop that. Turn it off. Give me the phone. Give me your wallet; thank god I gave the debit card and money to Alexander. I have £3. I’ll learn this is quite a sum in prison. A postage stamp. I am sent to a small room, with slightly yellow walls. Graffiti states: “Her Majesty’s Revolving Door,” and “Her Majesty’s Pussy” (HMP). I am reassured; I am terrified; I am in shock; I am a camera.
A long wait; learn to wait; then, I am taken to the “sweat-box” – a van designed for homo sapien detritus. Tiny blacked out windows. A bonus: the public can’t see in. There are no seat-belts (suicide risk); you are cuffed until you sit down in a box, then the cuffs are removed, after which you are seated and the door is closed and locked, by a private agency guard (they handle court and prison-to-prison transfers here). A hard chair in a space 3′ by 3′ – about 5’10” tall. Arriving at HMP Bedford, after multiple checks at the main gate, I am taken to “reception.” I have almost no property; other prisoners are screaming about their property. I am placed in a room with flowers, images and faces painted on the wall by prisoners. It says “Welcome First Timers.” The guards lock me in a room with about 7 others. I am taken to another room where prisoners, trusted prisoners, make tea and give me something to eat. I am so nervous I can barely move. They advise: Take a shower. Relax. They comfort me. I get into the communal shower. I am worried about fungus. This is a major problem in prison. I have a pack of American Spirits. Someone wants to be my cellmate; he wants to smoke my cigarettes. The prison administration ruled otherwise; we are going to different parts of the prison. I am thankful. While waiting I meet someone I find intriguing, even sweet. I have no idea what he’s on trial for: Hardeep Hunjan.
He is the first person I had an actual conversation with in prison. He began to tell me about his life. I looked at his body, his tattoos, and his face; I could see something troubling, something special, and yes, something alluring. We’d later meet in the Vulnerable Prisoner’s wing, after news got out that he killed his girlfriend’s baby; this made him a risk for assassination by other prisoners. I am still not sure what happened. Innocent, guilty? It’s complicated. He maintained(s) his innocence, and I think he might be. Every time I met him, I said: write your life; the extraordinary life of “H” (his prison name). After I was sexually assaulted, he threw a box of sharp objects at the person who did it. I felt a degree of protection, and he always seemed protective of me. I listened to him. I learned about his life. His artistic talents: he painted his cell with a Sharpie.
After processing, where I was given my number A0915DV, I was sent to “A” wing – also known as “Gaza” by the prisoners because of its terrible conditions, lack of basic supplies, and extreme violence – the violence I witnessed there! “H” would also be there for a few weeks too. My first cellmate, a Scottish man of 57, Richard, from Hemel Hampstead, on remand for threatening to burn his girlfriend’s house down, was a very polite gentleman. He’d been in for about 40 days; a first timer too. Being summer time, our cell felt like an oven. It also faced “the block” (or segregation), where mentally ill and violent prisoners are taken. Listening to their howling at night, blasting music during the day and night, I felt I could become mentally ill and violent too. Richard left for a workshop one morning, where prisoners do menial labor for companies in the UK (with little or no pay), and I felt the terror of a closed locked door. My hemorrhoids, from stress and diet, had reached a point of intense bleeding, they were inflamed and inflated; my Spirit felt deflated. Blood flowed out of my anal aperture. Richard was very patient with me. I apologized. So much blood. My anus was crying. The so-called nurse attended. We can’t do anything without a test. No, you can’t see the doctor. Put “a sample” in your coffee mug and save it.
I take several medications for depression and anxiety. Despite my physician sending these prescriptions to HMP Bedford everyday for three weeks, I was not given them. The medical “hatch” kept saying, “We haven’t received anything from him.” But they had. After Alexander threatened legal action via prison solicitors and US Embassy in London pressured the prison via the Ministry of Justice, I received my medication: 30 days after I arrived. Then I saw a doctor. Why don’t you have an NHS GP? Because I am here without a passport or residency, I have been detained in the UK on pre-trial bail for over a year. You could have had a doctor. You are lucky we honored your prescription. It came from a private doctor. They will give you whatever you want. I said this is not true. He said I threatened him. Where do they find these people? Medical school rejects need only apply, prison healthcare awaits. Back to my cell, this time as a Vulnerable Prisoner, but not yet in the Vulnerable Prisoner wing, with my cellmate Csongor Sandor. Every “VP” is considered a pedophile, so being on a non-VP wing, the general population shouted at us through the door. Over and over. From so-called baby killers to pedophiles to arsonists, I was treated with respect. Doctors, nurses and guards treated me with disdain.