It is exactly 3 months after being released from prison on a 4 year stretch, of which I served 3 years and 9 months; I did 1 year and 9 months on recall. What can I say? Prison is a strange phenomenon full of myth, it almost seems like I was never there, and at the same time I still feel like I am there. My primary intention in writing this essay is to offload some of the trauma put onto me by my interactions with criminal justice workers. My secondary intention is to raise awareness and try to make an attempt to smash the thick wall of prison worker and political rhetoric that exists around this subject. Sadly a part of me misses being behind the door at night. In the beginning the steel door and bars held me in, towards the end they held the world out and became a comfort.
There are certain pictures or words that if they come into my mind then I feel a surge of anger or a feeling like I am falling apart all over again. ‘Healthcare’ is such a word. Images in my mind of certain screws, mental health workers, doctors and nurses are other such triggers of relived trauma, probation are another such entity. Most of this 3 years and nine months were just a struggle to get medical attention. After a life of drug addiction I had many medical problems. Physical pain, mental health, dental. I had it coming at me from all directions. I lost count of the amount of times that I was told I was lying or being manipulative when I was just desperate for pain relief or other medical treatment.
I found having to deal with the vast majority of individuals who work in the system to be soul destroying! The thought that many vulnerable and mentally ill people who are reliant on these criminal justice workers to help them sends a shiver up my spine. I was brought off of drugs in a very unsafe and dangerous manner. Then it was round after round of going to healthcare and being lied to by the doctors and nurses and then being told ‘I’ was the one lying or being manipulative.
Prison was one of the most terrible experiences of my life and strangely one of the most wonderful because it has smashed my naivety. It has taken something from me. In a very real kind of way it has broken me. The frustrations and futility of dealing with entities like healthcare has left me with emotional and physical problems.
My personal belief is that the whole system is designed as a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe the prison service is designed as a revolving door. My opinion is that the system is dependent on recidivism.
When I think about it now it amazes me that in the system there are many ‘professionals’ who have all the top qualifications etc. and yet there is a fundamental undercurrent of incompetence and ineffectiveness. Why is this? The organisations that exist in the criminal justice system lack a common focus. It is amazingly inefficient.
What I mean by this is that in prison there are the screws, mental health, healthcare, drug team, probation etc. and they don’t have a common vision. They all have their own agendas and they don’t work together for a common goal. Their right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.
My intentions in prison was always to sort myself out, yet I found I had to continually fight against the flow of prison and the people who work there. If you sit around drinking hooch, smoking drugs and have no inclination to sort yourself out then you will get on ok in jail.
The more I relied on criminal justice workers to help me change the more frustrated I became and the more trouble I ended up having. This may seem like a bizarre paradoxical thing to say but I tell you no lies. Eventually I stopped flogging this dead horse and took the very serious matter of transforming myself and my life into my own hands.
I left prison after 2 years with unbearable medical problems and to cut a very long story short then got recalled for this. I then got a solicitor and was given an oral hearing. I went in front of the judge and asked to be left in prison for the next 21 months; the remainder of my licence. I figured if I am to stand a chance then I need to leave prison with no licence and get away from my old area.
Probation didn’t want this to happen. It was and still paramount of importance that I look after myself and make sure I never find myself in a situation where I am victim of the pre-mentioned people ever again. This is exceptionally difficult though because the HMP has left me with a scarred mind. Most people who were like me, i.e. lifelong drug addicts don’t have the sort of support and determination that I have. No wonder so many vulnerable people return to those places.
I am free of drugs and I don’t break any laws to feed my addiction. I originally phoned the police because I wanted to be banged up so I could get clean. I have achieved my objective, but I have paid the price for this.