Hardened criminals are left nervous and terrified when they face their first stretch inside.
When the door is closed on the cell for the first time it really hits home.
Here one former lag Cody Lachey tells how he was 30 when he was sent to prison for the first time.
This is his recollection of his first 24 hours inside.
“It was a real shock even for a hardened criminal like me. It was like my world came crashing down, I knew nothing about prison. I was nervous and scared.
"I was loaded onto the prison van. There were eight of us on board, all going to prison. We each had an individual cell on the truck. When we got to Strangeways, the door was opened ajar very slightly. They took my hands and ‘cuffed me to a prison officer.
"From there I was marched to the desk in the reception area where I had to give my name and date of birth. They took my picture for my prison ID card. If you have a bag of clothes with you, they take all those out and remove items that aren’t allowed.
"All replica football tops like shirts are banned, for instance, in case it encourages football rivalry. The staff are authoritative, unfriendly. It was my first time and so I was nervous and anxious. Anything you aren’t allowed is put into a plastic bag and stored for when you leave.
"I was strip-searched. It was thorough, I can tell you. Then you get scanned by a Boss chair (Body Orifice Security Scanner, which resembles a sit-down metal detector), which basically checks to see if you have stuffed mobile phones or drugs up your backside.
"We were taken to a holding room to wait for a nurse to measure your height, weight and take your medical history. It took ages. It was six hours before I was escorted through the prison and taken to my cell on the 4th landing of G wing, which is the induction wing.”
“Until then, I’d been very lucky. I’d been arrested lots of times for all sorts of crimes. I was 12 the first time I was collared when my mate robbed a Kinder egg from the Spar shop in Royton. Crime was a way of life for me by the time I was in my 20s. I’d been arrested for fraud, assault, GBH, firearms offences, making threats to kill, harrassment. You name it, I’d done. The cops never got enough on me, though. The first time I got sent to prison I was 30, which is actually quite late.
"Most of the lads inside have been going to prison since they were in their teens or 20s. But I’d managed to get away with it until I got lifted in Bury in 2014. I’ll never forget it.
“When I got charged with witness intimidation, the judge decided to remand me in custody.
“Everything you imagine and everything you’ve seen from the TV and films, that was exactly how it was like on G wing. It was bars on top of bars. I was a hardened criminal but I don’t mind admitting I was in a state of panic.
"I was nervous, apprehensive and my heart rate was through the roof. I don’t care how tough you are - that first time in prison is a real eye-opener. You don’t know the prison’s rules. You don’t know the cons’ rules. I was very, very nervous.
“When you get on your landing, you are given a welcome pack but it’s not very welcoming.
"It has bedding, a sheet, a pillow, a coarse orange blanket, a tootbrush and toothpaste, a plastic cup, a fork and knife and spoon, and a couple of sachets of shower gel and some prison soap. They took me along the landing, popped the cell door and there was my cell.
"This is your cell-mate. This is the guy you’ve got to get on with or there’ll be trouble. He was smoking on his bed. He’d been inside a couple of times. There wasn’t much chat. This was his home. He was the boss. It’s his territory. When you arrive you get a smoking pack which consists of tobacco and some matches or a non-smoking pack which is a packet of mints, a lollypop and some orange juice. My padmate wasn’t too impressed I’d got the non-smoking pack.
"I was starving so I ate all the sweets on the spot. I was licking and licking the lollipop stick to get as much sugar from it as I could. It was nine in the evening by then. I just sat down on my bed and tried to read the induction booklet they’d given me. I tried to get my head down but my celly was snoring his head off.
"I was stressed out like you wouldn’t believe. There was no way I was going to sleep. My whole world had just fallen apart. It was just me and my thoughts. And silence.
"It was eerie. There was no noise on G wing that night. I was tossing and turning but there was no way I was getting my head down. All I could think about was how powerless I was. I was thinking about my case. I thought they didn’t have anything on me but here I was, locked up behind bars. You take your freedom for granted. Literally, my whole life was flashing before me. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep.
"That night was like a near-death experience, I don’t mind admitting. My head was a washing machine, spinning and spinning.
“The cell door opened at 11.30am for lunch. Breakfast just didn’t happen. I’d had nothing to eat since arriving the night before.
"They took us down from the landing to get lunch. Mine was a vegetable curry with burned rice. I’m 6ft 4in and 20 stones.
"It looked like a child’s portion. I was absolutely starving. Then the guy in the kitchen gave me breakfast too. I asked if I could eat that too and the fella said: “Yeah, but you’ll have nothing for the morning.” Breakfast was a small plastic bag of rubbish cereal which wouldn’t feed a small child and a little bottle of milk.
"They also gave me two pieces of bread which were like pieces of cardboard and a small carton of cheap orange juice.
"I was looking round for the canteen for somewhere to eat it. But there is no canteen. The screws told me in Strangeways food is eaten in your cell. So we were taken back to the fourth landing. I wolfed the lot down and was still starving. Of course, the milk might go off so a lot of the lags put it on the windowsill. This is a risk though. There are loads of pigeons around Strangeways so there’s a big chance one will knock off your bottle of milk, and then it’s bone-dry cereal for brekky.
“On the second day we were taken to the classroom for a two-hour induction, delivered with a Powerpoint presentation. It’s basically a list of dos and don’ts for your time inside. Then there is gym. Actually this is just a yard which the inmates walk around, for some reason always in a clockwise direction. Some will run. Some will do bench presses. You find it’s very cliquey in prison. The Scousers all stick together. The gangsters all stick together. Everyone is a solicitor inside. They’re all experts on the law and they’re quick to ask you why you’re inside, and give you some legal advice.
“At Strangeways, it’s pretty much 23-hour bang-up which means you are in your cell all but one hour each day. You are supposed to get one hour ‘gym’ and one hour association time, when you can walk around on the landing and mix and chat with the other prisoners and play pool. This hardly ever happens, though. Because of all the cut-backs in the prison service, for the screws it’s much easier to manage us if we’re in our cells most of the time.
“I was in Strangeways for three months in the end but those first 24 hours were the most frightening of my life. I was petrified. I could see it was worse for some others though, the kind who don’t ever want to come out of their cell. These are the ones who are a suicide risk. Some inmates are friendly and they’ll help you learn the ropes but they’re not all like that. You have to watch your back. I went back to prison twice more after that for various reasons, so I can’t say the experience helped to rehabilitate me.
"Far from it. There can’t be true rehabilitation if you’re locked up for 23 hours each day, plus you’re learning more and more from other criminals. I’m reformed now but not because of my experience in prison. I’m passionate about prison reform. Just locking people away like that with little thought about what happens on the outside is a recipe for disaster. When I left Strangeways - like everyone else who gets their freedom - I was given £46 and £5.20p for my bus fair. That’s it. It’s a matter of get on with your life and for most who leave that life is going to be a life of crime.
“I’ve mixed with some very dangerous people and had countless run-ins with the police over the years but the only thing I regret is what I’ve put my family through. My mum, two sisters, dad and step-dad deserved better. What I do now is try to tell my story and steer young kids away from a life of crime.”
Cody Lachey's YouTube channel can be found here