In 2006, Welshman Daniel Holmes received a controversially-harsh punishment of 10 years imprisonment and a €23,000 fine after police found his cannabis grow room in Gozo.
Holmes was released in 2018 after serving eight years in prison, and is currently working on his debut book chronicling his experience inside Corradino Correctional Facility.
Here is an excerpt from his book.
Chapter 1: The Dark
One of the first things I remember about prison is coming back from court in a beaten-up van, bouncing along broken roads to flashing lights and wailing sirens, the judge’s voice delivering my sentence still resonating in my ears. Thrown around the caged interior, hurtling the short ten-minute journey from the court-house, we finally arrived at an abrupt stop outside Corradino Correctional Facility.
As we approached the first vast, ominous green gate it slowly and mechanically opened to reveal an inner search enclosure and another heavy gate. The prison van pulled in slowly. Before the inner gate opens the outer gate must close, and while this huge gate is leisurely closing the first feelings of confinement can already be felt.
There is a moment, when the outer gate slams shut, just before the inner one opens, when one is locked in a van, inside a small space, within a prison, on an island, and you can feel the whole world being locked away behind you, with a metallic clank and a sense of finality.
Then before you, slowly opening, the inner gate reveals what will be your home, in my case, for the next ten years or so. As the van pulls into your new world, voices blur and a stark ugliness hits you with a shock like that of jumping into freezing water. Led in a daze from the van to search-rooms, and on to registration offices where blinding photos are taken and repetitive questions are asked, you are swept along by the tide to so many different rooms, either losing bits of your old self or picking up bits of your new life along the way.
Clutching your bed-pack of one pillow, one sheet, one pillowcase, one blanket, one towel, about the size of a doormat – and about as absorbent as one – one bar of soap, and one toilet roll, you’re marched along to your allocated division. All this happens while in a dream-state, as the brain struggles to take in all these new bleak surroundings, voices in a foreign language, and the smells.
Oh boy, the smells.
The smell of a correctional facility prison has its own unique pong. Yes, you can smell cigarette smoke, hundreds of unwashed bodies, dirty feet, and rubbish. But you can also smell depression and fear, loss and sorrow, and it is ripe to the nose and inescapable.
By the time you finally get to your division and cell, your head is spinning. You’re locked inside to arrange yourself, your new home, and to wait for the doctor to see you. As soon as the door locks, instantly the weight of the world drifts away and a sinking feeling hits your stomach, as you realise you’ve lost control of your life. You gather yourself and look around at the filthy mattress, stained and ripped, a dirty sink with black rings,and the last inmate’s remains of soap. The cell hasn’t been cleaned for weeks; the last occupant knew he was leaving.
Surfaces and floor are covered with dried coffee and sugar, empty water bottles, lighters, and all manner of rubbish, dirt and grime. With hesitation, you lift a cracked toilet seat to a stench of ammonia and defecation. Hands on your head, you wonder how life could ever have got this bad. You snap out of your trance when you hear the peep-hole opening in the door and eyes appear.
“Where are you from?”, “Who are you?”, “What did you do?”, “Have you got any tobacco or drugs?”, “Do you know this guy or that guy?” Thoughts race through your head of all the things you’ve heard about prison. Fear and distress overwhelmyou. Welcome to prison.