My excellent education taught me all about sentence construction, but nothing in my first sixty years gave me any clue about a very different sort of sentence. But in just four years, I have gained a doctorate in injustice, mindlessness and a system which seems to offer precious little rehabilitation.
As soon as the judge pronounced, the comfortable middle-class retirement I’d organised for myself evaporated. Even now, a third of the way into my incarceration, I find it difficult to comprehend quite what’s happened. The appeal process grinds slowly on, but is so difficult to progress. How on earth can you find evidence when it’s someone’s word against the other? Especially from thirty years ago.
My sentence means I’ve discovered who my real friends are.
I’m not being rehabilitated in any shape or form, I’m being reduced to the lowest common denominator. Education is my only salvation – helping the shockingly high numbers of prisoners who can’t read or write to make progress in a subject they should have grasped in primary school. My university certificate in English Language teaching is invaluable, especially for the many foreigners, for whom learning is an especial challenge. My sentence means that I have time to further my own skills, gaining A-levels and moving on the study languages at Open University. I’ve even passed Level Two Algebra, but quite how quadratics and inequalities will aid my rehabilitation baffles me almost as much as the formulae.
My sentence means I have people with whom I would never have dreamed of associating in my previous life having a direct effect on me. Any prisoner has the power to totally screw up another – it’s a game I hope I never learn to play. While some officers genuinely care and do what they can to help, many others demonstrate their total contempt for you. As somebody who is used to running things and making snap decisions, the total loss of status and control is truly dreadful.
I am a positive person, always seeing the bright side and bouncing back from setbacks really quickly. But I’ve found this exercise thoroughly depressing. My sentence is nothing to do with turning my life around; it’s more about surviving until I win my appeal or until I am thrown out in a few years. Whatever, life as I knew it can never be the same again. Those friends and relations who deserted in droves are hardly likely to come back, even if the sentence is overturned.
But I now know the best way to remove a cash machine from a wall and to extract its contents without it being dyed purple. That’s what my sentence means to me.