Confessions Of A Prisoner: The Perils Of Heroin

Whether its screws selling to inmates or lags becoming hopelessly addicted, the drug problem inside is dark, dangerous and often deadly...
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
1000
Whether its screws selling to inmates or lags becoming hopelessly addicted, the drug problem inside is dark, dangerous and often deadly...

heroin

[img via]

What’s got a hundred legs and twenty teeth?

A prison methadone queue.

That riddle was posed to me not long after I first came to HMP XXXX, but until I went one day to the prison’s healthcare department, I didn’t really get the black humour of it.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first came to prison. I was put on a wing with hundreds of violent petty-to-career criminals. To be frank, I was absolutely petrified and my sphincter twitched like a rabbit’s nose on that first wing walk.

All my fears about lag life, all the convict stereotypes; with every step I took, they were being confirmed in spades. All those stories about gang culture, violence, drugs and bent screws, believe me, they’re not myths. And this was to be reality of my life for the foreseeable future. Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six describes prisons as ‘human dustbins’ and he’s not far wrong.

Perhaps the biggest issue in prison life is drugs and their constant supply. Not surprisingly, heroin is the biggest problem. It reduces vulnerable lags to biddable slavery; a junkie would sell his Nan once he starts ‘rattling’ (withdrawing).

The prison authorities claim that over 90% of drugs are smuggled in during social visits (well, they would, wouldn’t they?). Of course, this is bullshit; I’ve been on enough prison visits to know. The inconvenient truth of staff corruption is never openly confronted. Not a day goes by in our nick when the news on the wings doesn’t include the details of the latest reprimands for officer misconduct.

Thankfully, I never fell into the substance abuse cycle. I wish I could say the same about my mate ‘Brian’. A friend of mine for many years, I would never have him pegged for a user but then that was all before I knew him inside.

About a year into my long journey through the great British penal system, Brian turned up on my wing. I was surprised, Brian wasn’t really prison material. He was a big lad, well-built and clean-living when he arrived after being given four years on a petty conviction. On the outside, Brian would have had a very anti-drugs stance; especially where skag was concerned.

It was also well known that he had a thing going with one of the screws on the wing, and that was how he got his frequent parcels of gear delivered.

Because of the 50% remission rule currently in force, Brian only had to serve two out of the four years of his sentence. As the months rolled by however, I noticed that prison life was taking its toll on Brian. It seemed to me that he’d lost about three stone since he came inside. I knew he was sharing his cell with a heroin addict and feared the worst.

His cellmate ‘Tom’ had the hungry, wasted look of someone who’d been on the gear for donkeys’. It was also well known that he had a thing going with one of the screws on the wing, and that was how he got his frequent parcels of gear delivered.

Tom went to work on Brian almost immediately and it didn’t take long to bring the vulnerable Brian around to his way of thinking. As much as he could, Brian hid this from me; he knew how I felt about heroin but I wasn’t blind; the vacant look and the weight falling off him were a giveaway.

We ended up having a big row over it. I hit him pretty hard with some home truths; I wasn’t trying to be cruel but there’s no sugar coating the reality of addiction.

He gave me the same old excuses I’d heard from a dozen prison junkies. It was the only way he could cope with the pain of losing his freedom; it was only little dribs and drabs and it made the time pass faster. I kept trying to talk him around but once you’re hooked, you can argue like a QC for reasons to keep using.

And he kept using for the rest of his sentence. On the day of his release, Brian assured me that now that he was getting out, he’d be knocking the gear on the head.  I believed him, or at least I wanted to.

What happened however was that Brian got out and started using again almost immediately.  His tolerance for heroin was at prison levels and for someone who developed their habit inside, the world of the heroin addict has an added danger. A prison fix is heavily cut and contains the equivalent of about 0.2g. That would keep someone on nod in prison for the best part of a day.  On the outside however, that 0.2g won’t go far.

Within a very short space of time, my friend was using amounts of the drug that his body just couldn’t take.

It wasn’t long before news got back to me in prison that Brian’s lifeless body had been found in his flat still with the syringe in his arm.

Life’s such an ironic crap shoot sometimes; you get sent to prison to be rehabilitated and come out with a drug habit that kills you within weeks of release. The randomness of it all: if he hadn’t been sent to that prison or if he hadn’t shared his cell with a junkie or even if there hadn’t been a corrupt drug-dealing screw, then maybe, just maybe Brian might still be alive.

I am serving life in prison for a crime committed by another. I was charged with murder on a joint enterprise.

(In response to the comments on my first piece; where a reader asked for a “proper story on Linott and the reasons he’s incarcerated”, this is something I will return to in more detail but I can certainly start by saying that being an innocent man in prison is a very particular kind of hell on earth

I am serving life in prison for a crime committed by another. I was charged with murder on a joint enterprise.

The law of joint enterprise is not a new one. It is over 300 years old but as a matter of policy over the past decade or so, as society tries to clamp down on rising gun, knife and gang crime, the CPS has shown a marked overreliance on joint enterprise as a way of securing convictions in these types of cases.

Joint enterprise was never intended to criminalise people just for being present at the scene of a crime. But, as is becoming increasingly apparent, joint enterprise is now being interpreted so liberally that a person can be convicted even if they are nowhere near the scene of the crime.

I have been convicted of the murder of one of my best friends. Although I was at the scene of the crime, I took no part in what happened and more to the point, I had no idea what was going to happen.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claim that I am equally responsible because I didn’t do enough to prevent the murder. I have consistently asked; how could I prevent something if I had no prior knowledge of what was about to occur? Their reasoning would suggest that I have been sentenced to life in prison for not being able to predict and avert the future occurrence of an extremely unlikely event. )

Guy Linott  is a serving inmate in a high security British prison and continues to maintain his innocence. His work is supplied and edited by The Deptford Croppy (Seán Flynn)

Click here to read more Confessions of a Prisoner

This was first published in 2011