Tell the story

March 10, 2010

How Roger was bundled into a straitjacket for 12 hours and why he’s never told anyone

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 12:22 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve got a friend who’s an ex-con – let’s call him Roger.

Every few weeks I meet Roger in a little pub in a forgotten corner of Worcestershire and sink a few Hereford Pale Ales while putting the world to rights.

Roger is incredibly erudite and eloquent, outwardly middle class and a happily discontented family man. After a few jars, however, he often sinks into a maudlin stew and talks me about his life inside a maximum security prison.

He recounts these “missing years” – even his wife is unaware of his secret history – in a matter-of-fact way. But even after 2 decades, bitterness for the way the prison service operates still burns inside.

Last week he told me of his first day of incarceration on what he terms a trumped up drugs charge:

“Coming out of court and packed into a van, I was too numb to understand what was happening. As we sped away, tears started streaming down my face. Then they came in floods. I was lost, alone, desperate for some kind of shoulder to cry on, some level of deep humanity I could touch.

“I was bundled out of the van, taken to a place where I was ordered to strip. By this time I was sobbing uncontrollably. One of the prison officers shouted to his mate: “We’ve got a crier!”

“They all laughed, dragged me into a cell and squeezed me into a straitjacket. I was unable to move for the next 12 hours and had to piss myself inside the suit. I was let out next morning; I wanted to kill myself.”

What struck Roger the most was the malevolence of the system. Any weakness shown was met by force and brutality. His gaolers would punish crying, but respect violence towards other “cons” in a world turned upside down.

Only the beer brings out Roger’s deep-seated scars. He talks to no one else about this – it will always remain bottled up inside.

Below is a recent interview I had with Christian Wraxall about how social media engagement can try to bring people with mental health problems together to talk about their shared concerns and histories.

When I asked Roger would he ever want to be involved in such a network he said: “Before, when I’d just come out it would have helped enormously. But that was then, not now.”

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