A Prison Diary

verdal fengsel
The School at Verdal Prison

Four social classes: Prison staff, Inmates, Externals (teachers, nurses, doctors), Visitors.
Day shift: Five guards, five administrators.
Sixty inmates (fifty-four men, six women).
Two teachers, a cleaner and a nurse (two on Mondays).

Four buildings surrounding a square.
Behind:  the pallet workshop.
To the right: the cafeteria with offices (above).
To the left: the warden’s house, now the women’s residence and school.
Built in the 1950s as a civil defense camp.
Shared in the 1960s as a winter prison,
for speeders and drunk drivers.
Now, it is a year round prison
for crimes involving violence, vice and drug addiction.

The gate:
A student, hired as a temporary guard uses his card and pin code,
the gate magically opens.
A teacher, at the prison for an eternity, presses a button and waits
“Yes?”
I answer what they already know, “It’s Brock from the school.”
“Welcome, Brock.” And the gate opens by remote control.
Driving in, I park beside the nurse’s car.

The guardroom (part 1):
Using my card and pin code I enter building 2.
The card works here, but not at the gate.
Social distinctions.
The guards assign me an alarm and a key
mostly the pink one, seldom the green.
I leave through the entrance used by the inmates.

The school:
If the classroom is dark, I turn off the building alarm.
If the lights are on, I know S has been cleaning, and turned the alarm off.
My tasks:
Empty the dishwasher, make coffee and boil water for tea.
LB arrives. Today she will select inmates for the forklift-driving course.
We sit near the entrance, drinking coffee.
At 8:30, five of the six inmates arrive at the school. Usually, one is sick.
LB and I welcome them by their first names.
(The guards use their building, cell and bed numbers)
Most go to their PCs, log in, and read online news.
Some drink coffee, others tea, each year a few drink nothing hot.
Some want to sit down and chat.
Some want to avoid the teachers.
At 9:00, school begins.
LB goes upstairs to her office and calls in potential fork-lift participants, one by one.
In the classroom, each student works alone on his or her studies.
One is eager, but most are not.
Some days I teach some math.
Most of the day I listen.
At 11:45, lunch.
The students go to the cafeteria, and sit at their fixed places for a head count and lunch.
LB and I sit downstairs, eating, drinking water and chatting.
At 12:30, school begins again.
At 13:00, a documentary screens.
The latest was about the Klondike Gold Rush.
Before that, it was about women pop-art painters.
At 14:30, the school day is over (for the students)
I make notes on each student’s work.
I load the dishwasher and turn it on.
I turn on the building alarm and lock the school building.

The guardroom (part 2):
I turn in my key and alarm.
I wait for the guard to let me out of building 2.
I drive to the gate, and wait for the guards to notice me
The gate opens.
I am a free man.

One Reply to “A Prison Diary”

  1. Brock – This story is well written. It tells me about a role you participate in,and passes along your observations. Facts, mostly.
    Not opinionated. Interesting! The first chapter of a novel you are planning/writing?

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