Thursday, October 15, 2020

Diary of a Prison Officer by Josie Channer - Book Blitz

Diary of a Prison Officer

It’s 2003, Tony Blair is still Prime Minister and a shy loner from London, Amber Campbell, joins the prison service searching for purpose.

Behind the walls of the women’s prison Amber is determined to prove that she has what it takes. She makes a packed with two close friends to support each other no matter what. However, the three Black women struggle when they experience discrimination and disappointment at every turn.

There is rising racial tension in her home town when twelve far right local councillors are elected. Amber reflects on the prison system in her blog and takes an emotional journey off the beaten track through Africa to find love.

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Mental Health
This morning, Ms Hook, Ms Rot, Ms Freeman and I unlocked the unit for breakfast and the green corridors became alive with women. The women busied themselves with getting mops and buckets to clean their cells and queued patiently for the bathrooms. The smell of perfumed shower gels and creams drifted down the unit.

Sitting back in her chair with a cup of tea in hand, Ms Freeman crossed her legs and said “So, Ms Campbell, tell us some more about yourself.”

The bell literally saved me.

“Bloody hell, who’s that now?” Ms Rot slammed down her mug on the desk.

There was a brief pause, as they looked at the board to see whose emergency bell had sounded.

“Don’t worry, I’ll go.” Ms Hook got up with little enthusiasm.

Ms Freeman and I left the office and strolled down to the officers’ smoking room looking for chocolate biscuits.

“So, tell me some more about yourself.” She looked at me with high expectations.

I’m twenty-three years old and I live in a rat-infested council estate on my own in Hackney. I’ll tell people the reason I joined the prison service was because I wanted to help people, but the plain fact was that I simply needed a job.

“But I’ve got plans. I’m not going to live there and just be a prison officer forever. I know I’ve got a lot to offer the prison service.” I hoped I’d convinced Ms Freeman that I was going places.

“I’m sure you’ve got lots to offer. Good luck.”

She was not convinced.

The sound of fast-paced footsteps approaching the smoking room interrupted the conversation.

“We’ve got a problem here. Get Mr King round here now,” Ms Hook said.

I sat alone not knowing whether to go or stay put and finish my tea. At first, I strained my ears to listen to the commotion in the distance, I stood up as screams of terror engulfed the unit.

A prisoner called Ms John has been on D3 unit for a while as there were no spaces on the mental healthcare unit. Her matted afro hair and strong body odour deters the toughest officers and her silence makes her even more terrifying.

This morning, she emerged from her room with a full-to-the-brim bucket of excrement she had hidden under her bed for two weeks. The unit descended into chaos. Ms Rot was the first to be hit. Dark brown thick excrement dripped down Ms Rot’s perfect white shirt. Ms Hook ran back to the office and locked herself in while screaming women banged on the door and begged to be let in. I ran in to the glass association room bringing with me as many prisoners as I could before I locked the door.

Other prisoners hid where they could, under their beds, in the bathrooms and in the smoking room, barricading the doors behind them.

I yelled into my radio “Immediate Assistance Required! Immediate Assistance Required!” The siren rang throughout the prison. Ms John stood by the unit door waiting for the officers that would answer the call. Mr Smith was the first officer through the door and he was met by a full bucket of excrement in his face. Ms John had covered herself in her own mess and stood licking out the bucket goading officers to dare take her down. I watched her from behind the glass with the other women defying about fifteen officers as they encircled her. They nervously moved forward and when she jumped forward, they jumped back. In that moment, she was the one in control. For the first time in her life she, a mad Black woman who had always been the least of the least, had power. I continued to watch as they then forced her down to the ground like a dangerous wild animal. Five male officers piled on top of her. From behind the glass windows, I heard the crack when they smashed the side of her face to the floor and I winced as the first punches and kicks were delivered to her body. Yet, she resisted. I felt her agony as they used all their strength to bend her wrist back to a deformed position. She complied with officers’ demands, but her surrender meant nothing. They carried Ms John to the segregation unit. We evacuated D3 unit to the gym for several hours while an outside company came in to professionally clean the wing. Mr Smith and Ms Hook had to be taken to hospital after swallowing excrement.


Author Bio –
Josie worked as a prison officer at Holloway Prison for many years and has a unique and specialist knowledge of how a prison is run.

Josie likes writes about criminal justice system, politics, women’s issues and Black British history. Her work has been published with online political magazines a number of times. She is passionate about addressing the barriers that women of colour face.

Social Media Links – @JosieChanner


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