The journey in the tin can on wheels gave me time to try to work out what had gone wrong.
I had gone to Court that day having put thoughts of a jail sentence to the back of my mind. After all, I had an unblemished record, I was getting on a bit in years, I had been recovering from cancer, I had gone some way to repaying my indebtedness and ………I was ME!
Terror, panic, fear, embarrassment…….I found that all these words seemed to relate not to me but to the feelings my wife and son would be experiencing for who knows how long. I had not prepared them for such an outcome. I was sure I would survive, but would the family? I was fortunate in that my solicitor immediately contacted my son to advise of the situation. His personal touch, concern and communication will long be remembered and appreciated. It was now that Communication began to be a major consideration in my and my new ‘colleagues’ lives. I had never thought of how difficult things could be without the ability merely to speak to someone when the need arose. A quick telephone call if you were given the time and the person at the other end was there or a quick chat at visiting if a visit could be arranged. Lotto didn’t have a look in!
My son quickly set up a visitor rota, which eventually also included my wife (who just couldn’t face the whole thing initially with feelings of anger, humiliation and the knowledge that things would never be the same again). Officers and inmates had given me the lowdown on theses first few visits and the feelings and reactions all concerned would have. They were spot on! The horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach at the reception you would get, the awkwardness of holding back the tears in public, the inability to convey your true innermost sorrow and the grief you had caused. All these and more were pumping through my head and stomach and made for initially uncomfortable meetings.
I then realised that I was desperate to return to the wing, not just before I broke down but also to report to the others what had been said and who was doing what outside. Communication with the inside world was now becoming as important as that with the outside since everyone shared your ups and downs and in some cases your worries too.
This in turn highlighted the mutual SUPPORT offered and sought by certain other inmates and it became the norm to try to get a wee while before and after visits to prepare and go over things you wanted to say (or to hide) from your visitors. Obviously there were those with whom you preferred not to share things but generally many of us were keen to grasp any chance to find out and even help with others’ problems and occasional highs (legal!) We were the lucky ones…..we had visitors!
The unlucky ones were those on the outside, who were left to struggle with the multitude of social, financial and mental problems. To whom could they turn? Things are different now with organisations such as Families Outside to provide the support and guidance they so desperately needed. Regrettably, not everyone knows such help is available.
My stay was short in comparison to most. But my problems were the same as most. The trauma of being inside and the effects on family and friends gradually got under control, only to be replaced by the dread at the prospect of no longer having the cocoon of prison protection from society at large. I shared this feeling with family visitors, who by that time were getting more relaxed, at least outwardly, with the whole environment and confirming their FAITH in me. Plans were already afoot for my release and my life regimented and vetted on my behalf….even to ‘I’m coming home, I’ve done my time’ on the pub jukebox!
Life as we knew it had changed for ever, as had some relationships, but it would go on. With COMMUNICATION, SUPPORT and the undying FAITH of those I held near and dear, OUTSIDE HELP HAD GOT ME THROUGH.