I know there will be some who disagree with me as well as those who will agree and those who will understand along with those who don’t. Getting out of prison can be just as a traumatic experience as being sent to prison in the first place can be. Especially when you have no proper control of your life as you run the prison licence gauntlet. One wrong turn of the card and just like the Monopoly game “go straight to jail”. However, the prison game doesn’t have a “get out of jail free” card.
My last and ultimate release was probably the most nervous, excited, scared, joyed, overwhelmed, underwhelmed…. To cut a long story short, I was basically shitting myself. The difference this time was that not only could I let my family down and those I consider my support network, both inside and out of prison, I had grafted the ability, along with changing my attitude, to let myself down. For years I let those I love down, but I wasn’t much, I wasn’t anybody, so how could I ever let myself down? In fact, according to most, I was acting exactly how they told me I was. If I was what people expected, then how could I have let myself down if I delivered?
They place much emphasis on the ‘stay out’ part that many people forget the actual ‘getting out’, the walking out the gate. Accommodation is much needed, but then so are the skills of having accommodation. Employment is also a solution to the reduction of reoffending, but then so are the skills of holding down that job. Being a parent is an incredible thing, when you get it right. Recovery can be hard and a pleasure, but a relapse can be life-ending.
There are a plethora of reasons someone commits a crime, but there is only one reason someone reoffends. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Prisons do not reform the individual, but that does not mean to say the individual cannot reform in prison. But again, if nothing changes, nothing will change.
However, even when you have accommodation, employment, family and so on sorted and are on the path of recovery, walking through that gate into reality is not the party atmosphere you may think it is. Especially if no one is waiting on the other side. Being released from prison can also be a re-traumatising experience.
Over the years I spent in prison I became a better father, friend, man, person, human being. I became somebody. I became the person those around me, governors, POs, SOs, prison officers, teachers, civilian staff and my fellow prisoners expected. That was in there though, plus I still had an AP and my licence to get through out here, something I’d not been able to achieve several times before. The pressure was on. I was shitting myself.
Staying out is the aim, however, don’t forget to get out. I started to get out from day one of my sentence, my current status shows the cause and effect of that decision. But, I was still shitting myself the day I walked out that gate for the ultimate time.
For anyone waiting for the return of their loved ones, be gentle. Walking through that gate is harder than some people give it credit for. Can you remember the trepidation of that first visit? That times 10!