Over the next few weeks LKIO will serialise the story of how one young political prisoner made a dash for freedom from the confines of the Cages of Long Kesh. Awaiting the granting of political status he is detained in the Compound that holds ODC’s. He describes every day life here where prisoner abuse was rife and sectarian tensions were never far away. With a determination and a will to escape this environment he tells, often with a vivid sense of humour–from a seventeen year old’s perspective a story that is profoundly relevant to the past conflict.
THE NOT SO GREAT ESCAPE
Six a.m. and the alarm goes off without warning—like every other morning—like the previous forty five mornings since coming here. Not an alarm clock mind you—No—a screw’s baton trailed against the corrugated iron sides of the Nissen hut that had been home for the preceding six weeks. A sound that had become so recognizable—it was impossible to confuse it with anything else—a cacophony of noise that jolted you—if it was possible–into a rigid horizantalness in your bed. Instantly wide awake. The assault on the iron timbers lasted for the length of time it took some half wit of an excuse for a prison guard to run round the entire hut. Sometimes a fat fuck would have taken half the morning. But the likelihood of an extra few moments in bed was nil.
As soon as the baton trailing exercise was complete the end door was opened. Two or three screws entered. A head count was taken –primarily to ensure that the same number of poor bastards were there in the morning as were locked up at eight o’clock the night before. On the odd occasion there may have been a need for the screws to remove an unfortunate soul who had done himself some damage during the night by means of a razor blade/plastic knife/fork/spoon—or by swallowing something he wasn’t meant to—bottle tops or bits of pens or needles or safety pins (opened)—or ate a full tube of toothpaste, supposedly to bust your appendix—or deliberately dropped something heavy on their foot—or got a friend or fellow inmate to smash their fingers with a smoothing iron—or by overdosing on large quantities of readily available tablets ( usually mild painkillers or antibiotics )—or who had had a form of cage justice administered by way of a selection of work boots–or pillowcases filled with scrubbing brushes or bars of buttermilk soap—whilst he was encased in a mattress cover.
Not everyone went to work at six but it was tough shit for those who didn’t—they were awake. Those of us who did had fifteen minutes to get washed and formed up in lines of two inside the Cage gate prior to being escorted to wherever your work stations where throughout the prison. No breakfast—you got that later at whatever section you worked at. As soon as the screws had completed the head count and rattled a few ankles along the way with their trusty batons, the parting shot was for one of them to turn the hut radio on full blast in order to make it virtually impossible to doze off again.