For those unfortunate enough to be up for sentence then, this is a brief overview of what to roughly expect. After your trial or even if you have pleaded guilty and its sentencing day then this may apply to you.
When you are sentenced you will be taken straight out of the back of the courtroom, from the dock, down to the cells. You will not be able to see any friends or family and you will need to have taken with you into the dock anything you want to take to prison. As there will be no chance of just getting things off your family from a friendly face. Your life has just entered another world within a world… When you are first taken down to the cells within the court, you will have all possessions taken off you and logged. You will not see these again for a while, possibly quite a few days/ months years, depending on the lenght of your sentence.
If they offer you food, take it, as you won’t know when the next meal is coming.
Once your possessions have been taken, you will then be taken into a cell, somewhere within this area to wait for transfer – this could be on your own or in a cell with others. The timing of this transfer will be unspecified and you will get no indication of what, where, why, when and how things are going. At some point your solicitor and barrister will (probably) be allowed to talk to you in a holding room, provided they have been patient enough to wait at the court. Some solicitors take their money and run.
This is a valid and welcome opportunity to discuss anything such as an appeal, what the sentence might mean and pass any messages to or from your loved ones. You will probably also meet someone from the probation service who will mostly be checking your mental state, that’s if they have the staff within the court that day.
You will then wait for the van (sweatbox) for your transfer to the local prison. You will probably waiting for most of the day. Again, If they offer you food, take it, as you won’t know when the next is coming. You will then be taken into a small van with locked cells in to transfer to your first local prison. A tip is for you phone the court the day before and they will probably be able to tell you what prison this will be, as they tend to use one “holding” prison at a given time (although this is not always the case). The name of the city your in, usually has a local jail with a similar name…
When you get to the prison, you could wait on the van within the gates for a while as they process others. It depends how busy the prison is, this wait feels like forever. However, the main reason will be the volume of vans filled with prisoners coming from all over the city and for legal reasons the paperwork, mainly the warrants from the courts have to be checked thoroughly. This is to make sure that they themselves ”legally” have the right to hold you within their establishment. This is then coupled with the difficulties of processing so many bodies…
When you are finally let in to reception, you will be moved from holding room to another holding room and in between all these rooms, you will be called to various places so that:
1. Officers can take details from you (several times)
2. You can be stripped and searched and given your prison clothes
3. You can be given your bundle of blankets and plastic cup, plate, etc.
4. You can be seen by the prison doctor.
Furthermore, so you can be allocated a cell and asked any questions about particular issues you may have in the prison. Then back into a holding room… You will then hang around some more, until they can allocate you a cell, which you will (eventually) be taken to. This could be many, many hours after you have got out of the van. Do not expect this allocation, in terms of your cellmate, to be thought through. It really is if there is an empty bed in the prison, it’s getting filled. Simple as that. Everything else has to wait, nothing is thought through, it’s bums on beds. Get everyone out of reception and in a cell as quickly as possible. Quickly in prison means hours and hours. Something you’ll come to understand, nothing within prison estates is done quickly. Consider yourself very lucky if it is.…you may be moved to a new cell several times and your cellmate may change. This is due to a thousand reasons, security, gang-members, suicide risks, high-risk prisoners. To name just a few reasons the list is endless.
However, considering by now it is probably pretty late, your cellmate may not speak a word of English and there has been no time for any “induction” or anything, Door opens and your told to get in, your just left to live of your wits… you will now be locked in a cell with absolutely no idea how anything works. The truth is, you will (rightly) feel like you are now expected to just get on with it, as the next time your cell door is opened will be the next morning and the day shift and none of the guards will really even realise that you are new. So you will have to work out if that door is being opened for “exercise” (a walk in the yard), to use the showers, get your food, etc. Obviously if your cellmate speaks English that will help a lot, otherwise you have to follow everyone else and hope to figure it out.
One last thing to remember, once you have settled and figured it out, is that you may be moved to a new cell several times and your cellmate may change. This is always an apprehensive time as it’s almost like starting over again, so it is best to be ready for it. Nothing is garrantee in prison…Infact there is only one garrantee within prison and that is… There is no GARRANTEE!!!