Think about your annual holiday.
How long do you spend preparing and anticipating?
Days? Weeks? Months?
Book travel. Arrange accommodation. Jabs and meds. Holiday clothes. EHIC and
Insurance. And (my weapon of choice) the phrasebook.
And when you get there.
Get your bearings? Use the currency? Different language? Where to eat? Unfamiliar
timetable? Code of behaviour or manners? Too hot or too wet? Too far from beach?
Do you do everything as you’d planned to do it?
Usually not – and this is just your holiday.
It’s not your one and only chance to live a normal life.
Often you’re on the plane or in the car the day after finishing work.
It’s almost too quick. Too instant.
Where’s your head?
At your desk? At home?
Did you really need a day or two to decompress and empty your mind?
So we know that feeling of being somewhere else in an instant.
But we’re ready for it.
The difference between being in and out of prison is also instant.
But it’s a massive difference and the majority of our men and women are not ready.
Most prisoners in the UK are released from closed conditions directly into the outside
From a place where their choices are limited to menus and their responsibilities practically
From a place where they learn to belong successfully in the prison world, in much the
same way as we try to fit in when we’re in a foreign country.
We learn the words and the customs. We walk at the local speed. Drive on the “wrong”
side of the road. We may miss our Marmite & proper marmalade; but we eat the local food.
Prisoners learn the words, the body language, the routine, the attitude.
When we come home, we have a life to take up again.
We may say “Bonjour” and “'ta luego” for a day or two; but it’s temporary. Our home and community embraces us.
When a prisoner is released – especially from closed conditions – all contact with his
protective community is snatched away instantly. He’s adrift in a foreign land.
There is preparation of a sort in the prison.
12 week pre-release courses. Very worthy and
useful – indeed, Clean Sheet plays its part in several around the UK. Substance and
alcohol rehab. Family days. Anger management.
Equipping the prisoner for release.
So why doesn't it work?
Because a person needs more than their CV, a disclosure letter, a course certificate and
an address or even a job to go to (if they're lucky).
They need time.
Time to decompress.
Time to de-institutionalise.
This means relearning real life; real adult life.
• being men and women; not prisoners or offenders
• take responsibility in practical day-to- day decision-making.
• take on board the consequences of choices – all choices.
• know what to do if they can’t pay a bill/the rent/the ‘phone top-up.
• enter a room.
• use normal language.
• ask a question politely.
• deal with confrontation without the police being called.
So that’s where we are and why so many men and women just don't make it further than a
few weeks or months into their freedom.
Join me again on this blog space to explore some solutions.
From Prison to Employment: A 3-Step Pathway