On my first day in my job I asked a prisoner how he was getting on and he said, "Well, I'm dubbed up in my peter and I don't like it". I hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about. Now I speak fluent "jail" (the other day, in fact, I was trying to tell a friend about a relative who has terminal cancer and is on morphine and I couldn't remember the word "morphine" at all - I kept wanting to say that she was on methadone, which is a word I hear every day). Anyway, for those of you in blissful ignorance, your "peter" is your cell, and if you're "dubbed up" it means you're sharing (doubled up). Most prisoners would rather have a single cell and so they eagerly follow the progress of other prisoners being liberated or shipped off to another jail, in the hope of getting their cell (rather like those who look at the obituaries in the newspaper to see if any council houses in their area have become vacant!)
It's not just peace and quiet that's appealing about the single cell. If you have to share a cell, you have little say in who you share with, and it doesn't take much imagination to see that that is a scary prospect. Imagine this scenario: You don't take drugs/ you don't take drugs any more. You are keeping your nose clean in the hope of parole and all is going well. A drug-user is put in to share your cell with you. He hides his drug paraphernalia in the cell. The officers find it and he denies it is his. You can "grass him up" and perhaps be slashed for your trouble, or you can take the rap and endanger your parole/ be downgraded to a stricter regime. There are various versions of this story but it's a common concern in jail.
It may be that the cell-mate you are given has a mental illness or disorder, of which nobody explains to you the details, and you are worried that he may be dangerous. It may be that the cell-mate you are given plays his music loud at all hours. It may be that he snores incessantly. Or he may just be a soap-dodger, which is pretty unpleasant if you're locked up together for long periods.
So, what's my point? Should all prisoners get a single cell? No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm not of the view that jail should be easy-peasy and delightful, though I don't think it should be degrading or dehumanising either. I just thought some readers might be interested (as I was) to think about another aspect of what it's like in jail. Especially for those of us reared on the happy banter of Godbur and Fletcher in the BBC series Porridge! It ain't necessarily so in real life. Some ex-prisoners do a good job going into schools telling kids all the down sides of life in jail, and being dubbed up with Who Knows Who in your peter can definitely be a down side.
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