Freedom News

Prison Column: From an environmental prisoner

My final bit of bird took me to HMP Highdown, a C Cat resettlement prison – one of the capital’s satellite jails. I’d been on a nick-in (charge) having refused to go previously when Wandsworth’s finest demanded I pack up and skidaddle. It was my cellmate who said you can refuse, otherwise I might have just gone along with it there and then, on rote, forgetting that prison time is a lot of delay and arsing around.

My nick-in was a farce – I’d spent a while writing out a 3-page defence. The deputy Guv, with SO (senior officer) in attendance, found this all too much. In the end I said –

“You’re not reading that are you?”

“Yes I am – I’m skimreading.”

So I went over and asked to read out the mitigation statement, at least – permission granted. Talking about my community allotment project seemed to pique some interest:

“What you in for then?”

“Climate, M25 in November.”

“Oh you’re the cunts who stopped me getting to work.”

“Yep that’s me…”

Anyhow with strict instructions not to nix another transfer, I left. I landed at HMP Highdown a week later. You could say holiday camp in comparison to Wandsworth – the induction wing cell was palatial in terms of the previous cramped bunks on the ones in D wing. Here, like HMP Belmarsh where I was on remand, beds were separated by a storage table. The shorter landings at Highdown made for a more convivial setting in the sense that you could see from one end to the other with a warmer colour scheme and cleaner surrounds than the municipal blues and greens of the Victorian clink.

So this being my final stint what’s it all about Alfie? What of handling the emotions inside for example? How do you cry in prison – how do you make good on the puddles of kindness in seas of shark infested waters? The number of times I felt the welling up of tears about to explode and kept them in: a) you don’t want to burden your cellmate, and b) it’s a mans’ thing…

Well being tough is the name of the game after all, not letting your guard down and keeping on top of things (the film McVicar is worth a watch). Focus on one thing then do another and another – don’t try and do everything at once: a tag application, getting on a work detail, etc etc. Make sure you feel comfortable in your cell and don’t take on other people’s problems – all advice given by a trusted pal on the ones in Wandsworth.

In terms of that general interaction, honesty is the best policy, longer term prisoners are ten times sharper than randoms on the out. When you arrive in the holding cells with everyone sent down from court or on recall, you are asked, what you in for. If you lie there’s always the chance it will rebound with a vengeance – people doing their pieces when they feel you did them wrong by that lack of trust.

In all my cells and during my short spell (nine months, down to six for guilty plea, do three) I had nine cellies and I told them all I was non-violent and in for climate.


“Yeah M25 ‘n’ all that remember?”

“Oh you were on top of the signs were you, on the telly?”

“Yeah that was it.”

Cue a creasing up, to a man – which is fine as it breaks the ice and you can talk about the climate emergency – flooded tube stations, London wildfires breaking out in the July 2022 heatwave (40.3C/102 F).

Anyhow that’s about it I guess – thanks for sticking wiv me and all the best to those of you still in, perhaps on IPPs; immigration hold; unjust, harsh sentences; or miscarriages of justice – you have a friend and campaigner in me. And in the words of Mick Jones and The Clash when you do get out, Stay Free…

Jan Goodey

Image: Guy Smallman

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