How is life in prison?

How can you imagine life in prison?

The most important difference when compared to life outside is that everything is monitored and there are strict rules for everything.

There are prisons just for men and prisons just for women. Inmates live in a cell, and most have a cell to themselves. The cell is a little room. It measures 8 square metres, which isn’t much. It’s about four big steps forwards and then another four sideways. (Give it a try!)

Considering its size, the cell’s quite full: it’s got a bed, a narrow wardrobe, a table, a chair, and even a toilet and hand basin. There’s also a small window in the door so that the officers can look through to see what your Mum or Dad’s doing. That can be quite annoying. Each cell has a window, but you can’t see over the prison wall through it.

You’re not normally allowed many personal things, like family photos, pictures, and other favourite things in your cell. But most prisoners have a radio or TV. The Internet’s banned everywhere, though.

When it comes to clothes, in most prisons, all the inmates have to wear the same clothes. It’s called institutional clothing. You’ve likely seen it in movies. But when they’re in their own cell, prisoners can wear their own more comfortable clothes.

What does your Mum or Dad do all day long in prison?

Most prisoners work. Normally, eight hours a day from Monday to Friday, but not on the weekend. Prisons have a variety of workshops. Some prisoners clean, help out in the kitchen, or do other jobs for the prison. They do get paid for their work, although it’s not very much.

At some prisons, inmates can go to school instead of working, for example, if they haven’t got any formal qualifications and want to work towards one. Some even do vocational training or distance learning. It differs from place to place.

Inmates are allowed out into the yard for ‘yard exercise’ for an hour every day.

Most prisons also have a sports hall or a gym. That’s where your Mum or Dad can spend some of their free time training or simply letting off steam. Lots of prisons also offer leisure activities like pottery, painting or woodworking, which are really popular. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough spaces for everybody who wants to do these things.

There’s a library where inmates can borrow books, and every prison also has a church. The pastor’s happy to take the time to speak to any inmate who feels the need to talk. There’s a church service every two weeks, and all the inmates can attend.

You can even go shopping in prison. But don’t imagine it’s like a big shopping centre. It’s more like a kind of kiosk or small shop that sells sweets, newspapers, drinks, cigarettes and such. Your parents can also write you a nice letter in their free time! Or meet you when you visit ;-)

This is what your Mum or Dad’s daily routine might be in prison:

Monday to Friday
06:00 h
Wake up and breakfast in the cell
07:00 - 12:00 h
Work in the workshops
12:00 - 13:00 h
Lunch in the cell
13:00 - 16:00 h
Work in the workshops
16:00 - 17:00 h
Courtyard walk
17:00 h
Dinner in the cell
bis 21:00 h
Possibly recreational activities. During this time, prisoners are also allowed to visit each other in their cells.
22:00 h
Back in own cell and night rest

What happens if somebody falls ill?

Every prison has a doctor and an infirmary. This is where inmates go when they’re ill and need a check-up or treatment. If their illness turns out to be more serious, they go to the prison hospital.

Are inmates ever allowed out of prison?

Yes, but only very rarely and if there’s a very good reason or if they’re almost due to be released. When they enjoy privileges like that, they’re likely to be accompanied by a prison officer who watches over them. Inmates may be allowed certain privileges while they’re still serving their sentences. They may be allowed out to visit their local authority if it’s for something that can only be done in person, or frequently also for special family celebrations like when your little sister starts school.