In the past, I have been told by several specialists, which included a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist among others, that I was/am institutionalised. One thing they didn’t really explain to me was why. Maybe they assume that you know why? The fact you have spent an amount of time in an institution must not be the only criteria for such a damning statement. I was told the reasons as to why I ended up there, or theories? I was also told why I did the things I did, coincidentally one of which was D.I.D (Dissociative identity disorder).
I was told the part my family played, and why I was kicked out of the education system. In fact not only did I get told a lot of things I was also diagnosed with a lot of things, mainly disorders. Therefore, based on that, one can easily deduce I was living my life disorderly, and I know why. Medication the prescribed course of action, although fortunately, I found myself doing community service along with the fortune of an excellent probation officer, Debbie Cox, in Margate I was at the time, put me in contact with a wonderful counsellor.
The counsellor was more than enough to have kept me going through an extremely difficult patch in my life, one I struggle to put much memory due to the fact I was mostly off my nut on amphetamine and/or crack and/or heroin. Of course, to me I was always straight, looking like a million dollars. Who was I trying to kid, I must’ve looked like shit. Suffice to say, it was the final throes of my old life, a few months before ending up back in prison for the last time. Why was I confident it would be the last time after so many times I had said that before?
I’m not sure if I can call this a timeline but this is definitely a brief snapshot of my life. My journey so to speak. The youngest of six from a large family where I was also the youngest for a while.
Parents: Told what to do.
Siblings: Told what to do.
Family: Told what to do.
Schooling: Told what to do.
External justice system: Punished for what I did. Told what to do, and what not to do.
Secure unit/ Children’s home: Told that there is no way I can do what I want to do, no choice but their way or “NO WAY!”
Internal justice system: Disciplined. Shown what to do. A defined set of rules and instructions with a defined set of consequences for infractions. To live a certain way.
The only real place where I really understood what was expected of me was the internal justice system. My version of role models, family, friends, school, college and university then on to work. The only difference being the environment. And the fact that it was all in the one environment. The prison system replaced everything I was missing or didn’t have. I was disciplined to live a life in a certain way, in a certain environment, an environment that I am not ashamed to say, in the main, I thrived in.
It had gotten to a point where I wasn’t being told what to do, I knew what to do, not only was I being asked what to do, I was also being asked what would I do, my respected opinion, to help someone else’s journey. Reading mentor, listener, prisoner rep, St.Giles peer advisor. I gave a shit, I cared. And because of that people listened. My opinion sought. My advice was taken on board. I had a way of life I enjoyed. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a conventional one, but I loved it, not all the time no, it isn’t a place to fall in love with, prison is nasty, prison is boring, prison is bloody hard. But then, so is out here, there are the same problems, just a smaller community and of course gated, being the difference. I loved who I had become in that environment.
Therein was the answer to my problems and a reason why I knew that prison was the only place where I could go, know what is expected of me. And, with no temptations around me, which did get the better of me again in prison when I got caught being involved with the spice trading. One huge lesson that was, and one I am grateful to HMP Norwich for, and the RAPt team, for supporting me and allowing me another chance. I never looked back.
In society, I was mainly told what to do or what not to do.
Inside, I was shown a way to live, but there, I wasn’t given the skills to adapt to society. It took me 35 years to work that out by myself.
I loved the environment I was in because I knew how to be in that environment. I was shown how to, taught how to, educated on how to. I wasn’t learning that 2x + 7y = I don’t care. I was learning how to live. Just different. A way of life that I lived, where I received my schooling, life and academic. Where I passed my o’ level’s, my college time then onto university. Where I worked full-time 17-18 hour days in a B cat local reception. There wasn’t much I didn’t do from prison, even shopping and working outside in full-time employment on ROTL from a D cat. Maintaining family ties was hard, yet probably spoke more and about things on a deeper level in prison from across a visits table or free weekly letter (2 if unconvicted) or the bloody phone or special memorable town visits and home leave from the D cat.
A way of life!