Adjusting to prison life for the first time is quite an ordeal for anyone and as you can see from this brief extract from a fairly in-depth Q&A with an ex-offender below there are some dark moments along the way.
What was the most difficult thing to deal with on your first few days in Prison?
That’s a difficult question because there is so much going on and the environment is so different from real life, or at least my version of real life, that to single one thing out would be tough. The walk into the unknown was scary and the processing procedure felt everything from humiliating to intimidating. Probably, the overwhelming sadness and shame in equal measure that swept over me was up there alongside a loss of control. You realise immediately that you have lost your grip on your life and that feeling really grows over those first few days. It actually, when I look back, never leaves you for a second.
Was prison what you imagined it would be?
I had no real idea in my head of what prison would be like. Obviously, I’d seen TV shows and the likes but none of those paint a picture that relates to my prison experience. The only similarity with TV shows is that it is a horrible environment to live in or rather exist in.
What was different or surprised you about Prison in those early days?
The lack of instructive communication from prison staff over that first weekend was unnerving. You are pretty much left to figure everything out for yourself. My own thought, over time, was that the staff are so used to repeat offenders who know the system they just let people get on with it. From the minute you arrive you are effectively forced to communicate with fellow prisoners to find out how things work.
The other major surprise for me was that you could see that there were people who enjoyed the community and the lifestyle. I chose to believe that this was a reflection on how poor their life must be outside of prison.
Would talking to an ex-offender who had experienced prison life been of value to you prior to going to Jail?
Without a doubt, prison has its own language and its own unwritten rules and there’s no doubt, on reflection, that any help would have been hugely beneficial especially in those first few weeks.
Nothing anyone could say to you would make prison life ok for me but it could make your adjustment to prison life easier. Knowing that the first thing that happens when you get on to your allocated wing is that you’ll most likely be approached openly by inmates involved in the drug culture and asked if “you’re packing?” and “what you in for?” would be a simple thing to prepare for. Knowing privacy is pretty much an alien concept and that yours will be invaded constantly would also have been good to know on the way in.
More from this extensive Q&A will be shared in the coming months.
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