15 minutes in the van 1024x576 - Prisoner Training & Placements


“I kept trying a fresh start, finding a new place to live, new area, and then I just got back on it, selling a bit of Charlie. Now I realise I don’t need a fresh start, doesn’t really matter where I live, I’ve just gotta stop doing crime.”

Oh, that’s good then, we’re sitting in the van in Morrison’s car park, it’s his first day and no doubt he wants to impress me. I like the sentiment, but my ‘Spidey senses’ are turned on, and maybe I’m just getting old and cynical.

There are 6 of us in the van. And a slight smell of alcohol, which could be/probably is, from a hand sanitiser… one of the many covid anomalies we now work with.

I’m doing the 8.52 am pick up, when a bus from Torquay and a bus from Newton Abbot converge in Totnes, helpfully at the same time, and our guys arrive.

I’m tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, must be a queue today, we are parked outside the supermarket’s pharmacy, one man is on a daily script pick up. He’s not yet trusted enough to not neck all his weekly allowance in one go.

He’s out of the chemist and burps a ‘methy’ hello to me. He seems fine, they always do, just swallowed 50ml of opiate substitute (helps with withdrawal). We need to see this prescription being steadily reduced, ideally by 5 ml/day in fortnightly stages… the danger is people just get stuck on it and it becomes harder to get off than heroin!

Two others in the back want a word… they’ve got a bit of info which, apparently, I need to be informed about. But not wanting to be seen like they’re grassing somebody up, they insist on whispering half explanations at me, thinking I will understand but nobody else will be able to.

What I do understand is that they are very happy to make out somebody else is more f#cked up than them and, a bit like EastEnders, it makes them feel a little better.

Once we’re actually moving, I listen to their nonsense a little more keenly, it actually does tie in with something I heard yesterday, one of our graduates is not so well.

The man sitting next to me is making a funny sound, I realise he is crying, it’s a bit awkward, not very private, I try to say something reassuring, but his anxiety today is sky-high. Then to my horror, everyone else joins in, reassuring him, it sort of works and by the time we get to the entrance of LandWorks he’s managed a smile.

It’s only 9.07.

Now, where’s Mr. Fresh-start gone? I need to show him around, have a chat, maybe try not to be quite so cynical, perhaps a coffee (socially acceptable drug) first…


16th September 2021