I do recall the Judge saying that I’m going to be sentenced to jail for 18 months and then banging his hammer down – security guards surrounded me and off I was taken to the Old Bailey cells…………..
The cells were below the courts, again I don’t really remember too many details about it, I’ll admit that at the time I was terrified, wanted to burst out crying, missed my Mum but I couldn’t show my feelings, I had to act like I was just fine. On top of feeling sad and alone, I was also panicking as to how this next chapter in my life would unfold. After being led down corridors under the court, we finally reached a large cell, a cell that contained more than one person. The cell door was opened and in I was pushed, the door was slammed shut and there I stood, in the middle of the cell, wearing my finest suit with about five other guys, all who were just wearing jeans, trakki bottoms, t-shirts, you get the impression, casual clothes – and then there’s me, dressed up for another day in the Stock Exchange……hahaha funny now, just not back then – oh yeah and they were all just staring at me! They were sitting on benches that lined the three walls of the cell, it fell silent for what seemed like an eternity but eventually I walked to one bench and sat down. Minutes passed, when this young black guy stood up, pulling something out of his pocket……as he was pulling it out my mind was racing, what do I do if they start fighting me, among other thoughts…..when he pulls out this big rolled up cigarette (later I’d be told it was a spliff, joint, marijuana…or what ever you know it as ). He looks at me and says ‘you want some of this?’ I looked at him and said innocently ‘no thanks,’ he just looked me up and down and sucking through his teeth replied ‘one of them are you’! and then lit it……. Oh shit I thought…….this is going to be fun…NOT!!
My solicitor came down to see me, I was taken out of this cell and into a office that had chairs and a table in it. He sat one side, his face looking as if he was almost pleased to see me and I sat on the other available chair. He asked how I was doing, I’m in jail, no freedom, no more choices and very unfamiliar faces I thought but I looked at him and told him ‘ I was doing OK’…….well what else could I say – he doesn’t give a shit, he’s just making polite conversation – the same as when someone dies in your family, people ask the same dumb question! Conversation leads towards him telling me that he was pleased with the result, 18 months for this was a good result and to be honest, I had to agree, he’d originally told me 10 years so 18 months appeared to be fairly lenient. He left me and I was led back to the holding cell.
We seemed to sit around for ages, nothing much being said – finally the cell door opened and we were ushered out and moved to a police van that would take us to prison! Not an ordinary police van, it’s more like a lorry with a large box on the back of it that’s divided up into 6 separate compartments. Each compartment has a door and inside there’s a blacked out window, a heating vent on the ground and a seat. No ordinary seat, this seat is molded into the wall and floor and let me tell you, it is the most uncomfortable thing that you’ll ever sit on, impossible to get any grip on it…ohhh don’t let me forget, the heating in the lorry is put on full and that vent on the floor that I mentioned, is pouring out hot air and on maximum output! It appears from my experience of travel in lorries like this that no matter what time of year it is, let me tell you, the guys driving the van turn the heat up full everyday, which when you’re sitting inside this tiny little box, driven by a nutter that believes his driving is legal and being flung from side to side on your slidy seat in your little box, gets very, very HOT- and the prison officers fucking know it.
Off we went, no idea what lay ahead of me, my mind was making up all sorts of scenarios of what prison life was going to be like…..and none of them were good! Well it was dark thoughts, things like I’m going to get beaten up, killed or worse still raped – yeah I’d only just watched the Shaw Shank Redemption (a great film made back in the 90’s, if you haven’t seen it, watch it and you’ll understand where my bad thoughts came from) but I was not going to let my mind beat me, stay positive, you never know what anything will be like until you’ve tried it once – although, this was an experience that I could have done well without (or was it). So the way I entered prison was with the attitude that, I can’t change it, so I may as well just make the most of it……however bad it appears.
None of us knew where we were going, we were like lambs to the slaughter…..but after a while, we ended up at Brixton Prison, that was our final destination, or for the time being anyway. We get unloaded off of the van and get to check in to our new accommodation, just like you would at a hotel, sadly it’s not like staying at a nice hotel. We were all looking around wide eyed as we walked into this unfamiliar and unfriendly place and after being herded in, a prison guard starts barking at me to, ‘get all your clothes off Pierce and squat’ – ‘squat??’ I reply and he says ‘yes, we wanna make sure you’re not taking anything inside you that shouldn’t be!’ He wants to check I’m not smuggling drugs into jail up my ass….how embarrassing not only for me but surely for him, having to look up my hairy ass…..haha, the things people do for money huh! Next minute I’m given my prison uniform, a pair of unflattering jeans, manky T-shirt, tatty sweat shirt, socks, boxer shorts (who the fucks worn these before was all I could think) and plastic trainers (that I found out later made your feet smell – when I say smell, the worst smell I’ve ever smelt – and in a small confined space is not good, not good at all). Get used to it I was thinking, this is as good as it’s going to get…..I’m at other peoples total mercy!
They put us all into this small cell, must have been 10-15 of us in there. There was this massive, I mean massive black guy in there, scares all over his face, looked as if he could eat Mike Tyson up and spit him out…..all I was thinking was, I’ll try and avoid eye contact with you. After a while the cell door opens and there’s a trolley outside and on it are all these metal trays, with what looks like food on them – when I say food, it really was slop….that’s the only way I could describe it. The slop was passed around, I looked at it and all I was thinking was, I’m going to starve, I can’t and I won’t eat this shit. The inside of the prison was just how you’d imagine it….but still ten times worse! I’ve never seen anything like it before and I never want to see anything like it again. I swear they make this cell as bad as it can be so that all new inmates get scared….and let me tell you, it was working, it was really really working! Needless to say I didn’t eat that day.
Anyway, I got chatting to this guy next to me, he seemed fairly civilised, said he was in for fraud. Trouble was, he was a little bit effeminate, not the kind of person you’d want to share a cell with but he was much older than me, I’d say in his 40’s, sounded educated but appeared to be the least threat – that was the deal breaker, the least threat and we ended up sharing a cell together. They moved us to a double cell on C wing which was on the 4’s (4th floor to most people but everyone in prison likes to abbreviate everything). In this cell was a rusty old bunk bed with a metal chain link base to rest the dirty, soiled foam mattress on. There was an old school like table and chair and a small bedside cabinet…..oh and a toilet, oh my good a TOILET, I was thinking, I’ve got to have a shit in here while my cell mate is in here too! All I could think about was, what about the smell – oh the humiliation. The cell must have been about 6f x 8ft, the walls bare and dirty, minus the odd bit of graffiti and hand written scribbles with things like ‘Dave woz ere’ and then there was the door, a big heavy sturdy metal door that looked and felt as if it was from the same material as a military tank – nothing was getting in or out of it, with this little flap on it at eye level with a peep hole in the centre, that the guards could and would peer through periodically, I think just to make sure you hadn’t killed yourself. They’d happily open and close this flap all night, making as much noise as they possibly could when shutting it.
So began my jail time, I had no clean clothes for the first week, no toothpaste or tooth brush……I remember on the 4th or 5th day of my sentence, this guy offered me a tiny bit of his toothpaste, which he very kindly squeezed onto my finger. When I put the paste onto my teeth, oh my, it felt like I’d won the lottery. You see, in prison, it teaches you not to take things for granted, which we all do on the outside. For instance sugar, we take that for granted on the outside, in here they give you a sugar sachet once a day for tea, cereal etc and if you like sugar in your tea then one small sachet soon runs out, especially when you’re locked up 23 hours a day, not much else to do apart from drink tea, so you try and draw out your sugar as long as you can – in fact inside sugar can be used as a commodity to trade for other luxuries -but more of that later. Like anything when you’re new somewhere it takes a little bit of time to fit in, so when I’m wasteful in life, I always go back to that time in my life when I had nothing, so that I really appreciate everything that I have – Anyway, it didn’t take me too long to adjust.
On the 6th day they gave me I think £2.50 to spend on canteen (canteen is food, toiletries or anything that the prison can sell you), which is a fortune when you’ve had nothing – I remember buying some tooth paste and tooth-brush, roll-on deodorant, they gave me a phone card (everyone new in gets a chance to phone family or friends and I hadn’t spoken to anyone familiar for ages, or so it seemed. Lastly and most importantly, I’d bought digestive biscuits, 2 packs if I remember…..well I hadn’t had anything sweet for days and I have a sweet tooth. Now, these were only the plain digestives, not chocolate ones, but i was still so looking forward to eating them. On my way back to my cell I walked past this muscle bound skinhead, who only just decided to turn around and closely follow me back, as I walked in he proceeded to push me into my cell and then push the door shut behind him, he looked menacingly at me and then growled……….