We had come in collective grief to honour the memory of fellow inmate Ray Haarhoff. Outside, the sky was battleship grey. Every seat in the chapel was taken, every head bowed. After a while, the organ sounded. Bach’s Herzallerliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen broke our silence.
Ray’s was a popular face around the prison. He was 34, but having already served 16 years of a life sentence, he might have expected an earlyish parole. Had all other things remained equal, this would have happened. As it was, over the last five years Ray had drifted into drugs. He now swam in the self-deluding ocean of lethargy that usually accompanies heroin addiction. Languishing on his prison-acquired habit of ten to 15 bags a day, Ray was told: “Pull yourself together. We want you drug-free for the next year. Only then will we consider a move to more open conditions.”
The trouble was, nobody had shown him the way. He had dutifully enrolled on the Genesis Project, an under-funded drugs “rehabilitation” unit, set up in hurried response to the prison service’s “strategic priority” of creating drug-free prisons before the end of this year. The prison report of troubleshooter General Learmont had made some unattainable recommendations about the shape such units might take: “Programmes to help prisoners combat the drug habit… to include medical treatment based on the best international practice…”
If only the government had provided the finance and expertise necessary to turn such dreams into reality, Ray’s life sentence might have come to a different end. At the beginning of January, he joined another dozen drug-troubled prisoners, among them Darren, a mop-haired, open-faced young man, as mischievous as Peck’s Bad Boy. Over several weeks and many clandestine sessions hunched over little mounds of brown powder, Darren and Ray became firm friends. In the wake of “medical treatment based on the best international practice,” the “cockroaches” continued to run their course along strips of silver KitKat wrappers. There was a near fatal accident when Ray filled a syringe, jacked it into his arm, and collapsed, cracking his head on a porcelain toilet bowl on the way down. The resultant graze on his forehead brought the misadventure to the attention of staff.
After a short behind-closed-doors deliberation, they reached their own conclusions. Ray was not only regularly using heroin himself, he was supplying the rest of the group too. The latter…