Normally a lurker but just thought I'd post as have had a lot of jail experience - on both sides of the bars in England.
My Dad was a prison officer so when I left school - didn't do too well - thought joining the Prison Service would be a decent job so I got in. I was 20 when I joined so was young enough as a Prison Officer. Got on OK with the job but didn't think it was for me for life and started to think about doing something else. My brother was in the Army and loved it and told me I should consider it so I did and signed up for that. I had done about 2 years 'in' prison by then.
I liked the Army at first and did well in training and then got posted over to Germany. Really enjoyed that but ended up getting into a bit of bother and stupidly went AWOL. I was gone for a few months but was tracked down. When I got back I spent a few days in the guard room and then got court martialled and got 3 months and discharged from the Army. I had to go back to MCTC Colchester (army jail) to serve my sentence. I remember being brought to the airport in Germany with two escorts for the flight and remember people staring at me as we sat waiting for the flight - probably because I was in uniform and handcuffed sitting between the two corporals escorting me.
Army jail was tough enough - loads of marching, doubling, drill and inspections and you had to earn every privilige. It was like being back in basic training but with less freedom and being treated like a screw up (I was I suppose) but I knew I would be getting out after it so just kept my head down and get on with it.
After getting out of the army I was just doing casual work and drinking alot and wasn't doing much with my life. I got arrested a few times over stupid things but then one night I got into a fight and ended up getting charged with GBH. I got 18 months for that. I was expecting something like that but it was still a shock to be back in prison but this time as a prisoner instead of an officer.
I remember going in and all the usual happening - handing over my property, getting strip searched and getting interviewed and thinking about how many times I had done that with other prisoners when I was a prison officer. I remember when I started off in the job thinking that prisoners were scumbags and deserved everything they got but it's very different when you are on the other side of the bars.
When I was in prison I got to do a few courses and things but realised that I had to change if I wasn't going to be going back again and I used the time as best I could but it was hard being in there - especially as an ex-screw.
I'm 29 now and since I got out I've given up drinking and haven't been in trouble since. I have a girlfriend now and a kid on teh way so I think I am 'grown up' now and am a different person.