Noel “Razor” Smith (born 24 December 1960) is a British writer and former criminal with 58 criminal convictions, ranging from theft of motorcycles to armed robbery and grievous bodily harm, and a prison record of adjudications that included causing “gross personal violence” to prison officers, inciting a riot, manufacturing weapons and alcohol, and prison escape, among many other things.
He has spent the greater portion of his adult life in prison and obviously spent quite a few Christmas Days behind the door, although possibly not as many as our next guest blogger, Mr Salvador.
Noel shares his experience of Christmas in Jail here:
“Be under no illusion – there can be few sadder times and places than Christmas in prison. For the majority of men and women incarcerated it is the most terrible time of the year, knowing that family and friends will be getting together without you, missing your children and grandchildren’s faces on Christmas morning, while you are surrounded by hard-faced individuals who would kill you in the blink of an eye. And some of the cons are nearly as bad.
My first experience of spending the festive season behind bars came in 1977, when I had been sentenced to 3-years detention as a juvenile. My first Christmas was spent in the ‘lock-box’ at Rochester Borstal, in Kent. I had escaped from my cell on Christmas Eve (my birthday) and assaulted the nightwatchman with a steel mop-bucket. It ended badly as he didn’t even have the keys to the wing. I was jumped by 4 screws, battered to within an inch of my life and consigned to a solitary cell for the next nine months. I don’t remember much about Christmas dinner as my injuries were so bad that I couldn’t eat for a couple of days, though the sight of the slice of cold, tinned turkey and hard sprouts on a plastic plate that was slid into my cell sticks in my mind. Humbug, indeed.
Roll on a few years to 1989, I’m now a seasoned adult prisoner, serving 19-years, and this was my first Christmas in HMP Wandsworth. ‘Wanno’ had the reputation at that time as being one of the harshest and most brutal prisons in the country, and that reputation was well, deserved. Christmas Day started with a suit (Governor grade) who appeared on the hotplate at Breakfast time and gave us all a measured spoon of sugar each. This spoon of sugar was our ‘present’ from the governor. I kid you not. You could either have it in your tea or on your cornflakes. What a joy.
Once again, Christmas dinner consisted of a slice of tinned turkey (the slices being so thin we assumed they were using a laser-beam in the kitchen!), some hard veg and three roast potatoes (the highlight). We had the Salvation Army in singing carols around the threadbare Christmas tree on the centre, which just added to the general air of misery. At teatime one of the Great Train Robber’s (who was two doors down from me) punched another notorious South London villain in the face and knocked his glasses off and down into the urn of gravy on the hotplate below. How we all laughed. And that was our Christmas cheer.
Forward again to 2001, I’m now serving life at HMP Whitemoor, in Cambridgeshire, a top-security Dispersal prison where prisoners are allowed to cook their own food in small kitchens on each wing. We had to buy the food we cooked from our meagre wages, but it was better than eating the slop the prison served up. Small groups of prisoners would form ‘food boats’, where we would pool our wages and buy a few extras from the canteen to cook up. The food was good that Christmas Day, we dined on roast chicken and decent veg. We drank some very fine 5-day old hooch and wished each other a ‘merry Christmas’ whilst studiously ignoring the screws. But, by 4.30 on Christmas Day we were locked in our individual boxes, feeling the depression setting in and missing our families.
Christmas in prison is never good for prisoners, their families, and friends, it’s only a good time for the grinch-like screws who are working over Christmas because they have no friends or family.
And look out for the old chestnut traditionally rolled out by some of the local and tabloid media, who print up a ‘Prison menu’ from some jail or other and ooh and aah over the sumptuous food items offered to prisoners. The truth of the matter is that you would probably get more nourishment and enjoyment from eating the actual paper copy of the menu than the food!
Merry Christmas and try not to go to jail.“
There’s no doubt about it. Noel has some amazing stories to tell. Here’s his latest book.
Yes, James English has interviewed him too!