The Governor of HMP/YOI Chelmsford decided on a project during the pandemic entitled “Life in Lockdown”.

The idea was that the prisoners would write poems or short descriptions about how lockdown made them feel and the difficulties they faced.

The Governor asked Frances Osborn, a Customer Specialist in the prison library to lead the project. Despite the added challenge of having no access to the wings during this time, the project was a great success.

Over 70 entries were received and below is a small selection of some lovely poems and words written by the men.

Winning poem (Reece Cruickshank)

My life in lockdown was so hard to start with,
To not see my kids I feel so broken-hearted.
Locked in this room all day and all night,
With nothing but thoughts playing hard on my mind.
I’ve struggled a lot but I’ve tried to stay strong,
With nothing but time to think what I did wrong.
I can’t help but think have I missed my last chance
To turn it around, do I get a fresh start?
I’m missing my girlfriend, my cats and my mum
While I patiently wait for my sentence to come.

Other entries

Locked In, Caked In With My Thoughts As My Enemy.
Lockdown, Covid-19, No Fun! You’re Tellin’ Me!
The world’s spread apart and pestilence won a part,
Of paranoia and control and the medics chart.
Wishing for a hug. Waiting on a kiss.
This heavy hollow drug, that stings like a hiss.
Waiting and hating and regretting all that grating,
Dubious of every choice the politician’s stating.
I’ve been a waste and I’ve lost my head,
My head turned to paste and I’ve wished I was dead.
At least I get fed, a roof over my head,
Even though I go spare and lose my damn thread.
The world is in wait,
A plague holds our fate,
But we need to cooperate,
And clear this dirtied up slate.
Here in my cell, I laugh out the hell,
And know we’ll be fine, just have faith and give it time.
The birds keep on flying, the plants bloom a bit freer
Nature’s got a break from us and we’re richer in here.

Remember Lockdown Loves You!

When people are curt,
or ignore what you say.
When others words hurt,
and friends and family keep away.
Remember, Lockdown Loves You.

When life feels all empty,
and weighed down with care.
When tears come in plenty,
with no one to share.
Remember, Lockdown Loves You.

When sickness is on you,
and health takes a bow.
When joys all desert you,
and energy’s low.
Remember, Lockdown Loves You.

When pain comes at night,
and sleep disappears.
When nothing feels right
and you’re riddled with fears.
Remember, Lockdown Loves You.

Lockdown started to become a chore
23 hours a day locked behind that door

All of a sudden visits came to a stop
Everyone’s mood soon began to drop

No work, education or the gym
Not even church on Sunday to sing a hymn

Boris appeared on the news every day
Everyone hoped the virus would just go away

Days and weeks started drifting by
Everything we were told seemed to be a lie

Summer arrived and our friends were back in the pub
Yet we are prisoners still appeared to have been snubbed

Six months has nearly passed, that’s far too long
But these men at Chelmsford are staying strong

Everyone’s praying there is no second wave
Otherwise the inmates might just start to misbehave

One day this will all be over and come to an end
Let’s just hope this lockdown regime does not become a trend

Life in locked off, locked up, lock down
Imagination, ideas, thoughts, all broken down.
Praise the prison officers, all protocol, now is dead
Government, No. 10, handshake Johnson Covid-19 spread.
Boris put the country on lockdown,
To me domestically broke down.
Praise the lord he pulled through,
Now’s he’s needing a car, McDonalds drive-thru,
Who’s the next prime minister new,
From protocol to political,
Prisoners, workers, officers, stressed, feeling little
23 hours a day our bones just suffer getting brittle
Signing off, locked up, locked off, looking down.

I never knew you loved walls,
‘Cos when the walls came down you never loved what was left at all.
I don’t want to be cold in love, not even cool.
Cos my heart burns for you, it burns in my chest
And it is a pain I’ve never known.
You’re like a shadow, you’re everywhere but you’re never there.
If you knew, really knew how I felt, you would surely care,
But that’s how I used to feel.
And how a little part of me will always feel.

Life in prison, oh what a joke
Life in lockdown give me a rope
Life in Chelmsford oh what a dream,
Life’s on the way up
When I get released.
We’re Closed

Life in a B Cat prison is one long lonely period behind your cell door, even more so when lockdown was introduced. There are only two places to escape to when banged up. The TV providing the same repeated programmes – or books. With books you have the opportunity to set your imagination on overdrive and be free when engrossed in the storyline. The latter I chose, where Ian Rankin took me home to Scotland through his crime series books with the colourful detective John Rebus.

As the lockdown was country/prison wide we had no access to the library to exchange books, so I started to collect books from those inmates who were leaving, transferring prisons or just finished reading them. I soon had over fifty books in my cell and these were available to all inmates on the wing. I sought permission from the wing officers to gain access to an unused disabled toilet. After a quick clean and the acquisition of a spare shelved locker, our wing library was up and open during social periods. Soon enough, more inmates were donating books they had finished with and I even received help from the wing officers. They brought a few bags of old books from home which were gratefully received. Overall, we have circa two hundred books in the wing library now.

These books provide not only the ability to get lost in the storyline, but they have also helped with the mental health within the wing. To escape for short periods of time into different worlds, or in my case back home, has made this lockdown period more bearable.

Life in lockdown was a godsend as I have completed so many courses and received certificates for my hard work and revision. It wasn’t wasted watching TV or sleeping. I will use what I have learned to join a class on that subject or to help other people who need help, or point them in the right direction. So lockdown for me was a brilliant thing which will pay off.

Life in lockdown hasn’t kept me down. Keeping positive as no situation is ever permanent.