The Alchemist — Coming Out of Prison

As a part of the sentence plan for long termers, I had to undertake ‘town visits’ to help reintegrate myself back into, what was now a society that I had been away from for a very long time. I have to admit, the prospect of being back out into the community I was once a part of filled me with many mixed emotions; fear, anxiety, excitement and the thought that everyone would know I was a prisoner. I felt as though I was a fish out of water and I felt ‘different’, not a part of society anymore.

Although the first town visit was an escorted one, I was really amazed at just how subtle, yet different life was. This day was taken in my stride. It did not however really prepare me for the un-escorted town visits and future release.

Whilst it is true that the prison service can only do so much, the effort needed to cope with life on the outside can only come from within. Nothing can prepare you for the change in pace or the witnessing of the rapid rise in technology. In essence, the preparation and support from the prison service, for me, was minimal to say the least.

Of course this was the precursor to the possibility of release and what I felt at the time in no way prepared me for it. To complete the
smallest of tasks without support ultimately raised my anxiety levels and proved quite difficult in many ways, almost to a point that made me feel inept and stupid. I doubted my own capacity to cope due to diminished confidence levels.

I was lucky enough to have family support and probation could only offer the generic questioning rather than the offer and help of community based supportive systems. If they know you have family support, this seems to pacify them; the help required after serving a long sentence, you would have thought should be patently obvious.

Asking for advice is the easy bit, carrying out what you aim to achieve is the hardest part. This is why the work of the people involved
in the Crossroads Trust is essential for those leaving prison. Knowing that they do not judge you because of your background, that they themselves know what you have been through and are there to support you in the community goes a long way in the process of rebuilding and starting afresh in a life away from incarceration.

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