500 tips for convicts

A short guide for people sent to a UK prison for the first time

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3. This is chapter 2. Work

Sooner or later you will be expected to work. In some prisons, you may not be allowed to buy certain items such as tobacco or telephone cards with money that has been sent in. These can only be purchased with your earnings.

If you can, try and find a job for yourself. Some jobs are obviously better than others. The pay may be better, but that is not the only consideration.  Some jobs are worth their weight in gold for the perks. Working in the stores for example, means that you can usually have a daily change of clothes. Working in the bath house means you will have access to soap or underwear - very useful for bartering.

You may prefer to work in the workshops. Work performed there is very often 'piece rate' and if you are quick with your hands can quickly boost your pocket money. The type of work available in the workshops is varied but changes rapidly as a lot of the work may be for outside companies with different contracts. This can be anything from soldering circuit boards to assembling furniture. Other workshops may be turned over to supplying the prison system itself and work is often paid at a set rate. The work itself is very varied but includes preparing vegetables to be sent to other prisons, assembling furniture and making prison clothes such as shirts or jeans.

Outdoor work is available in most prisons and includes picking up litter, gardening or running errands. Working outside in the grounds is regarded as a great privilege and much sought after.

Some prisons have their own farm and if you like that sort of work, it gets you out of the prison all day. For obvious reasons, this sort of work is very popular. Indoor work also includes cleaning, working in the officer's tea room, and kitchen work. One of the most popular jobs but difficult to get, is work in the prison library. 

Read the notice boards, make enquiries. The prison officer will often have knowledge of soon to occur vacancies. They know who is coming to the end of their sentences. Other inmates may have inside knowledge so ask around!

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