Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 1 154

In my second week in Saughton jail, a prisoner pushed open the door of my cell and entered during the half hour period when we were unlocked to shower and use the hall telephone in the morning. I very much disliked the intrusion, and there was something in the attitude of the man which annoyed me – wheedling would perhaps be the best description. He asked if I had a bible I could lend him. Anxious to get him out of my cell, I replied no, I did not. He shuffled off.

I immediately started to feel pangs of guilt. I did in fact have a bible, which the chaplain had given me. It was, I worried, a very bad thing to deny religious solace to a man in prison, and I really had no right to act the way I did, based on an irrational distrust. I went off to take a shower, and on the way back to my cell was again accosted by the man.

“If you don’t have a Bible,” he said, “Do you have any other book with thin pages?”

He wanted the paper either to smoke drugs, or more likely to make tabs from a boiled up solution of a drug.

You cannot separate the catastrophic failure of the Scottish penal system – Scotland has the highest jail population per capita in all of Western Europe – from the catastrophic failure of drugs policy in Scotland. 90% of the scores of prisoners I met and spoke with had serious addiction problems. Every one of those was a repeat offender, back in jail, frequently for the sixth, seventh or eighth time. How addiction had led them to jail varied. They stole, often burgled, to feed their addiction. They dealt drugs in order to pay for their own use. They had been involved in violence – frequently domestic – while under the influence.

I had arrived in Saughton jail on Sunday 1 August. After being “seen off” by a crowd of about 80 supporters outside St Leonards police station, I had handed myself in there at 11am, as ordered by the court. The police were expecting me, and had conducted me to a holding area, where my possessions were searched and I was respectfully patted down. The police were very polite. I had been expecting to spend the night in a cell at St Leonards and to be taken to jail in a prison van on the Monday morning. This is what both my lawyers and a number of policemen had explained would happen.

In fact I was only half an hour in St Leonards before being put in a police car and taken to Saughton. This was pretty well unique – the police do not conduct people to prison in Scotland. At no stage was I manacled or handled and the police officers were very friendly. Reception at Saughton prison – where prisoners are not usually admitted on a Sunday – were also very polite, even courteous. None of this is what happens to an ordinary prisoner, and gives the lie to the Scottish government’s claim that I was treated as one.

I was not fingerprinted either in the police station or the jail, on the grounds I was a civil prisoner with no criminal conviction. At reception my overcoat and my electric toothbrush were taken from me, but my other clothing, notebook and book were left with me.

I was then taken to a side office to see a nurse. She asked me to list my medical conditions, which I did, including pulmonary hypertension, anti-phospholipid syndrome, Barrett’s oesophagus, atrial fibrillation, hiatus hernia, dysarthria and a few more. As she typed them in to her computer, options appeared on a dropdown menu for her to select the right one. It was plain to me she had no knowledge of several of these conditions, and certainly no idea how to spell them

The nurse cut me off very bluntly when I politely asked her a question about the management of my heart and blood conditions while in prison, saying someone would be round to see me in the morning. She then took away from me all the prescription medications I had brought with me, saying new ones would be issued by the prison medical services. She also took my pulse oximeter, saying the prison would not permit it, as it had batteries. I said it had been given to me by my consultant cardiologist, but she insisted it was against prison regulations.

This was the most disconcerting encounter so far. I was then walked by three prison officers along an extraordinarily long corridor – hundreds of yards long – with the odd side turning, which we we ignored. At the end of the corridor we reached Glenesk Block. The journey to my cell involved unlocking eight different doors and gates, including my cell door, every one of which was locked behind me. There was no doubt that this was very high security detention.

Once I reached floor 3 of Glenesk block, which houses the admissions wing, we acquired two further guards from the landing, so five people saw me into my cell. This was twelve feet by eight feet. May I suggest that you measure that out in your room? That was to be my world for the next four months. In fact I was to spend 95% of the next four months confined in that space.

The door was hard against one wall, leaving space within the 12 ft by 8 ft cell for a 4 ft by 4 ft toilet in one corner next the door. This was fully walled in, to the ceiling, and closed properly with an internal door. This little room contained a toilet and sink. The toilet had no seat. This was not an accident – I was not permitted a toilet seat, even if I provided it myself. It was a normal UK style toilet, designed to be used with a seat, with the two holes for the seat fixing, and a narrow porcelain rim.

The toilet was filthy. Below the waterline it was stained deep black with odd lumps and ridges. Above the waterline it was streaked and spotted with excrement, as was the rim. The toilet floor was in a disgusting state. The cell itself was dirty with, everywhere a wall or bolted down furniture met the floor, a ridge built up of hardened black dirt.

A female guard looked around the cell, then came back to give me rubber gloves, a surface cleaner spray and some cloths. So I spent my first few hours in my cell on my knees, scrubbing away furiously with these inadequate materials.

The female guard had advised me that even after cleaning the cell I should always keep shoes on, because of the mice. I heard them most nights in my cell, but never saw one. The prisoners universally claim them to be rats, but not having seen one I cannot say.

A guard later explained to me that prisoners are responsible for cleaning their own cells, but as nobody generally stayed in a new admissions cell for more than two or three nights, nobody bothered. Cells for new arrivals will be cleaned out by a prisoner work detail, but as I had arrived on a Sunday, that had not happened.

So about 3pm I was locked in the cell. At 5.20pm the door opened for two seconds to check I was still there, but that was it for the day. There I was confused, disoriented and struggling to take in that all this was really happening. I should describe the rest of the cell.

A narrow bed ran down one wall. I came to realise that prison in Scotland still includes an element of corporal punishment, in that the prisoner is very deliberately made physically uncomfortable. Not having a toilet seat is part of this, and so is the bed. It consists of an iron frame bolted to the floor and holding up a flat steel plate, completely unsprung. On this unyielding steel surface there is a mattress consisting simply of two inches of low grade foam – think cheap bath sponge – encased in a shiny red plastic cover, slashed or burnt through in several places and with the colour worn off down the centre.

The mattress was stamped with the date 2013 and had lost its structural resistance, to the extent that if I pinched it between my finger and thumb, I could compress it down to a millimetre. On the steel plate, this mattress had almost no effect and I woke up after a sleepless first night with acute pain throughout my muscles and difficulty walking. To repeat, this is deliberate corporal punishment – a massively superior mattress could be provided for about £30 more per prisoner, while in no way being luxurious. The beds and mattresses can only be designed to inflict both pain and, perhaps more important, humiliation. It is plainly quite deliberate policy.

It is emblematic of the extraordinary lack of intellectual consistency in the Scottish prisons system that cells are equipped with these Victorian punishment beds but also with TV sets showing 23 channels including two Sky subscription channels (of which I shall write more in another instalment). The bed is fixed along one long wall, while a twelve inch plywood shelf runs the length of the other and can serve as a desk. At one end, up against the wall of the toilet, this desk meets a built-in plywood shelving unit fixed into the floor, on top of which are sat the television and kettle next to two power points. At the other end of the desk, a further set of shelves are attached to the wall above. There is a plastic stackable chair of the cheapest kind – the sort you see stacked outside poundshops as garden furniture.

On the outside wall there is a small double glazed window with heavy, square iron bars two inches thick running both horizontally and vertically, like a noughts and crosses grid. The window does not open, but had metal ventilation strips down each side, which were stuck firmly closed with black grime. At the other end of the cell, next to the toilet, the heavy steel door is hinged so as to have a distinct gap all round between the door and the steel frame, like a toilet cubicle door.

Above the desk shelf is fixed a noticeboard, which is the only place prisoners are allowed to put up posters or photos. However as prisoners are not permitted drawing pins, staples, sellotape or blu tak, this was not possible. I asked advice from the guards who suggested I try toothpaste. I did – it didn’t work.

There is a single neon light tube.

The admissions unit has single-occupancy cells, of which there are very few in the rest of the jail. All the prison’s cells were designed for single occupancy, but massive overcrowding means that they are mostly in practice identical to this description, but with a bunk bed rather than a single bed.

The prison is divided into a number of blocks. Glenesk block had three floors, each containing 44 of these cells. Each floor is entered by a central staircase and has a centrally located desk where the guards are stationed. Either side of the desk are two heavy metal grills stretching right across the floor and dividing it into two wings. Within the central area is the kitchen where meals are collected (though not prepared), then eaten back locked in the cell.

The corridor between the cells either side of each wing is about 30 feet wide. It contains a pool table and fixed chairs and tables, and is conceived as a recreational area. There are two telephones at the end of each wing from which prisoners may call (at 10p a minute) numbers from a list they have pre-registered for approval.

The various cell blocks are located off that central spine corridor whose length astonished me at first admission. I did not realise then that this is a discreet building in itself rather than a corridor inside a building – it is like a long concrete overground tunnel.

I should describe my typical day the first ten weeks. At 7.30am the cell door springs open without warning as guards do a head count. The door is immediately locked again. At 8am cereals, milk and morning rolls are handed in, and the door is immediately locked again. At 10am I was released into the corridor for 30 minutes to shower and use the telephone. The showers are in an open room but with individual cubicles, contrary to prison movie cliche. At 10.30am I was locked in again.

At 11am I was released for one hour and escorted under supervision to plod around an enclosed, tarmac exercise yard about 40 paces by 20 paces. This yard is filthy and contains prison bins. One wing of Glenesk block forms one side, and the central spine corridor forms another; the wall of a branch corridor leading to another cell block forms a third and a fence dividing off that block a fourth. The walls are about 10 feet high and the fence about 16 feet high.

In the non-admissions, larger area of Glenesk block the cells had windows with opening narrow side panels. It is the culture of the prison that rather than keep rubbish in their cells and empty it out at shower time, the prisoners throw all rubbish out of their cell windows into the exercise yard. This includes food waste and plates, newspapers, used tissues and worse. At meal times, sundry items (bread, margarine etc) are available on a table outside the kitchen and some prisoners scoop up quantities simply to throw them out of the window into the yard.

I believe the origin of this is that this enclosed yard is used by protected prisoners, many of whom are sexual offenders. Glenesk house has a protected prisoner area on its second floor. “Mainstream” prisoners from Glenesk exercise on the astroturf five-a-side football pitch the other side of the spine corridor. (For four months that pitch was the view from my window and I never saw a game of football played. After three months the goals were removed.) New admissions exercise in the protected yard because they have not been sorted yet – that sorting is the purpose of the new admissions wing. New prisoners therefore have to plough through the filth prepared for protected prisoners.

At times large parts of this already small exercise yard were ankle deep in dross – it was cleaned out intermittently, probably on average every three weeks. Only on a couple of occasions was it so bad I decided against exercise. After exercise getting the sludge off my shoes as we went straight back to my cell was a concern. I now understood how the cell had got so dirty.

After exercise, at noon I collected my lunch and was locked back in the cell. Apart from 2 minutes to collect my tea, I would be locked in from noon until 10am the following morning, for 22 hours solid, every single day. In total I was locked in for 22 and a half hours a day for the first ten weeks. After that I was locked in my cell for 23 hours and 15 minutes a day due to a covid outbreak.

At 5pm the door would open for a final headcount, and then we would be on lockdown for the night, though in truth we had been locked down all day. Lockdown here meant the guards were going home.

Now I want you again to just mark out twelve feet by eight feet on your floor and put yourself inside it. Then imagine being confined inside that space a minimum of 22 and a half hours a day. For four months. These conditions were not peculiar to me – it is how all prisoners were living and are still living today. The library, gym and all educational activities had been closed “because of covid”. The resulting conditions are inhumane – few people would keep a dog like that.

It is also worth noting that Covid is an excuse. In September 2017 an official inspection report already noted that significant numbers of prisoners in Saughton were confined to cells for 22 hours a day. The root problem is massive overcrowding, and I shall write further on the causes of that in a future instalment.

The long concrete and steel corridors of the prison echo horribly, and after lockdown for the first time I felt rather scared. All round me prisoners were shouting out at the top of their voices. That first evening two were yelling death threats at another prisoner, with extreme expressions of hate and retribution. Inter-prisoner communication is by yelling out the window. This went on all night into the early hours of the morning. Prisoners were banging continually on the steel doors, sometimes for hours, calling out for guards who were not there. Somebody was crying out as though being attacked and in pain. There were sounds of plywood splintering as people smashed up their rooms.

It was unnerving because it seemed to me I was living amongst severely violent and out of control berserkers.

Part of the explanation of this is that for most prisoners the new admissions wing on first night is where they go through withdrawal symptoms. Many prisoners come in still drugged up. They are going through their private hell and desperate to get medication. I can understand (though not condone) why the prison medical staff are so remarkably bad and unhelpful. Their job and circumstances are very difficult.

On that first evening I was concerned that I did not have my daily medicines, and by the next morning my heart was getting distinctly out of synch. I was therefore relieved to receive the promised medical visit.

My cell door was opened and a nurse, flanked by two guards, addressed me from outside my cell. She asked if I had any addictions. I replied in the negative. I asked when I might receive my medicines. She said it was in process. I asked if I might get my pulse oximeter. She said the prison did not allow devices with batteries. I asked if my bed could somehow be propped or sloped because of my hiatus hernia (leading to gastric reflux) and Barrett’s oesophagus. She said she didn’t think that the prison could do that. I asked about management of my blood condition (APS), saying I was supposed to exercise regularly and not sit for long periods. She replied by asking if I would like to see the psychiatric team. I replied no. She left.

I was taken out to exercise alone, with four guards watching me. I felt like Rudolf Hess. In the lunch queue I met my first prisoners, who were respectful and polite. The day passed much as the first, and I still did not get my medicines on the Monday. They arrived on the Tuesday morning, as did the prison governor.

I was told the governor had come to see me, and I met him in the (closed) Glenesk library. David Abernethy is a taciturn man who looks like a rugby prop and has a reputation among prisoners as a disciplinarian, compared to other prison regimes in Scotland. He was accompanied by John Morrison, Glenesk block manager, a friendly Ulsterman, who did most of the talking.

I was an anomaly in that Saughton did not normally hold civil prisoners. The Governor told me he believed I was their first civil prisoner in four years, and before that in ten. Civil prisoners should be held separately from criminal prisoners, but Saughton had no provision for that. The available alternatives were these: I could move into general prisoner population, which would probably involve sharing a cell; I could join the protected prisoners; or I could stay where I was on admissions.

On the grounds that nothing too terrible had happened to me yet, I decided to stay where I was and serve my sentence on admissions.

They wished to make plain to me that it was their job to hold me and it was not for them to make any comment on the circumstances that brought me to jail. I told them I held no grudge against them and had no reason to complain of any of the prison officers who had (truthfully) so far all been very polite and friendly to me. I asked whether I could have books I was using for research brought to me from my library at home; I understood this was not normally allowed. I was also likely to receive many books sent by well-wishers. The governor said he would consider this. They also instructed, at my request, extra pillows to be brought to prop up the head of my bed due to my hiatus hernia.

That afternoon a guard came along (I am not going to give the names except for senior management, as the guards might not wish it) with the pillows, and said he had been instructed I was a VIP prisoner and should be looked after. I replied I was not a VIP, but was a civil prisoner, and therefore had different rights to other prisoners.

He said that the landing guards suggested that I should take my exercise and shower/phone time at the same time as other mainstream new admission prisoners (sexual offender and otherwise protected new admission prisoners had separate times). I had so far been kept entirely apart, but perhaps I would prefer to meet people? I said I would prefer that.

So the next day I took my exercise in that filthy yard in the company of four other prisoners, all new arrivals the night before. I thus observed for the first time something which astonished me. Once in the yard, the new prisoners (who on this occasion arrived individually, not all part of the same case), immediately started to call out to the windows of Glenesk block, shouting out for friends.

“Hey, Jimmy! Jimmy! It’s me Joe! I am back. Is Paul still in? What’s that? Gone tae Dumfries? Donnie’s come in? That’s brilliant.”

The realisation dropped, to be reinforced every day, that Saughton jail is a community, a community where the large majority of the prisoners all know each other. That does not mean they all like each other – there are rival gangs, and enmities. But prison is a routine event in not just their lives, but the lives of their wider communities. Those communities are the areas of deprivation of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a city of astonishing social inequality. It contains many of the areas in the bottom 10% of multiple social deprivation in Scotland (dark red on the map below). These are often a very short walk from areas of great affluence in the top 10% (dark blue on the map). Of course, few people make that walk. But I recommend a spell in Saughton jail to any other middle class person who, like myself, was foolish enough to believe that Scotland is a socially progressive country.

The vast majority of prisoners I met came from the red areas on these maps. The same places came up again and again – including Granton, Pllton, Oxgangs, Muirhouse, Lochend, and from West Lothian, Livingston and Craigshill. Saughton jail is simply where Edinburgh locks away 900 of its poorest people, who were born into extreme poverty and often born into addiction. Many had parents and grandparents also in Saughton jail.

A large number of prisoners have known institutionalisation throughout their lives; council care and foster homes leading to young offenders’ institutions and then prison. A surprising number have very poor reading and writing skills. The overcrowding of our prisons is a symptom not just of failed justice and penal policy, but of fundamentally flawed economic, social and educational systems.

Of which I shall also write more later. Here, on this first day with a group in the exercise yard, I was mystified as the prisoners started going up to the ground floor windows and the guards started shouting “keep away from the windows! Stand back from the windows” in a very agitated fashion, but to no effect. Eventually they removed one man and sent him back to his cell, though he seemed no more guilty than the others.

By the next week I had learnt what was happening. At exercise the new admissions prisoners get drugs passed to them through the window by their friends who have been in the prison longer and had time to get their supply established. These drugs are passed as paper tabs, as pills or in vape tubes. There appears no practical difficulty at all in prisoners getting supplied with plentiful drugs in Saughton. Every single day I was to witness new admissions prisoners getting their drugs at the window from friends, and every single day I witnessed this curious charade of guards shouting and pretending to try and stop them.

My first few days in Saughton had introduced me to an unknown, and sometimes frightening, world, of which I shall be telling you more.


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154 thoughts on “Your Man in Saughton Jail Part 1

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  • Peter N

    Excellent piece Craig and you are on the ball. Brought up in West Pilton myself which I didn’t find problematic as a young child because I lived in a ‘quiet street’ but the surrounding atmosphere, as a teenager, was overlaid with violence between opposing gangs. Got out around the mid-1970’s. Wild place, wild stuff, by then, and the issues of smack were starting to rise.

    “But I recommend a spell in Saughton jail to any other middle class person who, like myself, was foolish enough to believe that Scotland is a socially progressive country.”

    That really does sum it up very well. Much like Peter Joseph’s detailing of ‘structural violence’ by the capitalist system we live in. The places that you mention are sinks for such violence from wider (complacent) society and the perpetrators, the politicians, the ‘justice system’, the middle- and upper-classes just ignore the consequences because they are themselves comfortably outside of the loop in which it occurs — which, of course, is blindness on their parts. I hope what you write cures some of that blindness and reveals to them their complicity in the violence that they themselves promote on a daily basis.

    I look forward to your further instalments. Thanks very much for this one — I was nearly weeping in places.

    • craig Post author


      My grandparents lived in West Pilton Gardens, where my father was brought up. My uncle Duncan was stabbed to death for his wallet crossing the green one night.

      • Peter N

        Hi Craig,

        I was bottled and stabbed before I managed to get out — truly idiotic teenage stuff though have to admit I was partially responsible for it myself — stupidity all round.

        Thing is when I think back on my life in the period there, I’m 67 now, I keep thinking that part of the reason why the place turned so sour was a gradual erosion of ‘traditional’ working-class culture. And that was severely helped on the way by the emergence of Thatcher (“there is no such thing as society”) the crushing of unions, which did promote some kind of solidarity among the working-class, and wide-spread unemployment. Of course, that took time to develop. But I also think that a lot of what was happening then with teenagers was down to music culture of the time. You had the clowns like Noddy Holder and Slade glamourising machismo by way of fashion and lyric; and the equal clown Gary Glitter and his wanna be in my gang ditty; there were others too of course. Had a bad effect on some of the teenagers. I think the same sort of thing goes on now with Rap — not that I have heard much of it but it seems like toxic stuff to point at impressionable and ill-educated teenagers. With that kind of imaging to aspire to many of them don’t stand much of a chance. It’s all a poisonous structural violence feeding into such areas, it builds on itself.

        Nowadays some of it is a bit more overt than in the past with the DWP and its staff of jobs-worths so-called ‘job coaches’ putting the so-called long-term unemployed through the psychological and physical wringer via the persistent threat of ‘sanctions’. They are quite literally humiliating and damaging and killing people and no one bats an eyelid. All on the back of the promotion of it by its architect the grotesquely vicious Ian Duncan-Smith, the nice respectable realist-guy with his shirt, tie and a suit, and his “tough love” meme — sick to the very depth of his soul. “Tough love” — really? What kind of love is that? Structural violence and pretty damned overt in this instance and all helped along by the MSM and its demonisation of the poor.

        Glad I’m the age I am now. Scotland seems to me to be going down the tubes. I hope the young manage to pull themselves out of the death spiral, but I have my doubts.

        Very sorry to hear of your uncle — wild place, wild stuff, casualties everywhere. You have my sympathies.

  • Rosemary Hart

    Total respect for you going through that horrendous ordeal Craig, and for documenting the first couple of days as you have done.

    It’s disgusting the way that people are treated in prison.. Not that it should be a 5 star accommodation block, but people are indeed being treated worse than dogs in kennels. You don’t have to be a psychologist or even mildly intelligent to know that such confinement for more than 22 hours each day, with even the respite from the cell being degrading, is only going to exacerbate the mental and emotional health issues that people have before going in there, and once they are released again, they are going to cause even more trouble within society.

    I hope there’s some way for you to have a long weekend away at a luxury spa centre.. I for one, would happily contribute to a fund dedicated to helping you out with that, so as to help you strike the balance.

    I recall reading Jimmy Boyle’s book ‘Sense of Freedom’ and it seems like the prison conditions haven’t changed much since that time.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Shall we consider some famous prison diaries:-

    “1. Antonio Gramsci

    Gramsci’s six-year imprisonment under the “Exceptional Laws” of Mussolini’s fascist government gave him both motive and occasion to dismantle the capitalist state. In the 30 notebooks he filled at Regina Coeli prison, he expounds his views on everything from intellectuals to cultural hegemony. “When I see the actions and hear the words of men who have been in prison for five, eight or 10 years …it gives me a cold shiver,” he wrote to his wife, asking her to reply in “nothing but trivialities”, so he could build himself a picture of “the threads of life” he was missing.

    2. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in 1945 for mocking Stalin in a private letter. The Gulag Archipelago, written from 1958-1968 and published in 1989, is an experiment in reportage. Part exposé, it reconstructs “the native life and customs of the Archipelago”, by piecing Solzhenitsyn’s own experience from 1945 to 1953 with the testimony of 227 other prisoners. He argues that the “Marxist-Leninist ideology” was always bound to produce the Soviet labour camps – that the Soviet government’s authority depended on the threat of the Gulag, just as its economy relied on the productivity in it.

    3. Jack Abbott

    In 1977, prisoner Jack Abbott offered to give Norman Mailer a sense of life behind bars, jealous that Mailer was in correspondence with Gary Gilmore (who was to become the subject of The Executioner’s Song, 1979). Mailer described Abbott in glowing terms, as “intellectual, a radical, a potential leader”, and arranged for his letters to be printed in The New York Review of Books. After Abbott’s release, The New York Times published a favourable review of the collected letters, In the Belly of the Beast (1981), unaware Abbott had stabbed a man to death the night before.

    4. Jeffrey Archer

    Lord Archer named the volumes of his trilogy Hell (2003), Purgatory (2004) and Heaven (2005) after Dante’s Divine Comedy, documenting his stays at three UK prisons. In between anecdotes about fellow inmates and his efforts to lay his hands on bottled Evian, he frequently whistles for David Blunkett’s attention (“Are you paying attention, Home Secretary?”) An adaptation of the book is set to become a one-man show in the West End.”

    5. Craig Murray…..

    • Stephen Lawrence Tarrant

      Also based on prison experiences, although not a diary: Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon”. Many parallels to Craig’s case too.

      • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

        The cell door slammed behind Rubashov. He remained leaning against the door for a few seconds, and lit a cigarette. On the bed to his right lay two fairly clean blankets, and the straw mattress looked newly filled. The wash-basin to his left had no plug, but the trap functioned. The can next to it had been freshly disinfected, it did not smell. The walls on both sides were of solid brick, which would stifle the sound of tapping…The window started at eye-level; one could see down into the courtyard without having to pull oneself up by the bars. So far everything was in order.” (Arthur Koestler: DARKNESS AT NOON, translated by Daphne Hardy)


        “Dúnadh doras an chillín de phlab taobh thiar de Rúbaiseov. D’fhan sé ina sheasamh i gcoinne an dorais go ceann tamaill agus las sé toitín. Ar an mbunc ar dheis bhí dhá phluid cuíosach glan, agus de réir dealraimh bhí tuí úr sa tolg. Cé nach raibh aon stopallán sa bháisín níocháin ar chlé, bhí an sconna ceart go leor. Ní raibh aon bholadh ón gcanna uisce in aice leis, agus níorbh fhada ó díghalraíodh é. Mhúchfadh na fallaí daingne bríce fothram cnag ar bith…Thosaigh an fhuinneog ar chothrom na súl: d’fhéadfaí breathnú síos go dtí an clós gan tú féin a tharraingt aníos ó na barraí. Go dtí seo bhí gach aon rud ceart go leor.” (Arthur Koestler: DORCHADAS UM NÓIN, aistrithe ag Risteárd Mac Annraoi)

        • Cynicus

          “aistrithe ag Risteárd Mac Annraoi”

          Fhearghas, a charaid


          I thought, for reasons unknown to me that you were posting a translation into (Scottish) Gaelic and Google Translate had given you a bum steer into Gaidhlig na h-Eireann instead.

          Mea culpa

          • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

            Apology happily accepted and clarification very much appreciated. I read Scottish Gaelic and Irish perfectly well, and it is a delight to have Koestler’s work in Irish on my shelf. I relish the taste of the words in the above extract. Risteárd Mac Annraoi is a prolific translater into Irish. Besides Arthur Koestler’s ‘Darkness at Noon’, MacAnnraoi has translated Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Death on the Nile’, HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’, Yann Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’, Italo Calvino’s ‘Mr Palomar’, G Lowes Dickinson’s ‘Plato and his Dialogues’, ‘Three Stories’ by Stefan Zweig, short stories by Lev Tolstoy (plus extracts from a wide range of other Russian authors), Laozi’s ‘Tao Te Ching’, short stories by Bret Harte, Miguel de Unamuno’s ‘Niebla’, etc etc. And I will randomly mention here the exceptional news that since the start of 2022 Irish now has full status in the European Parliament –

    • Peter M

      Can I add ‘Walls and Bars’ by Eugene Debs. It describes the US prison system, written just over a century ago. It proves there will be no progress when money is to be made with the status quo.
      Free PDF download here.

      Welcome back Craig.

    • Shardlake

      I don’t know if he produced a diary afterwards but you missed out Jonathon Aitken who had a spell inside for perjury after his ‘sword of truth’ episode. Mind you, he deserved to be there as do the alphabet women.

    • M.J.

      The description of the terrible condition of Craig’s cell reminded me of the chapter “The liberation of self – cell 54” in Anwar-El Sadat’s autobiography In Search of Identity.

  • M.J.

    I hope that you eventually publish your prison diary as a book, and that it helps the cause of prison reform, but also society’s treatment of drug addicts from impoverished backgrounds. Perhaps the Dutch methods of dealing with addicts would save much unnecessary suffering and expense.

  • Giyane

    Thankfully Craig was kept safe in prison. We all share in this community every time we stop to engage with a homeless person outside our supermarkets. I worked as a probation volunteer for a few years and I was involved with transporting probation customers to and from their accommodation.

    I was unhappy that the probation service would not break the confidentiality of their customer by warning me that he was a notorious conman. I felt they should have told me. My middle class probation supervisors were privileged to know something they were not prepared to share with me. The client came first.

    One of the perks of middle classness is self-regard, that ” there but for fortune go you or I” cannot possibly happen to me. But it can and often does, and it has just happened to Craig. When Craig writes that the middle classes collude with the oppression of the less priveleged, yes, for all their compassion, the middle classes gloat in the knowledge that they are trusted persons whose reputations are secure.

    We live in an age of 24/7 spying, in which uneducated people are employed to spy on , assess and control the educated people who disagree with government. A whole new middle class of immigrants work the Home Office system by spying on, feeding , housing , medicating etc the Indigenous untouchables. In the British Raj, over 250 years the British created an entirely new class structure in order to be able to divide and rule.

    Craig was made an untouchable by Lady Dorrian and he must be grateful to her for opening his eyes to the necessity of doffing his cap to his masters, as he has just been forced to do. In this class struggle between right-wing Tiries and keft-wing liberals, I absolutely admire the people who work in the prison and probation services .

    I admire the taciturnity of the prison governor who respected Craig’s needs, and the probation officers who respected their customer’s privacy over mine.

    Most people who work in this field are not playing the class political game, and I respect them absolutely for that. , A massive amount of time is wasted in class politics at work and in social life. Curiously, the penal system and its non-judgementalism is a breath of fresh air after the poisonous atmosphere of work and politics.

    So, thanks for the free food and thanks for the sanity of people who really care.

    • Cynicus

      “ and he must be grateful to [Lady Dorrian] for opening his eyes to the necessity of doffing his cap to his masters, as he has just been forced to do. “

      I’ve read an re-read Craig’s beautifully written piece. But of cap-doffing I see nary a trace. What on earth are you talking about?

      • Giyane


        My satire was too strong maybe. In 1979 Mrs Thatcher destroyed old money and gave birth to banking finance money, a process that has reached its climax when new money Ian Duncan Smith abolished the old money concept of state welfare with universal credit.

        I.have never found Craig remotely pompous or class snobbish even when he despaired of Kentish racists, but Lady Dorrian was clearly exercising new money social snobbery over Craig,, by virtue of the fact that he had clearly committed no offence . It was pure dick-waving feminist, I’m more socially important than you, snobbery.

        The prison service didn’t share Lady Dorrian’s snobbery and treated him with respect by calling him a vip.
        So LD’s intentions were completely reversed. Ian Duncan-Smith has been banned from China. Quite a feat.
        Blair has earned public shame by collecting his title. Much better if he had modestly refused.

        I take a dry, sardonic pleasure in seeing the high and mighty being publicly rebuked for their delusions of power.

  • Neil McKenzie

    This reminds me of Orwell at his best. That a fellow like you should be put in jail is a shame, a disgrace. Just as a wee aside, my uncle Malkie used to run the special unit at Barlinnie, At his funeral mass down one side was a bunch of shady guys, down the other prison warders in uniform and at the back was Jimmy Boyle in a camel skin coat and raybans.
    Anyhows warmest wishes and keep the writing going, you’re a gem and if I ever get the chance I’ll buy you a big Laphroaig

  • DunGroanin

    This is worse than I thought it would be. It has made me even angrier. It is vital that this case goes all the way to the ECHR and justice is done; my wallet has got an itchy finger on it.

    The conspirators all deserve to have get a taste of the same medicine. They’ll be shouting out to each other when they arrive. Oi oi Marmalade welcome to the tea party.

    I’m sure CM would be more charitable than I.

    They were obviously trying to kill CM. As they obviously wanted to do to Salmond. Imagine how he was expected to survive that filth and degradation in the main wings with his conditions? He wasn’t

    No medications? No mattress? No toilet seat ? No exercise? No pulse meter with a battery but there’s electricity in the cell to a tv! Hard headed screws who knew their job was to keep their cattle inside as long as possible and returning as quickly as they are released – there is no shame in turning human misery into profits – slavery.
    I’m not surprised to see a certain type who are the head slave masters.

    The prison system was privatised along with everything else decades ago largely so under Blairite NuLabourInc when they oversaw the dismantling of the good governors and the independent Inspectorate.

    It’s a con game of profit units for the foreign owned enterprises who build the prisons and stuff them with victims so they get more profit from the same space! The Joint Enterprise ‘laws’ also under Starmers CPS saw many a black youth being sent down for crimes committed by individuals that were in their group. The whole group ended up in prison. Destroying whatever family they had. It’s a scene hardly seen outside of deprived cities and ghettoes.

    I hope there is a returning to full strength and health and am looking forward to the further horrors and the blighted lives of the majority of the abused denizens who ended up inside.

    • Stevie boy

      This is nothing to do with privatisation! Unfortunately, the jails have always been like this, The problem is the whole system, inside and out. We need a system that treats problems, educates and rehabilitates offenders. Locking people up and doing nothing with them costs a fortune and achieves nothing. The tory mantra ? Why does it take someone like Craig raising these issues to make people see something that has been in plain view for decades ?

    • Tony Pringle

      I believe the new Swedish prison architecture has been widely copied by university halls of residence such are their merit for human living. HMP take note.

    • johnny conspiranoid

      Didn’t they abolish prison visitors some time ago? A group of independent people who had the right to enter prisons and inspect.

    • DunGroanin

      “ In May 1992, HMP Wolds, the UK’s first privately run prison was opened. Today, 14 out of 141 prisons in England and Wales are private or contracted out.1
      The UK has a developed market and is second only to the US in the number of privately run prisons, which is a ‘first mover’ in the sector.2
      The momentum for privatisation began in the late 1980s. Margaret Thatcher had a strong desire to extend the free market in public services based on the contested assumption that private sector provision would be more cost effective, efficient and catalyse system-wide improvement.3
      Since then, the pace of change has been remarkably uneven with periods of accelerated reform as well as complete stasis.

      This history can be split into four periods:
       1980 – 1990: Gathering momentum
       1990 – 1998: Introducing competition
       1998 – 2010: Moving back and forth between the public and private
       2010 – present: Deepening and expanding competition.

      1 Competition in prisons
      14 out of 141 prisons in England and Wales are private or contracted out.
      12.9% of the prisoner population are held in private prisons.
      Prisons contracts are shared between three companies: Serco, Sodexo and G4S.
      Combined value of private prisons contracts is around £4 billion.”

      The momentum is “ Deepening and expanding”

      The companies are multinationals. It is in their interest to be paid per head and minimise the cost per head – so over crowding, under manning, no motive to rehabilitate- actual opposite actually.

      And a creation of a slave workforce from the poorest from the poor areas who are forced into crime at an early age because of the poverty, lack of jobs and prospects in their ‘breeding grounds’ just like this
      That’s just 10 of the biggest companies using cheaper than cheap workers rather than providing employment at reasonable rates in the communities they suck the money out of and many wealthier customers who would probably think twice if they knew the truth.
      There are current reports that the US harvests couldn’t have been done without such slave labour; they are also being used for disaster clearing up and provide care for the infirm and elderly Instead of trained careers and nurses.

      In the U.K. we are inexorably being driven to the same system by the same companies

      Here are some very clear facts and graphics

      And a whole lot more statistics which show exactly how the ruination of young lives and families has increased through the decades and spending by government rocketed but facilities have not. This also shows the in reading racial disparity of the prison population (just like I. The US since the evil grubby kid fiddler Clinton.

      So anyone still think this is not about the continuing obsession to privatise all our public services and parcel out the profitable parts which exploit the workers and cheat society? And to target individuals who get uppity.

  • John Monro

    Thank you Craig for your writing. Nothing superfluous, simple English prose is always the best, unless you’re writing a novel. The writing is the more powerful for it. My first thought was this – it is so wrong that someone who hasn’t even been committed of any statutory crime should be so confined, but of course, what you’re saying and what we should all understand, is no-one, even a criminal, deserves to be treated in such a retributive and inhumane fashion. It’s not just demeaning to the prisoners, but also to those charged to care for them, and of course it’s shameful for Scotland. But the retributive, throw away the key, view of the comfortable and smug is very powerful. I live in NZ and it’s exactly the same here. Harsh (much longer) sentences, three strikes law, huge number of Maori prisoners, overcrowding, recidivism, drugs, illiteracy, you name it. Red-neckism and a hugely judgemental ethos thrives and politicians play to this to a man and a woman. For instance, we have many more prisoner per head of population than you do in Scotland. (Yours 150/100,000, NZ’s 219/100,000 – one of the highest in the developed world) However, I am unable to tell you what the conditions in prison are like compared with what you’ve experienced.

    The main issue with your writing here is how many people will get to read it? Nice to get it down on paper, nice to get some attention and support, but how does this appalling situation get into the wider citizenry of your country – enough for the populace to take note, and for politicians to take some action? You must have had lots of reports over many years in Scotland on prison conditions and the justice system, which will have confirmed your own dismaying experience, but obviously nothing changes. No votes in prison reform is probably the most powerful reason for the status quo, and the right-wing ascendancy in all our countries that poisons our thinking and our humanity and makes us complicit in this continued mistreatment our fellow citizens.

    • DiggerUK

      @ John Monro, I’m both surprised and unsurprised that the percentage of population in New Zealand prisons is greater than Scotlands.

      What may, or may not, shock many here is how prisoners around the world are routinely stripped of the most basic right if gaoled. The right to vote being one of those rights, a freedom that in many cases is cancelled in perpetuity.

      A little research will show that the biggest “exporters of democracy” are the biggest cancellers of all…_

      • John Monro

        Prisoners in NZ voting rights: For many years, only prisoners with a less than 3 year sentence were enfranchised and could vote. I don’t know why or when the 3 year rule was introduced. Rules have changed throughout New Zealand’s entire parliamentary history. A National (right wing retributive) government disenfranchised all prisoners from voting in 2010 despite an informed campaign and the vast majority of submissions against this. The Labour government has restored the right to vote for those prisoners sentenced to less than three years. Again, I don’t know why this 3 year rule pertains. Ah, I’ve checked; the logic is that because governments here have a three year term, it means they can vote for a government that may be in power when they are released. Released prisoners will be automatically enrolled because many previously on release never bothered (I wonder why?) This whole thing makes no moral or human rights sense. Incarcerated people should have the right to vote for a government who might look after their interests even when they are incarcerated, governments that might produce work and education opportunities for when they are ultimately released, or might make parole easier, or might introduce a criminal cases review authority, or even possibly a government that might revisit some of these appallingly long and retributive sentences.

  • pete

    Craig, your time in jail sounds nightmarish, clearly the prison authorities are focused on dentition as punishment rather that rehabilitation and have no real clue as to how do deal with a civil offender rather than a criminal one. I see other commentators have already listed some of the notables who have been incarcerated because they have upset the state by expressing themselves.
    I was surprised to read the description of your cell, it seemed strangely like the one described by Jack Black in his autobiography You Can’t Win. Black’s account was written in the 1920’s and covers the period from 1880 to the early 1920’s, when he was in and out of jail for numerous offences: “My cell was furnished with an iron bed, a small table, a bookshelf, a three legged wooden stool and a galvanised iron bucket… Every movable article in the cell had my prison number on it, and I kept them till the day of my discharge…” * Of course the prison you were in had no movable objects, so I guess the authorities have learned something about the system of total control.
    The brutalities Black encounters, flogging, forced labour, use of the strait jacket and so on seem to be used less nowadays, I guess psychotropic drugs are the modern form of control, this may explain how the prison authorities are content to let drugs flow into jails.
    Please keep writing, the only way to change anything is to bring the awareness of the cruelty of the prison system into the public mind, and we are aware that whatever you experienced, it can only be worse for Julian Assange, whose torture continues as we speak.

    *Jack Black: ‘You Can’t Win’ page 184

  • ronan1882

    Sickening you should be sent to such a facility when none of the MSM journos who did identify Salmond’s “victims” were even brought to trial. Any jury of your peers would have dismissed the case against you without hesitation. The guilty verdict and vicious sentence were obviously singular punishment for repeatedly pointing out that Sturgeon is a stooge of the British state who has no intention of delivering independence, and who arranged to have Salmond jailed for life on spurious charges. That and the dismissal of your appeal by the UK govt/Supreme Court and the lack of solidarity from establishment journos and politicians confirms you have always been right about these people. If anything, you underestimated their sociopathy. Keep up the vital work of exposing them, but as others have said be extremely careful about allowing them another opportunity to jail you because they will assuredly take it without hesitation.

  • Tom

    Holy smokes, this reads like “Papillon”. If I’d not be strongly commited to the idea of sending nobody to prison at all, I’d wish they’d send some popular writers there in regular intervals. It’d make a good read and certainly help to improve the conditions there. I wonder if there is a single prison (except the one for war criminals in Den Hague) that has not overcrowded for decades and what the reasons are for that.

  • Lapsed Agnostic

    Our generous host is of course quite right to state that most prison sentences in Scotland are the direct result of drug addiction – largely to heroin. Same goes for the rest of the the UK, although to a slightly lesser extent. It’s a deep-rooted problem, but recently things appear as if they might slowly be beginning to change. A project in Middlesbrough in which around 15 long-term addicts are able to inject pharmaceutical-grade heroin under supervised conditions has been running for just over a year and seems to have been judged a success. The cost of this to the taxpayer is about 15 grand per year per addict, so it’s not really feasible on a large-scale though.

    It should however be feasible to set-up schemes whereby addicts pick up heroin, and fresh pins etc, each day from outlets on industrial estates, for a cost of around three grand each a year, which they can pay for out of their benefits. This could be conditional on being subject to random blood tests to test for drugs that cause more societal harm such as cocaine, amphets, diazies etc. (if they test positive, or refuse to give a sample, they’re kicked off the scheme for a month or so), as well as for HIV, hep C etc.

    So what would likely happen if pharma-grade heroin was made readily available to all addicts in the UK and Europe? It would doubtless be a good thing for the addicts themselves and enable many of them to get their lives back on more of an even keel. It would also be a good thing for property owners as acquisitive crime rates would plummet, as well as the prison system which could devote much more resources to prisoners who commit crime regardless, as well as the occasional political prisoner.

    However, there are people for whom it wouldn’t be a good thing: namely many farmers in southern and eastern Afghanistan, who would be faced with falling prices for their opium, which in many cases would make it no longer economically viable to grow. Of course, they could instead grow wheat & beans on their two hectares or so of reclaimed desert land, which would just about feed their large families – but how would they then pay for the rent of the land, and service the loans they took out to pay for their deep-well and water pump? What have they got for their creditors? Nothing but their children – basically.

    Things are often not as simple as they first seem.

    • Stevie Boy

      I think you’ll find most taxpayers do not want to have to fund the supply of drugs for adults. The problems go much deeper and are a direct symptom of our broken and corrupt society. The answer is never going to be more drugs.
      The problems are directly related to areas such as: sink estates, poverty, no meaningful employment, no proper health services, unaffordable housing and the inequality of wealth distribution. The government is happy to pour huge amounts of money into, so called, defence projects and fund useless vanity projects, and direct the countries dwindling riches towards their mates but they won’t fund social programmes for the general population.
      The people are living/surviving in an environment of no hope, no future, exploitation and rampant corruption. No wonder many turn towards drugs.
      Any solutions are only going to be sticking plaster until the exploiters are removed.

      • DunGroanin

        Steve ‘Taxpayers don’t fund’ ANYTHING.

        The problems you identify are specially created to provide the raw material to create the profit units for the prisonco’s. See my links above.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Thanks for your reply Stevie. Re: ‘I think you’ll find most taxpayers do not want to have to fund the supply of drugs for adults.’ As I mentioned, in my proposed scheme, addicts would pay for their heroin, most of them out of their benefits. For what it’s worth, I’d imagine that most UK taxpayers support the death penalty for convicted murderers of children or police officers, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon – even under the current regime. I’d put folding money on something like my proposed scheme being initiated within the next ten years – the current situation is just becoming unaffordable.

        I largely agree with you about the societal corruption in the UK, which during the pandemic has, in my view, pretty much turned into outright looting. But I can’t see anything like recent events in Kazakhstan happening over here anytime soon, so I guess most of us will just have to make the most of what little is left for the time being.

        Thanks too for your reply Aidworker1. In my view, the Portuguese model would certainly be better than what we have now – but many people there are still having to thieve etc to support their habits.

      • Stevie Boy

        Absolutely NOT.
        A drugged up junkie, whether a criminal or not, is of zero use to society. It’s not their fault but they need help NOT free drugs.
        If they were sentenced to time in a facility that actually helped them and provided them with skills and maybe jobs upon their release it would be better than just simply punishing them in our 19th century prisons.
        We live on an Island, how come we are flooded with drugs ? There are maybe questions to be asked of those in authority – but maybe not the cokehead politicians !

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Junkies aren’t getting free drugs in Portugal, Stevie – they’re just not getting criminalised if the authorities find them to be in possession of small amounts of drugs. Some of the money saved on that is getting ploughed back into drug treatment programmes for those that want to quit.

          So what if they’re of zero ‘use’ to society. Under the scheme I outline above, they’d only be costing society around 10 grand a year in benefits, which is a lot less than most of them are costing it now. Compare that to the hordes of people raking it in from doing ‘anti-jobs’, where people are paid well above the odds to make others *less* productive – in both the public & private sectors, e.g. providers of extensive compulsory ‘unconscious bias’ training seminars. I’m (semi)-retired now so I’ve never been to one, but I’ve heard more than enough about them.

          These days many if not most of our Class A’s come in in shipping containers full of legit goods. The Colombians, say, will open one up in Barranquilla or wherever, put in the contraband, and replace the anti-tamper electronic tag with a fake replacement so it looks like nothing’s happened. Then after it gets to the UK, someone on the inside at Felixstowe or wherever will tell the UK outfit exactly where to find it and the contraband gets unloaded at night – sometimes using night vision so as not to attract attention with torches. Everything gets done on encrypted comms or burner phones.

          Of course, this could all be stopped by searching every container that comes in from South America soon after it lands, like the Ruskies started doing in St Petersburg & Ust Luga a few years ago. The result? People just switched from hokey to locally-produced mephedrone which they generally buy on their dark web.

          To borrow from Len: Everybody knows that the War on Drugs is over. Everybody knows that the Drugs won. Well maybe not everyone.

    • Squeeth

      The easiest way to cut drug addiction is full employment. Looked at like that, it isn’t difficult to see Class A dependency as a substitute for jobs. Smacked-up people a revolution do not make.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Thanks for your reply Squeeth. There’s plenty of people with serious Class A habits in full-time jobs – including at quite high pay grades. Often their employers and co-workers suspect nothing. I’d bet there’s quite a few (intentionally) homeless people in fairly well-paid jobs as well – even rough sleepers. It can be done.

        Keep them well supplied with bobby and I’d imagine many smackheads would be quite willing to help you storm the barricades. Long-term users’ mental capacities under the influence aren’t much affected – but it does reduce fear somewhat.

        • Squeeth

          What proportion of users are exceptional? I’ve never tried it but I doubt that someone smacked out of their head will want to do much more than nothing.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks again for your reply Squeeth. I’d estimate the number of daily heroin users with proper full-time jobs to be in the low tens of thousands out of the 300,000 or so addicts in the UK. Of course, for those that don’t have a proper full-time job, getting enough money for smack etc is essentially a full-time job in itself in most cases.

            Most users with bona fide jobs know that they’d be in a bit of trouble if they lost their job, so they work hard and make sure they get seen to be doing so. Even though there is some degree of variation due to genetic differences, taking standard amounts of heroin only really zonks people out during the first year or so of taking it – after that they just need it to feel normal. Most addicts with proper jobs will have start out taking it on weekends, to come down from club drugs for example, then weekends became long weekends etc etc..

    • johnny conspiranoid

      “The cost of this to the taxpayer is about 15 grand per year per addict,”

      How much does it cost to keep them in jail?

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Thanks for your reply Johnny. It costs 30 to 40 grand to keep someone in prison for a year. However, only a fraction of the 300,000 or so addicts in the UK are in jail at any one time. Also when people are in jail they shouldn’t be receiving their benefits.

        As well as the cost of supervised injecting facilities, you’d have to train thousands of nurses at a time when the NHS has over 100,000 vacancies.

  • Wendy Wood

    Excellent and moving piece of writing, Craig. I’m glad you survived your stay.
    I hope the Alphabet Women get a taste of this experience eventually. Plus some others!

    • Robert McAllan

      @Wendy Wood, unfortunately courtesy of a lifetimes anonymity awarded by the judge who in a subsequent non jury trial sentenced Craig, his experience will never be theirs. Couple that with the knowledge they all enjoy the support of leading figures within Scottish Government who would have you believe their feminism knows no bounds, not even those of perjury, and it becomes clear the A B C of sinisterhood rules supreme in Sturgeons mankit midden.

  • tom kane

    Ah, Craig.

    Very sorry to see you go through this. But what a pair of eyes you bring to the experience.

    Most importantly though, very sorry you went through it. And all because you wrote an honest report of an important trial, and weren’t being paid by the MSM. And so, being punished for it.

    I did some work in the Saughton school area about 10 years ago. In the wonderful Broomhouse/St Joseph’s (two schools back to back… Across the denominations). I was working on real-world links to schools and was sharing experiences I had of working across all of Glasgow’s secondary schools, and many primary schools … With the At Augustine’s and it’s associated feeder primary schools.

    One day I was doing a link with different classes from P1 to P7 in one of the schools… And a teacher asked a little boy from p6 to follow me around and help me. He was just directed from the class and Bo conversation with me about it. Once I got over the surprise, I found him helpful, polite and interested.

    At lunch he went back to class. At the end of the day, I went to say thank you to the headteacher, and was told she was busy excluding a pupil. I was asked to wait, and spent some time in the janitor’s office. I discovered that the pupil being excluded was the boy who was helping me. Now I was really surprised. He had been very nice and genuinely helpful. I told the janitor about my day and how he had been, and that I didn’t understand what could have happened.

    He told me the boy was very likeable, and lived in one of the nearby and scary flats. He had a close relative in prison, and when he visited he thought it to be very peaceful and quiet in there where his relative was. And his primary school ambition became to get in to Saughton jail. And he had started to take the steps to get in there. For the peace and quiet.

    It blew me away. Glasgow has problems and knows it. I worked with amazing people in tough situations there. But I never saw anything in Glasgow like I saw in Saughton, Edinburgh. That’s not the most heart-breaking story from the same area.

    Your right, Craig. Our prison populations are a big problem. And again, very sorry you went through so much to see it. But if anything can be done to help people in prisons, it will be work worth doing. And I for one would love to help.

    Happy New Year, Craig!


  • Garry W Gibbs

    Hi Craig,
    Welcome back.
    I went to a Welsh magistrates court today to observe as a member of the public but was told by security guards that public are not allowed “because of COVID-19” and I was asked if I had any symptoms.
    An accredited member of the press with a card passed me and gained entry.
    I made a point of telling the staff that there was no difference in law between him and I and I stuck around the court precincts while the security staff very kindly said they would have a word with the court clerk on my behalf. I wore a suit and tie and carried my passport and proof of Covid vaccines and even wore a mask even though I am exempt.
    Eventually, I was told that the “magistrate” had granted me permission to sit and take notes.
    I have absolutely no idea why I was allowed in and I have absolutely no idea why other members of the public were not. No idea at all.
    I noticed two members of the press behaving fairly normally in conferring and chatting then saw a court clerk admonish them for not observing social distance quite loudly rather in the way that a headmaster might scold schoolboys for smoking behind the bike shed or kissing after lights out in a public school. It felt like a dystopian nightmare not unlike prison in being totally rules and regulations-based with incredibly oppressive security with a sign outside saying: “Please note the state of vigilance currently in force for the building is: HEIGHTENED RESPONSE LEVEL”.
    When is this going to lower and why, in God’s name, are the public being excluded but press allowed?

  • Squeeth

    When institutions have effects, you can bet your boots that’s what they’re for. Prison is an attack on the working class.

  • Michael McDermott

    The thing I have noticed but I haven’t researched it so its only speculation meantime is that if you read the list of Scots court rolls for the various jurisdictions then most of the cases are of migrants to these shores be it Scots Irish or Scots East European- it really is worrying.

  • Old Lag

    Seems you missed all the humiliating stuff like the dump in the communal toilet as the screws looked on, the journey to court in the morning via the Sheriff and the High, the ride in the prison-van to prison with the banging and clanging and the crazies ‘kicking off’, the long wait in the ‘dog box’, before being stripped and having a screw shine a torch up your arse, and an apple and a sandwich from the ‘passman’. ‘Treated like a normal prison, yeah right!

    • craig Post author

      Yes, I was indeed spared a great deal that other prisoners go through. Whether that is because I was a civil prisoner, or was particular to me, I don’t know,

  • Old Lag

    PS The wrappers (Bible) for fags, drugs, whatever are called ‘skins’ 😉 Need to catch up on the old prison jargon 😉

    • DunGroanin

      I’m sure he picked up a lot of lingo after 4 months – we may read more about it in the future episodes. As a student a long time ago I was told cigarette papers were skins – over 40 years ago! I wonder do all prisoners get treated the same when they arrive? Especially the mr bigs ? Are warders unmoved by the gang leaders? I believe many of the gangsters sent down were treated like royalty.

  • Andrew Nichols

    If Navalny had been incarcerated like this, he’d give a daily blog and press conference and our state friendly media and leaders would be thundering in their denunciation….

  • Peter Mo

    Journalist Awards

    Don’t know how these awards are dished out but if Craig’s next piece is as good as the first then he should be nominated for some of these awards.
    Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism Martha Gellhorn Trust
    Human story that penetrates the established version of events and illuminates an urgent issue buried by prevailing fashions of what makes news[20] Since 1999

    other awards

  • DunGroanin

    “It is emblematic of the extraordinary lack of intellectual consistency in the Scottish prisons system that cells are equipped with these Victorian punishment beds but also with TV sets showing 23 channels including two Sky subscription channels (of which I shall write more in another instalment). “

    Sounds like hell! Like a self inflicted ‘clockwork orange’ brainwashing, propaganda ingestion, dumbing down, addiction and religion.

    A soma in short

    I haven’t had licence for four years and don’t miss it except for live sport; when it’s rarely on terrestrial.

    Was sports one of the subscription channels?

    God. Imagine being there and having nothing else to do except watch this Ashes. Back to the Past! when England were really shit.
    Guess we could blame it on the Covid as an excuse, but I have never seen professionals – who have been up-to now playing at the top levels – failing to deliver as spectacularly as this team has.

    Back to listening on the radio and falling asleep without worrying.

  • wall of controversy

    Craig, your account is extremely evocative and really, really shocking. On RT recently I saw some footage of a Russian jail that was being upgraded. It also looked like a hellhole which is obviously less surprising. What shocks me most are the appalling levels of filth and squalour. This is torture basically but Victorian-style. That you ever had to endure such conditions is simply dreadful – that anyone does is a terrible wrong – like you say we wouldn’t treat dogs like this. So thank you for shining a flashlight into this grim and more or less forgotten corner of our society. It’s also testament to you personally that now you’re out again you’re immediately back fighting the good fight. I must take my hat off to you!

  • Crispa

    I have read that it costs about £35 – 36k a year to keep a person on these squalid conditions. On this basis Craig will have cost the taxpayer about £12,000 (in addition to the pre-sentencing costs). What a waste of public money. Today’s politicians are scared stiff to even raise the issue of prison reform which is long overdue for fear of hysterical media backlash whipping up public opinion. I blame Thatcher and Mary Whitehouse and her right wing moral crusaders for snuffing out the beginnings of a more enlightened and sensible prison reform movement that arose in the 1960s and 1970s. Blair with his “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan acted on the first part and ignored the second part. Perhaps the only way of initiating long overdue reform is now through hard ball looking at value for money and putting pressure on the politicians to ensure that these vast amounts of public money spent futilely on locking people up are put to better use.

  • Don Carr

    Truly you’ve had an awful time of it Craig and to think that we’ve heard about the work of prison reform groups from our childhoods.
    We have massive social problems in Scotland and inadvertently you have highlighted two of them, by your reports .
    Firstly at your sham of a trial and secondly as a result of it.

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