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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Golf has Charms..

William Congreve wrote: "Music has charms to soothe the savage breast." When I worked in the penitentiary, I found out that golf does as well.

The segregation unit of the prison, often referred to as the hole, the digger, or the damper, could be a relatively unhappy place. Virtually everyone there, the inmates I mean, were going through some problems. They were there either as punishment for bad behaviour, or while they were under investigation, or because they had requested to be there for their own protection. Whatever the reason, few were actually happy to be there.

For a time, I was the classification officer for the segregation unit and it was my job to help determine who should remain segregated, who should be transferred and who should be released back into the general population. My office was located right in the unit in what had formerly been a small library that interestingly enough came with its own bathroom. Actually, all the staff had to pass through my office to use the attached bathroom.

It perhaps wasn't an ideal set up and, in fact, I believe I was the first one to decide to have my permanent office in the hole, rather than in another building. It worked for me and kept me close to the action, I guess. At any rate, being a golfing addict, I had smuggled a seven iron and a few practice balls into the unit; they were the soft sponge rubber practice balls.

Periodically, I would step out of my office into the range and begin hitting balls. The range was long and narrow, with all the cells down one side. The cell doors were solid steel, not bars, with a small glass window in the door. The doors slid, rather than swung open and there was a small gap at the bottom. Because the doors slid open, there was also a narrow gap between the door and the wall that would allow an inmate to look down the range if he squeezed up against the wall just so.

I would start hitting balls which would ricochet off the ceiling and walls, often finding their way into the cells. Inevitably, those balls would come rolling back out into the range in my direction, rolled back to me by the inmates, many of whom watched me practice. Never once did an inmate keep a ball, and never once did an inmate complain about me playing golf on the job. I think they actually enjoyed it.

So, I guess it just goes to show you, it isn't just music that soothes a savage breast. Golf does too.