As we embark on the development of Prison Pack whilst also discussing Prehabilitation and we take great pride in the levels of support and encouragement we have received it seemed appropriate to share this particular diary excerpt for this weeks reading pleasure.
It also seemed, given the doubts and concerns, displayed below to offer a view of First Time Inside through the lens of criminal defence and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.
“Whilst the criminal justice system from police questioning, arrest to court offers a full service and advocacy, there appears to be nothing offered to assist those facing incarceration for the first time.
A custodial sentence wreaks devastation, so anything that can be done to navigate the pitfalls and basics needed to survive such a prospect is very welcome.
As lawyers we offer advocacy from start to finish of the court process, but we have to little to say about what happens on the first day of prison and the days, weeks and months that follow.
This service is unique in that it will provide advice that is ‘gold-dust’ from the perspective of a first-timer.
I would highly recommended a service delivered by those with an experience of imprisonment, such as FirstTimeInside.co.uk, of course they will never be able to compensate for the loss of ones freedom but being prepared is as much needed as the advocacy of a lawyer.
I welcome the opportunity which allows me answer the questions my clients have of what happens next, when he or she takes that lonely walk to a prison cell for the very first time.”
Over the coming weeks we will be delighted and privileged to include similar comments from all sectors of justice on the developing Prison Pack and Prehabilitation services and websites
An excerpt from prisoners diary the night before release :
Twas the night before Xmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even the bampot in the cell next door who has taken to singing Bohemian Rhapsody at all hours of the night. His last rendition, a little after midnight last night, in itself could have seen a sheriff impose a sentence extension because it was an assault on ears throughout this abhorrent place. It brought back memories of seeing Jedward appear on whatever Simon Cowell cash machine show was chewing up and spitting young people out at the time.
That said, Mr Brightside, tonight he can sing to his hearts content. He can make Freddie sound more like Ms Piggy, he can even use the wall between our cells as his drum kit if he likes because tomorrow night I’ll be in a place of tranquillity. Our cell door is locked for the night Mr B and tomorrow morning when it is opened we are in a race for the front door and into the waiting arms of a family who have remained one million per cent supportive whilst their lives have been a mix of limbo, desolation and the need to carry on. Languishing in this human landfill site has without a doubt been the worst experience of my life but without your company my little papyrus pal I fear I would have not have overcome the many challenges this chemically controlled theatre of gloom saw fit to offer us.
Perhaps one day further down the road, when and if life returns to normal, we can reconvene over a wee dram – with your song playing in the background of course Mr B – and pen some reflections on the experience we have just shared. I guess we’ll soon find out if these crazy ideas we’ve been harvesting to make a difference out there will be welcomed or ridiculed soon enough but I think we can forget that for tonight my stationery buddy.
Today was, and to be fair it’s had plenty of competition, the longest day within the walls of HMP Hotel and Spa. The requirement to follow the same daily process as every other day felt pointless and irritating but in fairness what was the alternative? In actual fact I’ve never felt more vulnerable in my life, as I did today, because everyone knows you are leaving and you are constantly warned that someone could create a scene which affects your leaving here. But now we are alone and the door is locked for the night I can feel the tension in my back, neck and head start to release. It’s incredible knowing that this is it, that tomorrow will see me leave here with no plans to ever return. The locking of the door and the last head count of the day has prompted an outpouring of emotion like nothing I can remember, certainly not in the case of something positive happening.
Hearing that key turn in the door signalling the end of the day, has so often been like a dagger to my heart, but tonight it’s like someone has by the simple turn of a key breached the dam I’ve erected around my emotions these past weeks and the tears just won’t stop. I think of my boys collecting me tomorrow morning and I cry rivers of tears, I think of my wife and daughter waiting at home to welcome me with a massive hug in private for the first time in too long and I simply yield to the torrent of water that seems to have been storing itself inside me. I feel like I’m caught in kaleidoscope of emotion ranging from the perpetual feelings of shame and guilt to the joy of escaping this hellhole. The sheer elation of seeing my family again and being able to hold them, away from the watchful eyes of suspicious staff and cctv monitors, is overwhelming and the equally breath taking feelings of failure through causing them pain are fighting for supremacy tonight. In the morning I know which will win, I just hope it can be a consistent winner.
After dinner earlier, I emptied my cell of everything I had acquired during my time here and handed it out to those who’ll be staying behind. Everything from the much sought after Gillette Mach III to a few tins of tuna were all gratefully accepted by lads less fortunate in terms of release dates. My beach towel (I know Mr B I know) and my flip flops (no I really do know) and all of my art equipment have gone to new homes and Freddie next door will get my two music cd’s in the morning, I didn’t want to inspire his Christmas Karaoke talents tonight. I want nothing from here, other than you Mr B, coming home with me. In fact I have plans to put the clothes I’ll wear home straight into the wheelie bin before scrubbing the stench of this toxic environment off me in a shower luxurious in it’s lack of spectators and without a timer button to press every five seconds to keep the water running. I fear this place will linger with me in many ways but I intend to turn that into something positive. If I keep repeating that I’ll maybe start to believe it Mr B. I think I’m starting to go a bit demob happy here. I feel like breaking out into song myself. In fact the next time I have to speak in public I may start with a song, what could possibly go wrong?
It was nice to have a few of the staff make a point of shaking my hand today and wishing me all the best. I did have an overwhelming urge to give my art tutor a big hug but managed to refrain for their sake. Disappearing down that artistic rabbit hole a couple of times a week was unquestionably one of the factors that got me through this ordeal.
I need to make a note to check if it’s govt policy that prisoners can work with dangerous equipment without any health and safety introduction or training. Is it laziness here or is it just acceptable that those with convictions are not valuable enough to receive adequate supervision in terms of H&S?
I’ll miss my milk bottles that I used to hang my curtains, for me that was a DIY achievement. I’ll miss my bedding burnt, with holes all over, from a previous tenants smoking habit and I’ll miss my pillow case similarly decorated by perforation and as thick and supportive as a cheap marshmallow. I’ll miss being randomly strip searched and being patronized by people who are in the wrong job. I’ll miss the food, oh how I will miss the food, undercooked, overcooked, cold, burnt or just plain inedible at times. I’ll miss being woken at 6:45 with a bottle of milk being dropped into the birdbath they call a sink, I’ll miss sitting on a loo without seats, or having to ask for toilet roll and I’ll miss the walking in circles for hours on end in a desperate attempt to exhaust myself before it’s time for bed. I’ll miss the inability to get an answer to even the simplest of questions and most of all I’ll miss being treated like a second class citizen. Other than that I’m good to go.
Just before lock up three different people offered me a sleeping tablet to help me get through tonight. I have no intention of sleeping Mr B, I want to watch daybreak through this barred window and remember how it felt for the rest of my life. I remember naively thinking that being sent to prison was the punishment for a crime committed but this has been an education for me from start to finish, removing liberty and all that entails is punishment enough but the added layers of humiliation, patronisation and sheer laziness have stunned me to the point I feel like walking to Holyrood and delivering my I have a Dream speech to wee Nicola and her chums. This place will never change unless it’s internal structures are raised to the ground and rebuilt. Will I miss it, will I F***.
Thanks for being there Mr Brightside, let’s watch lousy repeats of old tv programmes all night and rejoice in the fact we didn’t let the bastards grind us down.
Footnote : Woke up this morning feeling fine, there’s something special on my mind…join in, let’s sing.
As always thanks for reading, have a great week. @firsttimeinside out.