The Making Of An Anarchist In Portlaoise Prison @ Part 4

In the fourth of a multi part series Joe C narrates his experience of arrest and time served in Portlaoise Prison where he evolved into an anarchist.

How people pass the time

There are a few things that can be done to pass the time. Big things for me to do would be going to the gym and going to classes. The gym is good for helping you burn off the extra energy a person may have. During a prison day, a person won't move around much, you might go from one side of the landing to the other or walk up the landing to where the classrooms are or to the shower. So you won't use an awful lot of energy throughout the day.

This build-up of energy after a few weeks or months can lead to mood change, bad mood, anxiety and can cause problems while trying to sleep.

Going to the gym and working out helps a person burn off any extra energy. It will also help a person feel good. By working out you release endorphins in your brain and this will give a person a natural high. By doing the gym it gives a person something to focus on, taking the mind off jail. Working out is great for your mental health.

Going to classes is another good way to spend time. Like the gym it gives you something to focus on, it breaks the monotony. People in Portloaise have done all sorts of degrees from law to sociology. There is a good variety of classes that can be done, music, art, English, Irish, cooking, etc.

In jail, your concept of time changes: your whole daily routine revolves around time. You repeat the same daily routine over and over again, day in, day out for months and years. The only change to your day might be a visit, getting a letter, talking to someone on the phone, having a class, or a different type of dinner.

The day of the week can determine what dinner you might have. On Friday it is always fish, peas and potatoes, and rice pudding for dessert. But all the rest of the week the different dinners will rotate. The dinners can be coddle, stew, pork chop with potatoes, bacon and cabbage, mince and potatoes.

The dinners are also on a routine for 5 weeks. The dinners will be laid out over each week in a certain order, then after the fifth week it goes back to the start. After a year or so a person will probably be able to guess what dinner will be that day.

Your daily routine will become embedded in your head like the dinners. You will wake every day at the same time, you will go for breakfast at the same time, you will eat the exact same breakfast in the exact same way, you will finish your breakfast at the same time. A person’s whole day will be played out in this manner. Even when you get locked into your cell for the night you will have the same ritual/routine till you go to sleep at the same time you usually do. This is not intentional, people just fall into routines.

Below is a time-table everyone goes through:
8.20am the cell doors are unlocked
12pm dinner time
12.30pm bang-up (you either get locked into your cell or locked into the rec area)
2pm bang-up ends
4pm tea
4.30pm bang-up
5.30pm bang-up ends
8.20pm locked in for the night

Every prisoner in E-block does this routine. But every prisoner will have their own routine that will be mixed in with this. Between bang-ups you can to classes, go to the yard, have showers, have a visitor, make a phone call (after 4pm you can’t get a visit).

Once your routine has been established (a person will find themselves in a routine whether they plan it or not). Hours and days will pass you by fast.

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