#prison blog; Log 20 – Whatever ‘normal’ is…

Today was one of the house-blocks well-being day. Last year we created a day for each house-block to promote the principles of growth (see these in my projects section on my website). It involved cooking and play, investment and relationship building activities and ultimately it aimed to showcase how prisons can be meaningful, humane and feel ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ is!). Whilst some staff loved the days, they were generally seen pretty stressful, full on and weird. This year, each block was given a day and a small budget to organise their own. Reflecting on last year, we were a bit stupid, in doing a well-being day once a week, for 8 weeks. The days went like this: massive terror in the morning and chaos as everyone figures out what is happening, some of the men go off the wing to play sports and activities get started, things settle down. Food is slowly cooking, everything is fine and then after sweat, blood and tears there is one guy who does not like what he has. Everyone is annoyed at this one person and feels they wrecked the day. The vibe and atmosphere throughout the day is relaxed, safe and energetic. By 2 o clock I realise I have not stopped running around, not had anything to drink or eat and I am shattered. Since last year I have been diagnosed with ME and fibromyalgia and it all makes a bit more sense now. This generally resulted in someone being kind to me, making me food and me crying about all the positive feedback like “today I didn’t feel I was in prison, thank you”. By the end of the day I can hardly talk or walk (and I talk a lot) and the team of prisoners I work with have a weird glazed look in their eye from the pure exhaustion of the day…but was it worth it, absolutely. The men loved the days and for months all we got around the prison was “when is the next well-being day miss?” It was great. I tell you this because this same series of events took place today but it was not me with the exhausted body, but the wing staff. They were incredible. They utterly smashed it and the recognition from the men and the positive relationships I saw developing over the course of the day were gold dust. I wish I could bottle it up and keep it forever. The manager on the wing was so proud of his staff and for that day there was no violence or spice attacks or trouble. There was peace (accept for the dude who was not happy with his food of course). If you would have asked me whether that would have happened a year ago I wouldn’t have thought it. I am proper chuffed. Chuffed to see the staff completely invested in the days and utterly proud of all the effort they put in and all the recognition they got out. Awesome!

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