Gym Induction…

I make it through the lunch lock up, by looking at my pictures, pacing up and down to the door and back, peering through the gap between the door and wall, trying to look out of the window, listening to the radio, pacing up and down some more and trying to watch some quiz show on TV but not really hearing a word. My brain is buzzing with so many thoughts, worries and fears as well as trying to take in and remember all the things I have learned today and need to remember.

Eventually, I hear doors starting to open again and I peer out to see Andreas making his way from cell 3 all the way up to cell 30. He unlocks my door and carries on. I step out and see Nicola locking her door, I rush back into my cell and pick up my ID card, which has a rubber band on it so you can keep it on your wrist, I attached my key to the ring on the ID card and head back out, locking my door as I go.

We stand by the wing gates waiting, I’m not sure what for. I see groups of women walking past our gates, one wing at a time we are being let out. As each wing of women walks past they stare. Some point, some shout to others and some look and then keep their heads down and follow the crowd like a heard of cattle.

It’s our turn as Andreas suddenly shouts “D2 MASS MOVEMENT LADIES”.

We walk out of the big gates and Nicola reiterates that I have gym induction and tells me she will take me there before she goes to work. I’m pleased by this as no one has told me where to go or how to get there!

We make our way down a set of stairs and back outside to the door to main street where I first came in. We enter main street to a clicker being shoved in my face, CLICK. Why are they counting us? I’ve only gone from one door to another about 50 Feet away.  I look at all the doors on Main Steet Healthcare, Separation & Care, Workshops, Gym. I cant see whats upstairs but a lot of women are pushing and shoving up and down the stairs to get there. Officers are standing by each door and shouting at people who stop to talk.

“KEEP MOVING”

“DONT STAND THERE”

“GET OFF THE STAIRS KAYLEIGH”

“GET TO WORK”

This constant shouting is like a school playground and what felt like a massive empty atrium when I first walked through on my arrival, is now feeling quite claustrophobic. Outside the Gym door, an officer with a clipboard asks my name. She ticks me off a list and tells me to go and wait in the corridor. Nicola smiles and tells me she will see me later back on the wing and walks away. I look down the corridor and see benches either side like you have in schools. I take a seat near some other women who are sitting chatting, and wait!

When everyone is in the officer locks the gate and then the door behind it and walks towards an office. They unlock the gym doors and everyone rushes inside apart from 5 or 6 of us. A lady in gym clothes comes out and tells us that if we’re here for induction to follow her. We all do. We go through the gym to a room at the back which is set out like a classroom.

My gym induction consists of me signing a piece of paper which asks if I have any reason I cannot use the gym and that’s it! Oh so not like Bannatyne’s then… no one is going to show me the equipment or how to use it? I mean I already know but still, I’m pretty sure the girl in the corner who keeps falling asleep then shouting out random words every five minutes has never used a gym in her life. After chatting with the lady doing the induction (Layla) I find out that she is a prisoner too and this is her job, she is in prison for cutting off her electronic tag from her last sentence and she wants to get a designer vagina when she gets out! I’m unsure what to say so I just nod in amazement and smile.

30 Minutes later Gym induction is over and I am told I must go back to the wing until my education induction is complete and then I can be allocated to the gym if I wish to use it. We all wait back on the benches for the officer who takes us back to the house blocks. From there we are left to make our own way to our respective wings. Hmm, where is mine again?…

Up the stairs turn left D2, there it is. I walk to the gate slowly, making the most of not being locked in my room and as I reach the gate Andreas walks up to greet me.

“Good Morning?” He enquires

“Urm, It was ok thank you”

He lets me onto the wing and then unlocks my door for me. I think he sees my face change as I near the cell because he turns to me and says “Why don’t you get a shower as you’ve been to the gym. I smile gratefully, acknowledging that he’s letting me stay out of my cell a little longer. I rush to my room and grab my toiletries and towels and put on my flip-flops, I lock my door and go to the shower block. It’s dingy coloured walls and floor mats that look like they’ve never been cleaned almost put me off but I take a deep breath and step inside. The shower is actually really refreshing and I feel like I’m washing away all the crappy thoughts and things that have happened in the last few days like court and the cells, the prison van and arriving here. I don’t feel better by any means, I’m still in prison and I still haven’t spoken to my family but at least I feel clean and a little more clear headed.

I struggle to get dry and dressed in such a small cubicle. I fall into the wall several times trying to get my clothes over my damp skin, hang my towel on the door only for it to fall onto the floor and drop my shower gel and accidentally press the shower back on when I lean down to pick it up resulting in a wet t-shirt at the back. Great!

Learning curve number 1- Next time I will put shorts and a vest on so that I can slip them on and go back to my cell to get dressed.

I walk back to my cell and dry off properly and brush my hair. Andreas appears at the door with a hair dryer in his hand.

“Would you be needing this?” He asks me

“Oh yes please,” I say taking it from his outstretched hand.

He explains that there are a couple of hairdryers and some straighteners in the office and if I need to use them I have to leave my ID card in the office in case I don’t return it. Where am I going to take it? I cant leave the wing?… I hand him my ID now and he takes it and leaves me to it. He doesn’t lock my door though. I dry my hair and take out some fresh clothes from my neatly folded pile. I press my face into each item and inhale deeply. The smell of home is so bittersweet it brings a smile to my face but tears to my eyes.

Nicola appears at my door.

“You look better,” She says “Have you had a shower?”

“Yes, I feel better,” I tell her

We have lunch and are then locked in again for lunchtime lock up, which I assume is so most of the officers can take a lunch break because it goes very quiet during this period.

I sit on my bed and try to write a letter to my husband but I just end up crying. As I get up to switch on the tv an envelope drops through the side of my door. I rush to look out but cannot see who it was. I tear open the envelope and almost shout out with excitement, it’s my pin for my phone! All I need to do now is hope that my money is available on my account and then I can call home. That wait for my door to be unlocked is the worst ever, the second’s tick by so slowly and I’m excited but nervous all at the same time.

I hear keys on the wing and look out to see Andreas walking up the stairs. I’m not due to be unlocked this afternoon until dinner time as I have nothing on my schedule but if I could just get out for five minute to check my money! I’m a wreck, in tears and starting to make things up in my head like, What if they don’t answer, they don’t want to talk to me, they’re angry? Suddenly Nicola’s face pops up at my hatch. she takes one look at my panic-stricken face as asks

“Are you ok?, Whats happened?”

“I have my pin for my phone but I’m not out this afternoon to put money on,” I say.

It’s not even like she could do it for me as everyone has to log into their account on the kiosk with their fingerprint.

“Leave it with me she says” and leaves.

I sit back down on my bed and take deep breaths. all the commotion of people coming out of their cells and assembling at the gate to go to work is so loud and my head hurts from the worry. I feel hot and dizzy! I throw up!

This is so awful I have no control over anything. I can’t breathe. Suddenly all the noise has stopped and its quiet outside. Everyone has gone and I can finally think a little clearer. My door is unlocked and an officer stands in the door.

“Hi I’m Karl, I work on this wing with Andreas and the others but I’ve been off for a few days,” He says kindly

“Hi” Is all I can reply, I don’t want to talk to Karl I want to top up my phone!

“Nicola tells me you just got your pin and you need to check your money and top up,” He asks.

I jump up in excitement

“Yes please can I?” I ask almost pleading

“Yeah course you can, I just had to get everyone else off on mass movement on time,” He says.

I rush to the kiosk and log in. I’m holding my breath waiting to see my available money pop up. It does!! I’m so happy. My balance shows £60 minus £12 for the goody pack I was given on arrival! What?! no one said there was a charge for that I would have declined if I knew that. £12 that I could have used for phone calls! I have no time to be mad about that now I need to top up my phone. I Put £45 on my phone leaving myself a few pounds for any more toiletries I might need to buy or some decent teabags!

I rush back to my room and lock myself in. I dial my husband’s mobile number as I know he will be at work. I’m worried because the phone call cost 10p per minute to a landline but 75p a minute to mobiles and I don’t know when he will be able to send money again.

It rings and he answers after one ring. Its amazing and all we do is cry. I tell him that calls to mobile cost a lot and he tells me that he has found a company who specialises in helping reduce the costs of calls for prisoners. you pay monthly and they give you a divert landline number so its cheaper. I give him all my details so he can write and then we talk about how the kids are and that we get to see each other in a few days. He’s going to come alone for the first visit so that we can talk and get the tears out of the way. I don’t want the kids to see us upset it will be hard enough for them as it is.

we decide that we should probably end the call so that I can phone home later and speak to everyone and say our goodbyes. I put the phone down and just sit and cry.

Karl comes to see if I’m ok and tells me I can talk to him anytime if I need to. I’m not a talker, especially to someone I don’t know! so I just say thanks. He asks me if I want to play pool so I do because it means I’m not locked up. The afternoon passes and we have dinner and I sit and chat with Nicola for a while. I have another shower and then it’s 6:30 pm and time to get locked in again for the whole night. whilst yesterday this scared me, today makes me smile as I get to call home.

I have a lovely chat with the kids who all seem to be doing ok just worried about me, Mum and Dad are upset but pleased to just hear my voice and my husband seems a lot calmer now he knows I’m ok. After the phone call, I watch a little bit of tv even though the channels are terrible. I need Netflix! Before I get in bed I call home again to say goodnight to my husband and then get I bed and start one of the books I brought with me.

Thanks for reading XOXO

Up Next… Education induction. WOW!…

 

 

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First Days in Prison…

Waiting for my door to be opened again is like watching paint dry. Worse, I would happily watch paint dry. There is a lot of noise going on outside my door. I can hear cell doors opening and closing, keys jangling, people talking, some shouting, some laughing. I wonder what is happening and when Andreas will come back to me. The time is going so slowly, especially as I have no way of telling the time.

Time! Right, that’s it let’s see if this tv has a clock on it. I decide to fiddle about with the buttons on the tv to try to sort out some kind of clock. after a good 20 minutes, I realise that without a remote it’s not happening.

I suddenly realise all the comotion outside has stopped as I hear footsteps near my door. I jump up and see Andreas’s friendly face looking through the observation hatch as he unlocks the door.IMG_0917

The wave of anxiety thats been building up inside me in this tiny room eases slightly as the big steel door is opened and i can at least see outside onto the wing, even if I dont know what is waitig for me out there.

“Hi, You alright?” He asks.

“Not really” I reply and start laughing nervously.

I mean really this is a joke. I still can’t believe I’m here.

He looks at me confused but smiles back. He takes me to the office on the wing, which is next to the servery and a big set of windows looking out over the industrial estate of the town. Andreas gives me a key for my cell?? What is this for?. He explains it’s just so I can lock and unlock it myself when it’s during normal unlock hours! Don’t worry, prisoners can’t just get out and wander around when they like. Something I’m just as thankful for.

We go through some paperwork about the rules of the wing.

No smoking paraphernalia, no pyjamas on the wing, no going to and from the showers in just a towel, don’t disturb other residents at night, be respectful blah blah. All these things seem perfectly rational to me but Andreas tells me a few stories about people walking to the showers naked and people smoking tea bags rolled inside bible pages and I realise that what may seem normal and decent to me, is not going to be the same for the majority.

Andreas seems nice, I guess about late 40’s, early 50’s maybe. Very strict but fair and approachable which makes me feel a strange type of comfort in a place like this.

Someone suddenly shouts “Gate” to be let onto the wing and Andreas asks the other officer stanidng outside the office to get the gate for him. Nicola appears at the door a few moments later.

She shows me the kiosk which resembles an iPad crossed with a cash machine. Here I input all my family and friends details so that I can book visits and call them. Nicola tells me all the numbers have to be approved first to make sure these people actually want to hear from me! What if they don’t?… What if they’ve all chnaged their minds and refuse all my calls. suddenly the feeling of being alone shifts to a new kind of isolation and fear. Nicola seems to sense this and starts to show me how to book a visit and then excitedly tells me that I have one showing as booked for Saturday at 1:30. She tells me that my husband is coming and that he has booked the visit. (The first visit has to be booked by the family member and then after that, the prisoners do it themselves via the kiosk).

I’m so happy and relieved that he’s coming I could almost cry on the spot. Nicola puts an arm around me and we both smile. Only 2 more days and I get to see him! I can’t wait.

We go through the rest of the things you can do on the kiosk:

  • Order your food menu daily, in advance (If you forget to do it, you get the vegetarian option. Not a good choice even if you’re vegetarian)
  • Buy phone credit
  • Book, cancel and amend Visits
  • Apply for jobs (I applied for everything from servery worker, to a carpentry course, just to get out of that cell)
  • Look at your timetable, which shows the list of things your due to do during the week, like work or appointments with a Dr. as well as visits and education courses.
  • Buy things from the store such as sweets, crisps, cereals, washing powder, deodorant, toothpaste, ladies monthly essentials, order a magazine or newspaper buy shampoo and shower gels and order things like your own cup, bowl, plate and knife and fork (all plastic of course) you can also buy a selection of clothes but that’s a whole other story.

Nicola tells me my money hasn’t dropped yet so I can’t buy anything at the minute or get phone credit to call home. my heart sinks a little but she says it shouldn’t take long, especially because I came in on a weekday and not a weekend.

Nicola then shows me her cell and I have to say, its lovely! It looks nothing like a cell. there are photos up on the wall, she has her own bedding and pillowcases, she has magazines and books, paper and pens, and all her clothes are hung up in the little open wardrobe. Then I notice she has a remote for her tv!

“Where do you get a remote from, my tv doesn’t have one?”

She explains to me that you have to be here 3 months. After 3 months you are reviewed and if you have had no negative behaviour reports or red IEP’s (a punishment and reward monitoring system called the incentives and earned priveleges scheme. This was introduced by the Tory home secretary, Michael Howard) then you can apply to become enhanced. Once enhanced you get extra visits and your visits are three hours long, not just 1! You also get a DVD player and a remote control and can have some more clothing sent in. My mood starts to shift to a little happier even though my heart feels weighed down like a sunken ship.

We go back to my cell and start to unpack my things. She shows me the laundry room and tells me my wash day is a Tuesday so I have missed it for this week. Andreas walks into my cell and overhears us and tells me that if I need some washing doing he can get the laundry girl to do it at the end of the day.  I politely refuse. All my things smell of home and I don’t want to wash away that smell just yet.

Andreas starts knocking on things in my cell. The desk, tha wardrobe, the window. I look at him confused so he explains to be that the officers on the wings do cell checks in every cell, everyday. to make sure verything works, the lights, the vent in the window, the sink, the toilet and the emegency call button. The checks are also to make sure prisoners are not concealing anything in their cells that they should have. He smiles as I nod at his explanation and walks out whistling.

Next comes lunch! People fill back onto the wing from wherever they have been allocate dthat morning and we all form a queue and get served our lunch choice. Mine is the vegetarian option as I couldn’t choose because it was too late when I arrived. Like i said earlier you have to order 24 hours in advance and I was back in the real world 24 hours ago.

Andreas sees my face as they unwrap my vegetarian ‘peppers stuffed with couscous’! That sounds lovely I hear you say!…

Well firstly I am a fussy eater and I hate vegetables with a passion and secondly, this looked like it may have been mouldy for some time now. Andreasgives a little chuckle and speaks to the girl serving, “I think she would prefer a jacket potato with beans” He says smiling at me.

I look at him in surprise, grateful that he could read my expression of pure horror.

“Go on, its fine you need to eat,” He says and moves me along with my jacket potato. I’m given an apple froma big plastic bag perched on a chair next to him and I turn to the big tables and take a seat in the corner by the windows. I look out at the town in the distance and can see buildings I recognise and the main road which leads to where I live. Me and Nicola chat and I pick at my food not really eating anything of it.

After lunch, we are locked in our cells again from 12:15 until 13:40. Andreas tells me after lunch I have ‘gym induction’ and tomorrow I have ‘education induction’. I have no idea how to respond to that so I simply say “ok” as he shuts my door.

Over the lunch lock in I unpack whats left of my belongings and lay out all my photos on my desk. I put the tv on and find a music channel whilst I start to make my bed with the same horrible blue sheets.

Time is moving slowly and all I can think about is Saturday when I have my visit.

Up Next – Gym Induction…

XOXO

 

 

 

 

First Night & The Morning After…

I’m escorted out of reception and into a massive atrium called ‘Main Street’ It has lots of doors on either side, all with big metal gates in front of them. The ceiling is really high and I stare up at the second floor wondering what is up there. It’s silent as we walk along and so the only sounds heard are the footsteps we take and the occasional sniff from someone crying behind me.

As we near the door the officer unlocks the door then the gates and lets us through, locking both behind them. Were outside looking at another building in front which I can clearly see is where the wings are. The air is warm and I take a deep breath, this is my home now for the next 20 months. I look at the stars and wonder when I will be able to see my husband and children again.

we reach the other side and the same unlocking process begins. I step into the hub area of the wings. It contains a large office type viewing area with computer screens showing CCTV inside and outside the prison. Branching off like a big hand, are 5 wings all with big iron gates in front of them. The gates are open and I stare into each wing. They all look exactly the same. The officer who knew a friend of mine is with me and I see her keep looking at me out of the corner of her eye. She takes me onto one of the wings and tells me that this is the induction landing (wing) where all new prisoners come unless they are detoxing. I have no idea what that means. She says I will be here for a couple of weeks and then move onto a permanent landing. I nod and follow her to a big grey steel door.IMG_0914

She gives me a flask and points to where there is a hot water tap. I fill my flask and go back to my cell door. I stare into the empty room, the cold concrete walls, a toilet right near the door, a metal bed frame that looks more like a baking tray screwed to the wall and a window. The window has bars on it (obviously) but no way to open it at all. No fresh air! I start to panic inside, I always have the window open at home even in the winter. I take a deep breath and step inside with my bags in my hand.

“Goodnight,” she says. I turn to look at her, she smiles and the door slams closed. I hear her lock it, then deadbolt it. I’m alone, completely alone and this is what I have to get used to for a long time.

I put down my bags and walk to the window and stare out. It’s dark but it’s a clear night. I don’t know what the time is and I don’t know what to expect in the morning. I suddenly remember that the Connections worker gave me some information leaflets with the regime on. I go to my bags and start to pull things out looking for the papers. I find it and stare at the times set out for breakfast and other things but my head is pounding and I don’t understand what most of the things mean so I put it on the desk for another time.

I was given bedding so I decide to make my bed. The mattress on the bed looks like one of those old gym mats you used to have in school P.E, really thin and hard and I have one pillow that is stained yellow, Yuk! As I unfold the sheets I have been given, I notice a cigarette burn in it and then another and another! I make the bed as best I can and try to find my pyjamas in my bag.

I manage to figure out how to turn on the TV with no remote and find a channel to listen to, I don’t have a clue what it is I just need the noise to drown out my pounding head and the noises of the day. I stare at the phone on the desk and pray that my credit will soon be ready for me to use. I have to wait for a pin and add my phone numbers to a kiosk? I have no idea what that is but I hope I will find out soon.

I unpack my photos from home, lay them next to me on the bed and stare at them for what seems like an eternity. It’s starting to get light outside and suddenly my eyes feel really heavy. I close them for a moment only to be woken by the most horrific noise.

It’s a bloody cockerel! and it sounds like its being strangled. The bird continues its racket for some 20 minutes and I lay with the pillow over my head. I hear noises outside, gates banging, footsteps and keys. Maybe they’re coming to tell me they got it all wrong and I can go home. Maybe not!. I get up and look out of the gap in the side of my door. I can see an officer unlocking doors. I quickly grab some clothes from my bag and throw them on and stand waiting at my door. The bolt unlocks and a key opens the door, an officer stares and me, laughs and moves on to the next door. I have no clue what to do. I poke out my head and look up and down the wing. Women are coming out of their cells and taking bowls, plates, cups and flasks to the end of the wing by a set of big windows. Its so noisy, women are laughing and shouting and swearing, keys are jangling, doors banging, people running past my door and staring in. I grab my flask and plate I was given and follow everyone else to form a queue by a hatch.

An officer is standing at the hatch and holding a clipboard. The shutter is elevated and people start to move closer. It’s my turn. I approach the hatch and a woman, roughly my age stares at me with the fiercest resting bitch face I have ever seen!

“Toast?” She snarls

“Ok” I respond. She chucks two pieces of toast on my plate and shoves it back to me.

The officer hands me a carton of milk. I’m happy to see it’s semi-skimmed just like I drink at home. I fill my flask from the hot water machine like last night and go back to my cell. I sit down and make a cup of tea with the goodie pack from reception and stare out of the window. I feel completely numb. How can I do this for 20 months? Just then a friendly face pops round the door. Its the connections girl from last night (we’ll call her Nicola to protect her identity).

“Hi,” She says, “I thought I would come early and show you everything do you mind if I eat some breakfast with you?”

“That’s fine, Thank you” I respond.

She goes out of the cell and comes back with toast. She pulls a jar of Marmite out of her bag and smiles at me.

“Do you want some? you can buy it on the kiosk once you have money”

I shake my head “No thanks” I can’t bear the thought of eating and so I just sit and sip my tea from my pale blue plastic cup. She talks me through the regime and what happens each day and then she tells me she has asked the officers to move me to her wing D2, the non-smoking wing. As we are talking an officer pops his head in.

“Pack up your stuff your moving,” He says.

Nicola helps me pack and we go with the officer to a wing on the second floor.

“You’ll like it better here,” she says to me, “It’s quiet, most women are older and like to keep to themselves, C1 is horrible, it’s good they had space here and could move you so quickly”.

They show me to my new cell (cell 12) and I take all my things in. Nicola tells me we will be locked in again now until ‘mass movement’ at 8:15am. She says she will come back then and help me with everything.

A male officer comes to my door and smiles. He introduces himself (we’ll call him Andreas, to protect his identity) and tells me that once mass movement is over he will come and go through things with me. I smile and he shuts my door.

Well, this is it. Time to sink or swim. This is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I have no choice, I cant change what has happened and I cannot sit here being bitter about it all so I just have to get on with it. I start to unpack my things and wait for my door to be unlocked again.

Thanks for reading hope you enjoyed.

Up next – First Days…

xoxo

Arrival…

I sit in my compartment nervously waiting for my turn to be led off the bus and into reception. I feel sick. I take a sip from the 30ml pot of water I was handed when I got on the bus and try to swallow it. I see people getting off and heading in one at a time. I can see no further than the door and wonder what is about to greet me when it is my turn to step through it.

“SEVEN” someone calls and an officer unlocks the bolts and chains on my door. I anxiously step out and wobble down the steps of the bus and into the reception area of the prison.

“Come on love,” a lady officer says to me and I step up to the desk. She checks my name, date of birth, height and asks if I have any tattoos. I show her two small tattoos that I have and she makes a note of them in a file.

“You’re gonna be ok darling, don’t you worry. We’re not here to punish you any further, we’re here to help you get through this” She says to me as I stare blankly at her with swollen eyes. She explains to me that I will be booked in, I will see a nurse, I will get my belongings that I brought with me (subject to approval) and then I will be taken over to ‘The Wings’. She tells me it may take some time before all this happens as they have had a few in tonight. I nod in agreement and she tells me to turn around, another officer is waiting for me.

“Hi, come with me I’m going to give you a quick rub down,” she says as she turns on her heel and walks into the ‘Search Area’.

Oh no! is this it, the dreaded ‘Cough and Squat’ everyone has been making jokes about. I’ve seen Orange is the New Black and I know whats coming. Or at least I thought I did. Instead, I am pleasantly surprised that it really is just a quick rub down! My clothes stay on and she just pats me down like at the airport.

“Ok, you can take a seat in the TV room until the nurse is ready for you,” She tells me and I wander back out into the long corridor. I sit down in a room filled with women of all ages. Some are crying hysterically, some are shoving food into their faces as quickly as they can and one lady in the corner looks like she’s asleep laying on a red plastic sofa. Hang on she’s not a good colour, urm is she ok?… I am contemplating getting the attention of an officer when the grey-faced girl suddenly shouts out. “I need a F****** FAG”. Oh! ok, she’s not dead then!

A girl in a red T-Shirt sits down next to me.

“Hi, do you want a chat,” She asks smiling.

I agree and we go into a separate room where she closes the door. Suddenly all the noise is drowned out and I breathe a sigh of relief. I hadn’t even noticed how loud it was out there. Doors slamming, people shouting, crying, screaming. Radios bleeping, the TV blaring, keys jangling, and big heavy boots walking up and down.

The girl introduces herself and to my disbelief, she is a prisoner too! She tells me she is a ‘connections worker’. A job where prisoners help other prisoners. I suddenly feel a little more at ease than I did before. We talk for a while about my crime and hers and she gives me lots of leaflets about the prison. As we are talking an officer comes in to get me, I follow her to the front desk where we start to go through my things. Another female officer keeps looking at me and when the officer checking my belongings suddenly has to dash off because ‘grey-faced’ girl is now vomiting everywhere, she speaks to me quietly.

“Hi, I know a friend of yours, he works with my partner and he’s been asking all day about you. I can’t pass on any messages but I just wanted to know you’re ok because he’s worried”

She tells me who the mutual friend is and I feel comforted that soon I will be able to call home and let everyone know I’m ok. I thank her for her concern and feel happy that I kind of know someone. She tells me if I need anything I can talk to her.

The process continues…

I’m allowed:

  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops
  • 5 bottoms
  • 7 tops
  • 2 pairs of pyjamas
  • underwear
  • socks
  • A jumper as long as it has no hood
  • A coat
  • Toiletries
  • cash

I take it all in quietly, not really taking it in at all. I see the nurse and she tells me I’m not pregnant and there are no drugs in my system. I could have told her that!

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Then I get my phone call. The moment I’ve been waiting for since I was led out of the courtroom. An officer dials the number I give her and speaks to my husband to let him know whos calling. She hands me the phone. I take a deep breath and tell myself to be strong. Hearing his voice literally rips my heart out right there and then. I can hear how heartbroken he is and I know he’s has been sat by the phone since he left the court. I tell him I’m ok, It’s nothing like you see on TV.
I lie and tell him I’m not scared and that he needs to call the number I give him to book a visit to see me. I ask how the girls are and he tells me fine but I know he’s just saying it to make me feel better. I tell him that I’m not sure when I will be able to call again as I have to wait for my money to ‘Drop’ I know someone has explained that to me but I still don’t really know what it means. The phone beeps, signalling my time is almost up and I try to say I love you without breaking down. It takes everything I have to remain standing as I hold onto the wall to steady my weak legs. I hang up the phone and take a deep breath.

A guard calls my name and I’m taken to another room to have all my fingerprints scanned into a machine and given an ID card that I must carry with me at all times. I’m asked if I would like a smokers pack or a goodie pack?… I chose the goodie pack seen as I do not smoke. My goodie pack contains Pringles, tissues, Teabags, Coffee, Sweets, Juice and some chocolate. I look at it and cannot ever see myself wanting any of it apart from the tissues.

My name is called again and I’m told to grab my plastics bag with my clothes in, we’re going to the wings…

Hope you enjoyed the story of my arrival to prison.

Up Next – First Night and the Morning After…

XOXO

Sentencing & The Journey To My New Home!

Being on bail took forever! Every day I just wished and pushed my solicitor to hurry things along, “Chase this”, “Push them”, “Ask that”!  I just wanted it over and done with. This time in limbo was killing me and I knew that things were only going to go downhill drastically from here so I just wanted to get on with it.

When the day finally came, however, I felt completely different! sentencing was set for June 13th! I begged my barrister to change the date, ask for an adjournment anything just get a later date, please! She was confused as all along I had been pushing for the earliest dates for everything.

Truth is, I was terrified! I didn’t want to go to prison, leave my beautiful family and my life. I wanted longer with them. Stupidly inside I felt that the longer it was put off, the less likely I was to go to prison. Like the judge would forget the case and it would all disappear. No such luck!

Sentencing day came and I was prepared for the worst. My name was called on the tannoy asking all parties in the case to attend courtroom 2. My husband picked up my extremely large bag and held my hand as we walked in. I had previously told him that if I was sentenced to prison not to be upset if I didn’t look at him when they take me away. I didn’t want to see the look on his face as his lost me!

I was ushered into the box. A big greenhouse where everyone can stare at you. My Barrister smiled at me to calm my nerves. It didn’t work. My knees were shaking and I didn’t think I would be able to stand up much longer when the judge came in.

After prosecution and defence gave their cases the dreaded moment began. It all felt like a bad dream, a blur. Like I was standing there watching my life change in silence. Then I heard it! “7 Years” What! I snapped back into the room with wide eyes like a rabbit in headlights. Deductions were then made for previous good character and guilty pleas. finally, it ended at 3 years and 4 months. I was frantically trying to work out in my head how long that meant I would serve but I couldn’t, my brain was completely stuck.

A guard stood as the Judge said the awful words “Take her away”. Then I did it. I looked at my husband! I knew I said I wouldn’t,  but I had to. I smiled and he just stared back at me devastated!

Tears just ran down my cheeks as I tried to heave my bag from the floor with hands that felt like jelly. I was escorted into a back room where handcuffs were placed on my wrist and attached to the guard. I struggled down a set of stairs where I was placed in a side room and un-cuffed to await my Barrister. The guards started to make a list of all my belongings whilst I waited. They were lovely. The two women chatted to me and told me how shocked they were at the case and the fact that I was sent to prison. They told me I would be ok. I didn’t believe them! I just sat there. Numb.

Prison-van

After a big hug from my Barrister and a pep talk I was again handcuffed and led onto a ‘sweat box’! Wow! Now I know why they are called that. The compartment you sit in is a tiny plastic box with a ledge for a seat. A small, darkened window to peer out of and a little window in the door to let you see others getting on the bus.

As I waited for others of the same fate to be loaded on like pigs to the slaughter-house, I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. That’s it! it’s over, the worst had happened and now I had the choice to crumble and sit and cry every day or I could just get on with it! I chose the latter option! Don’t get me wrong I’m certainly not saying I didn’t cry because believe me I did!

I looked around my compartment to see the same scrawl on the plastic as in the police station cells all those months ago. People commenting on their journey, telling others where they were heading, how long they were sentenced to and some just general insults to the world. If I had been told to write on the wall, firstly I would have had no idea what they manage to do it with. I mean you’ve just been searched, where did you hide a Sharpie? Actually, I don’t want to know! And secondly, I wouldn’t be able to describe how I feel right now in a few words.

‘Just Dance’ by Lady Gaga was playing on the radio. I didn’t particularly like that song before, now I hated it!

“Just dance, Gonna be okay” Urm no Lady Gaga it is certainly not going to be okay!

After all remaining people are on the bus the engine shakes to a start and we head out of the underground part of the court, the part only guards, legal professionals and people going to prison get to see!

Luckily I am being taken to the local prison to me which is in my hometown and so at least I will be close for my family to visit! Every cloud and all that!

I see all the familiar places I know zoom by as I slide about on my seat, holding on to the plastic in front of me. People going about their daily lives paying no attention to the fate of the people on the bus. I see that we are close and my stomach flips. ‘Here we go’ I have no idea what to expect at all. Will it be like you see on TV? I hope not! I take a deep breath and push back the tears as the bus stops at the big gate…

Hope you enjoyed

xoxo

Up Next – First Night…

I’m on bail?…

My bail conditions were simple:

  • Contact no one Involved
  • Surrender your passport
  • Report to the police station once a week to sign a piece of paper, that confirms you haven’t packed a bags and run screaming all the way to Mexico!

Easy!..Being on bail was much harder! I spent most days in a zombie like state trying to get my head around everything. Trying to deal with the issue that prison was a likely outcome and how I was going to explain this to the kids let alone leave my husband to deal with everything including the fallout.

On good days I would go through the endless pages of evidence and statements and highlight all the lies (needed a whole pack of highlighters for that) and then write notes and frantically email them over to my lawyer.

We had to go to my lawyer’s office, in London, every two weeks to go through things and prep for trial. My Lawyer and Barrister were brilliant, they didn’t sugar coat things, they were straight to the point and I liked that. They prepared me for prison, because ultimately that’s what I was looking at.

I love London and used to love going for the day or the weekend to do some shopping or just look around, eat good food and pass the time. I thought at the time that these trips to my lawyer’s office may have tainted my love of the big city but I can honestly say now its all over, that luckily it hasn’t.

For the entire time I was on bail I felt like I was walking around with a big sign on my head which read “ON BAIL, GOING TO PRISON” I felt like everyone knew. Of course they didn’t and not one person said anything negative to me, but that feeling you have inside is horrible.

I think that when judges sentence people they should take bail time into consideration. Of course each case should be decided independently because I’m sure some people aren’t bothered about being on bail and still go out having a great time drinking in the pub but let me tell you I didn’t! It was hell. Like waiting in purgatory for someone to decide your fate.

I later learned that some police stations offer voluntary electronic tagging to people whilst they are on bail. This involves a curfew but once you are sentenced this time is knocked off. Such a good idea for the right people, because bail is like a prison in itself.

Most days my husband would come home and ask what I had been doing and I would reel off a list of things I had done around the house, when in fact I had been in bed all day up until 10 minutes before the Kids got home from school when I would quickly get up and act like everything was normal. Every day he would tell me to enjoy myself, not to dwell on something that hadn’t and might not happen. But I couldn’t, I knew what was coming and I was mentally preparing myself for it. My husband was my rock through that period and really got me through each day. I am eternally grateful to him for his love and support through the crappiest experience of our lives.

Friends and family rallied round and tried to ignore the issue lurking under the surface. Talk about elephant in the room! I had the whole damn circus sitting there. Our friends were great, they came over, met up for food and coffee and really did their best to take my mind off things but it was always there in the back of my head, prodding at me. And the happier I was the harder it prodded, reminding me that soon I would lose all this and be alone.

I was on bail for 10 months, that’s a long time to be unsure of what will ultimately happen on judgement day. Almost a year of my life spent doing nothing but worry. Like I said it’s punishment in its own right. I might as well have been in prison for that time because I did not live a life and when you feel like that you make bad decisions. You give in because you have no fight left and people end up agreeing or admitting to things they didn’t do. Believe me or don’t but I have met so many people who will tell you the exact same. You finally just give up, switch off, lose your reasoning and just go with whatever a complete stranger, you are paying a small fortune to, tells you to do.

So there it is my experience of bail. My stories won’t all be miserable, they are intended to be light-hearted and funny but through the experience there were a lot of dark days and I feel it only right to discuss these in hope that anyone who may be facing this process or knows someone who is, can find some comfort in understanding processes and feelings that they will endure.

Hope you keep reading.

Next up – Sentencing & The journey to my new home…

xoxo

Life in a female prison… The beginning…Arrested!

Back from holiday and it’s our daughters first day at secondary school! we’re rushing about trying to get the suitcases unpacked and the kids ready for school. Out the door, quick walking to school thinking about the piling washing and how much I missed our new puppies while we were on holiday. Dropped her off at the gates and wave an emotional goodbye, all grown up ready to make memories and new friends along the way. “Ding” my mobile beeps at me and it’s our eldest texting “Get home now!”. My stomach flips and I know exactly what is waiting for me at home.

As my husband and I round the corner to our house I see a car parked outside. As I approach my front door two people join me and introduce themselves as “The Police!” I take a deep breath and invite them in. I know why they are here, I’ve been expecting it for a few weeks now. They explain they are arresting me and taking me to the station for questioning. I ask if I can get a jumper and then they take my phone, laptop and tablet as well as my husbands laptop.

In the back of the car, I start to think of all the things that might happen from this moment. All the regrets I have for being so stupid and how I will never be able to trust people again! The voice in the back of my head says don’t worry I’m sure they will understand, but I know deep down that this twisted web of lies has gone way beyond what I ever could imagine would happen.

Processing, waiting, questioning, waiting, questioning, waiting, crying, waiting, angry, waiting. You get the point of how my day went!

Police cells are the most depressing places you can imagine, a hard, cold seat that looks like it doubles as a bed if you end up staying overnight, a toilet in the corner that looks worse than any festival toilet I’ve seen and walls! plain white walls with the past 10 years worth of Cambridgeshires finest detainees comments scrawled all over them. “STEVE WOZ ERE”, “2014 POSSIE”, “F***K THE PIGS” and a range of different statements all with the grammar and spelling you would expect from a group of chimpanzees with a crayon.

Then I’m offered food! as if I can eat. Auto response just says yes as I have no clue how long I will be here but when it comes it looks worse than some kebabs I’ve thrown up on a night out and so I just poke at it with a plastic fork until they come and get me again for another round of question time.

Anyway, after being charged and released on bail I am told I can be picked up but I must surrender my passport by midnight. I make a call to my husband and he arrives to collect me moments later. I feel completely numb at what has just happened and even though I knew it was coming in one way or another, I just never expected to be so betrayed so badly by someone I cared about.

(I won’t get into the details of what happened as it’s now over and forgotten and my life is 100 times better having removed certain people from it because of this. I’ve been through hell for the last 3 years through it all but I can honestly say that I have learned a lot and moved on and my life has a much more positive outlook).

So now I’m home! On bail! What do I do, what do I tell people?…