The Women


Sue Wheatcroft

I was in Segregation, and I was missing my friends on Lifer’s wing.  I wasn’t a lifer myself, but I had been having problems with various officers and had been placed there because the wing was relatively calm, and the officers more experienced. 

I missed the banter.  I missed Pat singing dirty songs to me, and sitting with Lynn at bingo, listening to her swear every time she didn’t get a number.  I missed Charlene coming for a cup of coffee and a chat every evening before lock-up.  I missed sitting on the sofa with Ellishia2, having a moan and a gossip.  And Keely, telling me how much she fancied PO Rob and how it was only a matter of time before she had him, so he might as well give in now.

I missed Tash, who decided every morning whether she was going to be happy or sad for the rest of the day.  And Laura, who no-one wanted to share a cell with because she wouldn’t let them shit in the toilet.  I even missed Angela, who constantly moaned about everything, but especially about in which prison(s) she would be spending the remaining twenty-three years of her sentence.  And Helen, who was scared of being on the outside after spending so much time in prison, but who I hoped I had helped persuade to accept release on tag.

I missed Stella, who never gave up asking other people to do things for her, and tall Sue, who I was trying to encourage to stand up to her.  And Karen, who was serving twenty-five years, and who had once stood at the gate, rattling it and screaming that she was sick of officers walking in her cell when she was either ‘having a shit’ or ‘washing her fanny’.

I missed the traveller sisters, who shared a cell and who were always upbeat.  And Emily, who was only twenty-one years of age but acted like a five-year-old and for months, had carried a security blanket around, until the day she was threatened with a transfer to the Young Offenders Wing.  I missed Sheila, who was in her seventies and would probably die in prison, and Kayleigh, who was on the wing next to mine but who I often saw in passing.  She had sent me a love letter and had been asking me to write to her, and I would, but I didn’t want to hurt her, so would have to word it right.

I didn’t miss the baby-killers, and I didn’t miss Little Sue, who had falsely accused me of bullying her.  She had nineteen years left to do but had made life difficult for herself by lying about me and making other prisoners wary of her. 

Most of all though, I missed being part of something.  There was a kind of camaraderie on a wing that wasn’t possible when spending twenty-three and a half hours each day in isolation.  I counted the days until I could go back.