Simon Grosvenor concludes his account of ten days spent in prison
I was woken by the daily sounds of prison noise – doors being banged and locked, walkie-talkies crackling and prisoners shouting. It was a strange feeling to wake up in prison.
Knowing the Lord had kept me my first night in prison was a real achievement. You may not understand this, but I was quite looking forward to what the next day had in store for me. I thought I’d better make the most of this, as it will soon be over – my grandkids will want to know!
Unfortunately, nothing happened all morning. I was left and ignored till about 2.00pm; then something actually happened! I was moved three cells down and across the corridor; then nothing happened again till about 4.00pm.
Bear in mind, other than drinking water, I had done nothing all day in a small room with no windows and no company. I started to think to myself, ‘Hang on Simon, this is it. This is prison, doing nothing till you’re released. So get used to it’.
Some time after 4.00pm, I had a brief visit from the prison chaplain. Now this doesn’t sound exciting – but it was! He was so kind, and treated me like a person, and not a number.
He explained there was no space on the protection wing so I was going to ‘the Seg’, which is prison talk for the segregation unit – or punishment block. ‘Whoopee!’ I thought. ‘Things are getting better then!’
He said it was much nicer than the medical wing, and I would be happier there. I asked him for a Bible, which he said he would sort out. Around five, I was escorted to the Seg, where I would spend a night or two – well that’s what I imagined anyway. But prison time is slow, and everything gets done slowly, which is very frustrating.
The Seg was weird: a small, open plan, two storey complex, with about sixteen cells – all single occupancy. Prisoners are sent here for lots of reasons. Breaking prison rules usually gets you a week in the Seg with no privileges.
The problem was I hadn’t broken any rules; I was a policeman needing protecting. But I still wasn’t allowed anything. That meant no TV, no visits, a very occasional phone call, and no exercise.
My cell was clean but clinical. The whole unit was one colour and all the doors and windows were so minimalist. Your brain just couldn’t get any stimulation from anywhere.
Within an hour of being there, the door was unlocked and another guy came in to share my cell!
Oh no! This is it, my first cell mate! I knew I had to be on my guard.
I will just call him T. for obvious reasons. He was an east Londoner, but also of mixed race. His mother was a Romany gypsy and his father Jamaican. He was an interesting chap, by all accounts.
T. was in for rape, and was coming to the end of a five-year stretch, with about six months to go. He had been a trouble maker in all the prisons he had been in, but decided to volunteer for the protection wing over the last few months, so that he kept out of trouble and got out sooner.
In prison, if you break too many rules and upset too many governors, you get extra time; and he was already on ‘extra time’. T. told me he had totted up a good few months of extra time, and should already have gone home, if he had not been in trouble so often.
He put me on edge somewhat, but I just tried to act cool and be as honest as I could be about my position. I told him all about my conviction, but left out the part that I was a ‘copper’ – otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this now! I’d be dead!
He forced me to read his case papers to assure me he was innocent and had been framed. It turns out that he had been a gangster and career criminal all his life. He told me many things which I would not repeat here. Oh yes (and, did I mention?), he walked in with a Quran under his arm and told me he was a practising Muslim.
When my Bible arrived (four days later), we had a few chats about religion. As a general rule I am fairly assertive in defending my Christian faith, but my strange situation made me more passive. I didn’t want to upset him in any way – knowing he was sent to my prison for assaulting his last cell mate.
So witnessing to T. was a bit like poking a caged animal. He didn’t like it and just kept saying how wise the Quran was.
I asked him to tell me a favourite verse in it. I felt maybe we could share with each other. But he couldn’t, because he never opened the Quran once; and all he did was wipe the dust off it every day.
His prayer mat was not to be stood on, even though he left it in the middle of the cell; and his prayer hat not to be touched. Let me add, I never saw him read his book, pray on his mat, or do anything remotely Muslim, other than say Christianity was wrong.
I slept bottom-bunk, and him on top. Every morning I reached for my Bible under the bed, and sat up to read and pray before he got up. And every morning, without fail, he would jump out of bed, see me and say, ‘What’s that you’re reading? Oh, that thing again!’
It upset me, because I know God wanted to talk to him, but the devil had him in his icy grip. What a strange world we live in, where two men from different worlds – policeman and gangster, Christian and Muslim – are put together in a cell to spend ten days together!
In Luke 17:34-35, the Lord says, ‘I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left’.
We became good friends in those ten days together. We really bonded in a way that only those who have been inside can understand. Two hundred and forty hours together, non-stop! You can say a lot in that time.
Pray for prisons
But will the Lord speak to him? I hope and pray he does. What a lost man he was, relying only on his cunning to get by in life.
As difficult as it may be for us to pray for criminals, we must. The Lord came to save sinners and the ungodly. Pray for gospel work in our prisons. Those imprisoned men and women have nothing inside, and even less outside on their release.