“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
Fast forward to December 1989, it’s Christmas time, and for my parents there is some need to be afraid. I was in Castle Huntly YOI, and you’d think that mum and dad would be enjoying the respite.
Maybe in some parts they were, like they did not have to worry about the police knocking on the door to say I was jailed or dead, you know trivial things like that.
I spoke about Castle Huntly in an earlier post so I am not going to spend too much time on it here.
My first couple of months in there weren’t so bad. I kept my head down, worked in their education unit on cars and really enjoyed it. I also pretty much avoided the liberally available drugs in the early days.
One of my visits though, mum and dad, and I think Yvonne were there. I remember being really excited about the visit and looking forward to it. The tension downstairs in Phase 2 (my block) whilst waiting on your visit could be unbearable. Eventually though I was called up to the visiting room which was in the actual castle building itself. Tea already on the table, sweets there as well.
“Everything awright?” my da asked. Having been in prison himself he knew how it could be.
“Aye” I said. And to be honest, other than the extensive dental treatment I was going through, everything was fine.
“Whits that oan yir airm?” mum asked, pointing to a spot in the middle of my right bicep.
“Its a spot, ma.”
“Hiv you been takin them drugs in here an aw?” she said visibly shaken and upset. If ye hiv I’ll no be coming back.” All thse years later I get that. There was no respite for her whilst I was in prison. The stories of whar went on in a Young Offenders were rife. She probably came to every visit looking for signs that I was still, as always, being me and getting high. The truth is though, at that time I wasn’t. Other than some hash, I avoided the drugs in the early days. It wasn’t too long before I did start taking temgesics etc again. LSD, valium and Temazepam also all freely available. I never took them because my family thought I was – I took them because at that time that was who I was. I never really knew how not to.
Anyway this post is actually about another incident. Like Seafield, it involves evening refreshments.
They served coffee in the corridor every evening. You queued and you waited your turn. Nobody really abused that, we all just waited, it was never that long. However one evening as I waited, DM, ( ayoung guy in from Drumchapel for impersonating a police office by kicking in a drug dealer’s door with a firearm) was behind me.
“Let me go before ye.” he said.
“Naw am awrite.” I said, “yir efter me anyway”.
“Move it ya dafty an let me in.”
“Beat it” I said. Another unwritten rule was to not let others take advantage of you. Thse days I would think noithing of letting someone go before me in a queue. But in an enclosed environment with a bunch of teenagers all wanting to prove they were harder than the other – not a chance.
I got my coffee and made my way to the tv room, a bland square room with generic plastic chairs and a televison on a stand. I sat down and began watching “Yellowthread Street”, a Steve Segal cop show set in Hong Kong.
Within seconds though from behind me came “Bam me up would ye” as DM smacked me on the side of the head from behind. My beloved Celtic mug that my my nad dad had brought up for me at Christmas flew out of my hand and smashed off the wall. (I say smash for dramartic effect, in reality it clattered off the wall and the handle broke off it).
I jumped to my feet and cried out “Whit ye daien ya maddy” as I reached out and grabbed DM.
When it came to fighting, I wasn’t a great fighte. Our JP though, had instilled in me a mindset that you didn’t give up. If you were fighting they had to kill you to beat you. So DM and I started rolling about the floor. I gave as good as I got and after what seemed like hours but was probably about 1 minute DM jumped to his feet and shouted “Ye hid enough, teach ye tae bam me up.”
I was as bemused as everyone else in the room at this. Clearly he had not taught me a lesson, I had not been beaten and I was not slinking out of the room. As DM walked out with his cut lip and soon to be black eye, I got to my feet, picked up my mug and put it in the bin and sat down watching “Yellowthread Street” one again.
Being in an enclosed environment with a bunch of emotionally broken teenage boys trying to prove they are hard men is not somewhere you can get a rest, never mind respite.
With incidents like these, no respite for mum and dad whilst I was here.
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
The Haven Kilmacolm
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Street Connect, Glasgow City
Bethany Christian Trust, Scotland
Jumping Jacks Outreach, Maryhill
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church