I often get phone calls that need a bit of unpacking as to what is being asked for. This was no exception: ‘Can you make us 4 flatpack prison cells?’. ‘Well, yes – what are they for? Hattie explained to me that she worked for a charity Unlocked Grads. Their purpose is to recruit and train graduate prison officers, to draw on that talent pool to seek to improve prisoner experience. The cells were for their residential training in Manchester Uni for 70+ recruits – nothing dodgy or unacceptable.
So now on with the technicalities. The floor plan was to be full size, 3mx2m. The walls 2m high. There needed to be a lockable door with an inspection flap. Weight was an issue as they needed to be portable. In the end I went for panels made from a softwood timber frame with a 9mm birch ply. Each panel bolted together with 10mm bolts. The nail gun got heavy use and I got through some litres of glue making them up. I pulled in Matthew, my son to do the painting. The panels were so large we had to borrow another shop unit to complete. The irony of doing this around a lockdown was not lost on us.
There was a moment when we assembled the first cell and closed the door, Matt and I looked at each other: ‘There’s really not much room in here, when you put a bed, toilet sink and table in…’ Hopefully this project will have done a small amount to help. I was also relieved when the cells clearly did what they were designed for:
I thought I’d drop you a quick note and send you some pictures of the cells in action.