As counsellors we probably all put some thought into deciding what to wear to see clients. In making my choice I have to consider, will this stand up to walking around the prison, from wing to wing, in all weathers? Will my outfit be appropriate for moving around the wings housing male prisoners and taking open stair cases? Needless to say I rarely wear a skirt. Of course, I must not forget to put on my belt, with the pouch for my keys, and attach my sturdy key chain. And I must have my ID on my person. Without this I’m going nowhere.
For those of you who are interested, it is quite a bureaucratic and lengthy process of vetting to be granted access as an employee. Mine took several months because half-way through the process was changed and I had to submit more paperwork. Of course, being a foreign national further complicated matters for me. Once you have gained your clearances you will then have to undergo your security training before you are allowed to draw keys.
So imagine coming to work, and having to manage a hurdle run to get through the security system. First you show your ID to be allowed to progress, to be let into an air lock where the one door closes before the other one opens. Then there is a fingerprint activated gate. After that, you draw keys from an electronic cupboard via your fingerprint, being sure to attach them to your key chain, before queuing up for the door into the prison which is released via a button pressed in reception. By the way, there are times when we get stuck in the airlock because of a door dysfunction and the electronic gates often do not immediately recognise our fingerprint or do not work altogether. We feel the pressure of the impatience of the people waiting behind us. Or the alarm sounds on the key cupboard because we haven’t been quick enough to get our keys out or in and get the door closed.
Finally, I am on my way to my team’s office, via four gates and three doors which I must unlock and lock, not to mention having to manoeuvre through a queue of men waiting for their morning medication to be dispensed. And all before I even get to see my first client.
By Angelika Scheffler, ATM for the Relational Centred Counselling diploma (now recruiting for January 2017).