‘The process of returning to a healthy or good way of life, or the process of helping someone to do this after they have been in prison’
While reflecting on the distance I have come in the past few months, with the help and support of so many people, who don’t even know me, who don’t have to help me and who most certainly do not get paid to help me, I have been thinking about the people who actually get paid, and work to rehabilitate people leaving prison. I was in prison for two years, I saw many people enter and exit the prison system, countless women leaving for only a few weeks before they came back.
I was very lucky, I left prison with a full time job and a home. This was not due to anybody helping me find accommodation or employment. I did it myself. After the whole appalling situation that occurred before I was granted my home leaves and release on temporary licence, when this finally happened for me, I was able to find myself a paid job which enabled me to save money and look for a house to rent while I was on home leaves. Thankfully, I managed to find somewhere for the day I was released.
With regard to my paid job, it was a fellow prisoner that told me about the company coming in to interview prisoners, I wasn’t asked by staff or even informed about it by staff, I had to approach them myself and pester them to let me attend the interview. Again, I was lucky and I got the 16 week trial period and 16 weeks of paid work. When my 16 weeks were over, I contacted another area manager from the company and asked if I could do another 16 weeks on a different area and hopefully work on that area upon my release which at that point wasn’t too far away. After meeting with this manager, she contacted the prison and asked if I could be released to work on a different area and I would be given a job as soon as I was released. This was agreed and I worked for the company for 4 and a half years.
I shared a cell for 6 months, with a girl who’s tag date came and went, she was assured she would be released on this date. She has no where to live. She was released 4 weeks after her tag date because it took a month, for the prison to find her accommodation. After she had been in prison for a year and half already.
I was told by the governor of my prison, a year in to my sentence, as well as my probation officer, that I would not be able to return to my home town when I was released. The town I had lived in my whole life, where my whole family lived, my daughter went to school and anyone who would be supporting me upon my release lived. To this day I still don’t understand why on earth they said this to me, I was on bail in my home town for over two years, with no restriction on where I could go. I of course had a bail condition to have no direct or indirect contact with my victim, which I adhered to for the two and a half years. After contacting a solicitor and writing yet another letter of complaint about this to my probation officer, this decision again, was changed.
Prior to my offence, the victim of my crime was a stranger to me. I lived in the same town as them and saw them on numerous occasions while I was on bail. I was born in this town, prior to prison, I worked in this town, every single member of my family live here. How on earth could anyone think that the right thing to do upon my release, after spending two years in prison, would be to make me relocate to a place I had no connection to, no family support and no familiarity with!?
I had spent two years in prison, away from my child. I needed to go home, to my family. I had already shown while on bail, that I was more than capable of staying away from my victim. I still do not understand what the hell these people were thinking, telling me I couldn’t go home after my sentence. How disastrous would it have been to send me somewhere other than where my whole support network were?
Again, thanks to my complete unwillingness to agree with these people and after sourcing advice and complaining yet again, I was able to be released back to my home town, with a restriction zone for my two year licence period. This was ridiculous but at least I was allowed home. I was unable to use the train station (the only one, and I didn’t drive and needed to use this to get to work) I was also unable to go to the local supermarket. Yet, I was allowed to use all of these places while I was on police bail for over two years.
The scary thing is, had probation and the prison tried to stop another girl (I was a girl, 21) from going home, she may not have been as assertive as me and may have just accepted it, because its what was being told to her.
After having such an awful relationship with my probation officer for the whole of my sentence, in one letter of complaint I sent to the probation manager, I stated that I did not trust this woman with my rehabilitation and I did not trust her support up on my release, I asked for another probation officer and I was told, there was not another probation office available for me. This woman told me I couldn’t go home, she increased my risk for no reason and without informing me or the prison and she called my mum and told her she had approved my home leave knowing damn well the prison would not let me out due to her increasing me risk, forced me to do courses which were of no use to me and raised serious concerns about me, that were all fictional. I was supposed to trust this woman to support me upon my release!? How scary.
During my two years on licence we actually got on ok, I was ok because she didn’t ever recall me! My appointments never lasted more than 5 minutes and there were three or four times I would turn up for appointments and she wasn’t there. We had booked these appointments and no body ever called me to tell me she wouldn’t be there. I didn’t ever see another person standing in for her, I was just told ‘she’s not here’. I made sure that the reception staff documented that I had turned up and I signed their diary in fear of being recalled for not attending. Had it have been me not turning up for appointments I would have been heading straight back to prison.
So, after a long consideration to the actual meaning and definition or rehabilitation, it is safe to say that prison and probation offered me absolutely nada, nothing, no rehabilitation at all. Thankfully, I am full of motivation and an utter determination to rehabilitate myself. Its safe to say, not all prisoners are the same as me. I dread to think what prison and probation are trying to do with them, to rehabilitate them. All they did for me, was try and hold me back, prevent me for any kind of restored life. Had I have listened to the prison and probation I would have been released to a completely different area, living god knows where, with no job!
Thanks to myself, I was released to my home town, with a house, a full time job and I was never recalled and I have never re-offended! Now, I am off to university, ultimately to work towards a massive change to the shambles I had to witness, live through and fight against!
Here’s to all the money spent on ‘rehabilitation’….