At some stage or another, nearly every prisoner in our nick has had the dubious pleasure of meeting ‘The Boss’. Over the years, I have witnessed extreme violence and degradation of inmates within the penal system but I’ve never seen anything reduce jaded lags to jelly like the mere mention of 'The Boss'.
In a recent piece, I wrote about Islam in the prison system and the controversy surrounding this much misunderstood faith. But the truth is that most prisoners are more afraid of 'The Boss', even if they’ve got nothing to hide. This Boss is no Muslim Godfather of tabloid nightmares, yet his power to strike fear into the hard hearts of criminals is almost legendary.
You could have the Bible and the Koran strapped to each arse cheek and he’ll still get the truth out of you. You see, in one way, 'The Boss' is a bit like Santa Claus; he always knows when you’ve been naughty or nice: although there sadly, the similarity with Kris Kringle ends.
They say 'The Boss' is that powerful, he can see right through you. But his penetration is not just in his gaze; he also likes to get up close and personal if you know what I mean and believe me, if you’ve got something to hide, he’ll have the arse torn out of you like he was a friend of the family.
'The Boss' is a lifer and like a lot of hard cases, he gets moved around the system a lot, never staying for too long in any one establishment. Wherever he goes, he causes trouble for other inmates. A lot of lags get themselves lumbered with all sorts of extra time just for getting mixed up with The Boss. Meanwhile, The Boss is always left sitting pretty and well looked after by the officers.
I remember the first time I was taken to meet the infamous Boss of whom I heard so many horror stories. I was shocked to see just how small he was. From the size of his reputation, I suppose I’d expected bigger; must’ve been only half my size.
Things took a definite turn for the bizarre when the prison officers told me to drop my trousers and sit on the Boss's lap. (Definitely not like any Santa I know and I hope not like any Father Christmas you know either.)
Before I go any further, I’d like to have it on record that I am a raving heterosexual who thanks God every day for the creation of woman. But as times are pretty lonely in that department right now, I’d rather not dwell on it. Where were we? That’s right, I was just about to drop my drawers and hop up bollock naked onto The Boss. This I duly did without even blinking.
Now I don’t want to sound like I’m bigging myself up here (I’m a lover not a fighter after all) but even with the breeze chilling my coin purse, I didn’t feel the slightest bit intimidated by the Boss. I suppose at this stage, I should let you in on the reason why.
One can’t help wondering sometimes how many of these people would hold these positions of authority if psychological screening of prison officers was more rigorous
The Boss isn’t actually some fearsome Charles Bronson style über-lag, 'The Boss' is just a chair (albeit an electric one).
But this electric chair doesn’t dispatch you to the sweet hereafter, this chair, nicknamed The Boss is designed to detect the kind of contraband that a prisoner could smuggle back onto the wing after a visit. The dark recesses of a prisoner’s back passage is The Boss’s hunting ground. Whatever you’ve got plugged up there, whether it’s a Swiss Army Knife or a Samsung smart phone, The Boss will ferret it out. Apparently a lot of these arse-busting chairs currently being moved from jail to jail for spot-checks on prisoners are now fitted with X-rays and metal detectors.
Now, we all know that contraband is a major problem in the penal system but to my mind, these costly machines are no deterrent to the real source of the smuggling problem in jail, namely the corrupt prison officers who profit from the black market that works in every prison. The Boss is a waste of time because many officers know exactly who is concealing what; largely due to the fact that they are the ones who supplied the commodity in the first place.
I guess it’s got to be a nice little earner on top of officer basic. Sell a phone to a prisoner, confiscate it, and then sell it on again until it stops working or breaks down.
Now, I’m not tarring all prison officers with the same brush, there are after all good and bad people in all professions. I have met some genuinely decent prison officers down the years and I really believe they are in the job for the right reasons, not just for the hard-on of wearing a uniform and giving prisoners a torrid time.
The decent officers are the ones who get as annoyed as I do about how the penal system fails everyone; the victims, the prisoners and society as a whole. They are the officers who try to help prisoners progress through the system but due to overcrowding (among other things), the waiting lists for participation in so-called re-offending behaviour programmes make rehabilitation a near impossibility. Of course the really sad thing is that those are precisely the officers who are most likely to leave in despair after banging their heads against the wall of bureaucracy and institutionalised bad working practices.
Being a lifer, they’ve got me by the short and curlies and once in, it’s all too easy to become just another lost soul in the system, another ghost in the machine.
Like I said, I have met some officers who were genuine and there are many others who will do the job by the numbers, not particularly well and not giving a damn and then there will always be a group who enjoy the power they wield.
One can’t help wondering sometimes how many of these people would hold these positions of authority if psychological screening of prison officers was more rigorous.
(Guy Linott is the assumed name of a prisoner serving life and maintaining his innocence in a high security British jail. His work is sourced and edited by Seán Flynn, editor of The Rusty Wire Service)
Click here to read more Confessions of a Prisoner
Click here for more stories about Life
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook