From Time For Cannabis: The Prison Years 1991 to 1995
writing the previous chapters, I had wanted to write about Blantyre
House, a totally different and altogether more positive experience with a
fresh start, rid of the influence of the Whitemoor memories, so I had
decided to take a break.
Unintentionally, that break lasted 17 years!
I feel I can comfortably write this chapter, not that the long gap in
time was due entirely to the Whitemoor experience, after all, I left
that place a couple of years before starting this book. But there have
been other things on my mind, which included co-founding and running a
small political party based on the single issue of cannabis, travelling
as I could afford and a lot of other writing
So, having been
approved for HMP Blantyre House, Gary (the inmate travelling with me)
and myself were all packed up and ready to leave Whitemoor as soon as we
We had heard favourable reports of the relaxed regime
there and were looking forward to seeing our bridge-playing,
ecstasy-smuggler friends Will and Tom along with a few others from
This is what the Department of Justice says about Blantyre House in 2015:
House is an adult male category 'C/D' resettlement prison. The
buildings themselves are located in a country house which was taken over
by the Prison Commission in 1954, having previously operated as a Fegan
Home. It was a Detention Centre for young offenders before converting
to a resettlement prison for long term prisoners.
The regime at Blantyre is designed to prepare men for their eventual
release. Within the first six months it is compulsory for the men to
continue to build upon their education, which will include obtaining
Basic Skills qualifications and taking part in courses such as healthy
lifestyles, social and life skills, independent living and preparation
for work. There are also a number of vocational courses on offer
including IT, Dry-lining and Plastering. Once risk-assessed prisoners
are allowed the opportunity to develop their education by attending
external colleges to obtain further employment skills. As well as
education, prisoners are able to work as cleaners, kitchen workers,
We were told to change into
our own clothing by the screw from Blantyre House, which we gladly did.
I felt like tearing up the prison clothing. But within minutes he came
back and told us we would have to change again because the Whitemoor
administration would not allow us in our own clothing whilst still
inside the prison. So we changed, again. We did not want to get into
trouble before we even left and anyway we were used to petty rules being
thrown at us seemingly willy-nilly.
Once we were inside the
prison van and outside the prison grounds, we were told we could change
back into our own clothing again. The screw actually apologised. He
said that at Blantyre House everyone knew the rules and he repeated
No alcohol or drugs, no violence or verbal abuse, obey the
laws of the land and commit to a minimum of half a day at education
They also told us to be careful with the food,
especially the chips, as it was served hot and may be the first hot food
we had eaten in prison. That was wrong of course but they did not know
that I had been cooking much of my own food along with Ken and others,
in the small kitchen on the wing, but they were correct about the
Blantyre food as I was to find out.
The journey from Peterborough
to Kent took a few hours and we were given sandwiches. The time went
quick even though we could not see the scenery.
House was in Kent near the village of Goudhurst, close to Cranbrook,
beautiful countryside famous for growing hops used to manufacture the
As we arrived at Blantyre House, pulled in through the gates; we climbed out of the van and there stood my friend Will.
took us to our "rooms" inside the large wooden building. He said we
would be sharing for a while but later would move to other rooms; this
was the reception cell.
The cell contained two bunk beds but
Gary and I were the only two that would be using them that night.
Apparently we would be here a few days and then moved to another "room".
We had our own keys. The room was next to the Principal Officer's
(The PO) office; I assumed it was so they could better keep an eye on
Will also told us that he would take us to the dining hall
as dinner was about to be served, then after that we would go to see the
PO's office to "check in".
Afterwards, Will said, he would
show us the prison grounds where we were free to wander at almost any
time between 8 am and 8 pm. After 8 pm we had to be inside the main
building and the outside doors would be locked, but we could associate
in rooms until 10 pm.
I do not remember what I had for dinner
except that it was vegetarian and hot and quite tasty. Will had
arranged for us to share a table with himself and Tom from Whitemoor and
a few others; one was Terry P. who was doing time for his part is an
There were about 100 inmates at Blantyre and
the dining room was crowded. Will told us that we would probably be put
on washing up duty the next day, and do that, as was traditional for
new arrivals, until more new inmates arrived. Then, he said, we would
probably be put on cleaning and after that we would either do outside
work or college, or do full time education. Being on my Open University
course in computing and busy building my database on Ancient Egypt,
education would suit me.
After dinner, as promised, Will took us
to the Principle Officer's office. Gary Catton, the screw that had
interviewed me in Whitemoor, was the PO on duty. Officers, though,
weren't called "screws" or even "kangas" here. It took just a few
minutes of confirming our names and numbers and being told that after
breakfast the next day we had to report to the kitchen and do washing up
After that, Will took Gary and I for a walk-about; he
showed us the education block, canteen, church building and gym. There
was quite a large green area where rugby and other sport was played.
the Saturday, just two days after arriving, we joined about twenty
others along with several officers, for a five mile country ramble. It
was amazing, instead of being forced to march together as I had
anticipated, we were all allowed to walk at our own paces. I found
myself walking down a beautiful and quiet grove where the trees were
brown and freshly fallen leaves were scattered about, passing large
gates to houses and small cottages. I felt there may have been a
babbling brook somewhere beyond but out of our sight.
After where I had been the last few years and even my home life before that, this was a new world. I felt free and trusted.
that area there was a fence with an open gate and the other side of
that we saw several inmates' allotments, a chicken run, and a large
field part of which inmates had worked on for use as a small golf
We walked right around the inside of the fence. We walked
to places where we could not be seen from the main buildings. There
was no razor wire and no visible cameras. It was hard to believe that
we were not being watched. A result of Whitemoor paranoia?
looked up at the trees but still saw no cameras. The only razor wire,
Will said, was near the canteen, to stop local kids from climbing over
and stealing stuff!
What an incredible change from Whitemoor.
Here they talked about the "ethos" and the Governor, Jim Semple said
that he did not like to be called "Sir". It was difficult at first to
know who was a screw and who was a con.
I slept well that night, although Gary complained that I had snored loudly.