I may only be one person but I’m not unique. Far from it. As when it comes to the criminal justice system, I share a part of my journey with thousands.
As a child and asked the question, what do you want to be, my answer was not to be trapped in the school to prison pipeline for, nigh on, four decades.
I had wanted to be a rugby player, but my talent became a stick for the school to beat me into good behaviour with, as well as a slipper (size 11 Dunlop trainer, but you get my drift) and the cane. Sadly, they failed to do so, and I was subsequently permanently excluded, and not just from the school but also from the ‘school environs’. I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the place. However, the alternative provision (AP) I was placed into was about one hundred yards as the crow flies away from my old school, and mates, so that didn’t work either, or neither did the AP, as I only lasted two weeks before being booted out.
Next up was Glebelands, near Maidstone in Kent, which was formerly known as Kent Remand Home for Children, I would like to tell you more about the history of the place, but none exist and the records I could find are sealed until 2043.
Following Glebelands, aged fifteen, was Her Majesty’s Detention Centre (DC) Blantyre House, which was quickly followed by another DC, this time near Bristol for this Kent lad now turned sixteen, Eastwood Park.
At 17 I then went on a journey through some of our finest youth establishments, okay finest is a bit of an overstatement. Before I did though, I was first placed on remand to HMP Canterbury, big man’s jail. B4, a YP landing. My first night in Blantyre House and my first night in big man’s jail are events I’ll never forget. Her Majesty’s Youth Custody Centre (YCC) Rochester came next. It was Canterbury again as my journey also took in HMYCC Chelmsford and finally HMYCC Dover, which is also where I just so happened to celebrate my 18th, okay celebrate is a bit of an overstatement, along with finest.
If only the story stopped there.
Being our local prison, Canterbury became my temporary home on a few occasions and my accommodation, over several years, comprised of HMPs Pentonville (x2), Wormwood Scrubs, Blundeston (a few times), Hollesley Bay, Britannia House, Peterborough, Norwich (too many times), Wayland and good ol’ Cardiff.
I was released from HMP Norwich on June 9, 2017, and the only time I visit prison these days is as a guest. I may not wish to change my past but one thing’s for sure, I would never want to live it again.