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problem is often intensified because of the small amount of time that prisoners spend out of their cells and engaged in purposeful activity. (Social Exclusion Unit 2002) Women prisoners are especially distressed and humiliated by the restricted opportunities for maintaining standards of cleanliness which they would maintain outside prison and also by having to tolerate male patrols in cell blocks at night, in-cell sanitation, urine testing and strip searching for security purposes in general and illicit possession of drugs in particular.

Restricted access to night-time sanitation means that some prisoners still have to engage in the degrading practice of ‘slopping out’:

They were issued with ‘potties’; those who could not live alongside the contents overnight sometimes threw them out of the windows; and women could be punished or rewarded according to whether they cleared up the resulting parcels’. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 2004c: 5) Other prisoners have in-cell sanitation, with the result that they feel humiliated that they are ‘living in a lavatory’, especially when they have to eat meals there (Carlen 1998).

Older women and foreign national women can find requirements to strip and be searched even more distressing than younger women. Humiliation occurs in other ways too. Muriel who, before prison, had been repeatedly told by her husband that she was stupid, ruminated on how some officers seemed to take delight in humiliating prisoners,

especially if they were defined as needing to be ‘taken down a peg or two’. I was playing a game of Trivial Pursuits one night and two officers joined us and I had a question to answer and I really had to dig it up from the depths and this women calling the questions went, ‘Right, correct’, and put the card back in the box. And this officer looked at me with disdain and said, ‘You clever little shit’. I just put my head down and thought, ‘Ooh...

  • Addictions

Drugs are available in prison – some prisoners may start to use, others will entrench an addiction. (Social Exclusion Unit 2002: 38) There are suggestions that since the inception of drug-testing in prisons some prisoners have switched from cannabis to heroin as the drug of choice – because traces of cannabis remain in the body longer than heroin traces. Prisoners who do not take heroin in prison but who get some as soon as they are released are more at risk of overdosing than they were prior to their imprisonment.

4 of the 8 drug addicted prisoners interviewed said that they had ‘got clean’ while in gaol, though all were dubious about how long their abstinence would last, once they were

released: I’ve got clean, but I’m going home in six weeks and know for a fact that I’m going to be NFA [No Fixed Abode]. I’ll be staying with some people who’ll be using [drugs]. It’s the same every time I get out. (P6)

Prison’s kept me off drugs, and I hope I’ll stay off drugs and get a part-time job. A lot of it’s boredom, what you take drugs for. (P8)

I’ve got off heroin in here. But I’ll have to wait to see what happens when I get outside the gate. I hope I get off. (P3)

I thought I had the will to get clean, but, looking at it now, I’m not so sure. If it doesn’t work I’ll be back to shoplifting. I’ll be back in the same cycle I was in before. (P5)


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