Prison is a strange environment. Like all British institutions, everything is done for you and there is absolutely no responsibility. You are fed, clothed, given a job or education, TV, even have your laundry done for you. But despite all this, and what you may have read in the tabloids, prison is not a nice place.
Becoming a number, working to a strict routine, the loss of liberty, feeling completely institutionalised, are all part of the punishment. It all starts with the crushingly little space in the back of a prison van and continues to the impersonal and claustrophobic cells.
It’s odd things that you miss inside. I haven’t seen the moon for months. Sounds silly, but the bright light outside my barred window doesn’t let me see the moon or stars. Hugs, fresh milk, swimming pools, zebra crossings, all things that are beginning to feel foreign to me.
Sometimes, though, when the sun is shining, there’s something to watch on TV, or there’s laughter on the landing, it’s easy to forget this is prison. But, when the door slams shut every night, there’s nothing to distract and you just need your best friend’s wise words, then you know you’re in prison. But life, generally, continues at a relentless pace. Days become all uniformly unstimulating, so you are forced to look forward to landmark days: laundry day, canteen day or gym day.
But, for me, prison is a bizarre relief. Being here strangely feels right. I had been living an immoral life for many years. I was aware of this and knew that my lifestyle was bound to get me in hot water sooner or later. The knock on the door early one December morning began that process.
It’s only by being here that I can begin to repay my debt to society and address my offending. Prison, because of who I was, is where I belong.
These places are desperately sad. They say ‘criminals’ are locked up. But we are people. That’s what everyone outside forgets: real people are kept behind bars. It’s easy to forget that. Please don’t forget us. We were bad, but most of us change. We can be good again. I know I will be.