“Crumble, crowded, polluted”
What Boris Becker can expect in Wandsworth Prison – and what he can hope for
Boris Becker has had his first weekend behind bars. The convicted ex-tennis star has been in London’s Wandsworth prison since Friday – and it’s not exactly known as domestic.
Only five kilometers separates the place where Boris Becker celebrated his greatest successes from the place where he suffered his greatest defeat. The Victorian Wandsworth Prison, where the convicted ex-tennis professional was taken on security transport on Friday after being sentenced to two and a half years in prison, is located in south London – just like Wimbledon’s Center Court. There are two fateful places in Becker’s life that could hardly be more different.
At Wimbledon, Eton Mess is usually served – a touch of strawberries with a fine crème brûlée. Simpler food is the order of the day in Wandsworth. When it comes to “Wanno”, as the high-security Category B prison is called by its inmates, the words drugs, violence and rats pop up quickly.
Becker has been temporarily housed there for a few days, as his lawyer Giles Bark-Jones confirmed to the German press agency. Upon request, the prison itself referred to the Department of Justice, which said nothing about Becker and the circumstances of his detention.
Oscar Wilde was in Wandsworth Prison
Charles Taylor, the inspector general of British prisons, wrote about a “crumbling, overcrowded, pest-infested prison” in a report published in January following a detailed inventory of the conditions. It abounds with mice and rats. Residues are being carelessly thrown out of the cells, violence is the order of the day – and the trend is increasing.
More than half of the inmates surveyed said they felt insecure during their incarceration. Because the prison is so crowded, inmates have to choose between exercising, taking a shower or ordering from the kiosk, Taylor said. They often spend 22 hours a day in their cell, sometimes for weeks without access to fresh air and daylight.
With 1,364 inmates, Wandsworth, which once housed author Oscar Wilde, who was jailed for his homosexuality, was rated as one of England’s busiest prisons last September. Three-quarters of the inmates reportedly live in pairs in cells that are actually intended for only one person.
Boris Becker will probably be moved soon
In his book, excerpt from Mail on Sunday, the journalist and ex-king Chris Atkins, who spent several years in the dreaded prison, remembers the background noise that was burned into his memory. “Shouts, knocks, shouts, grunts, barks, threatens, swears, laughs, whines, quarrels, fights, howls, cries,” Atkins lists. “It sounds like someone has downloaded every single sound effect and is playing them all at once.”
The only consolation for Becker: “I do not expect him to stay long in Wandsworth,” said attorney Bark-Jones of the DPA. After a few weeks, he is expected to be transferred to a prison with a lower security level. Overall, the tennis icon should have served at least half of his two and a half years in prison. In theory, the 54-year-old can still appeal the verdict. But the chances of success are considered to be quite low.
In Wandsworth, Bark-Jones said it was difficult even for him as a lawyer to access his client. “It may take several days.” For relatives, the possibilities are probably even more limited. It is possible to call from the cell. But: “Guards can join the calls at any time – to prevent crime and protect people”, as stated on the official website of Her Majesty’s Wandsworth Prison.