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Reform Magazine | November 16, 2018

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I am… in prison

I am… in prison

A Allen reports from prison

Contrary to what tabloids would have you believe, prison is no holiday camp. It is a volatile mixing pot where all manner of criminals are confined in close quarters. Frequently, the situation erupts.

This sentence is my first experience of our reform system. Its inconsistencies have kept me on constant edge for the past nine months. For the first five months, I was held in a local prison, confined to my cell for 23 hours a day. I could feel my physical and mental health draining down the toilet, which was inches from my bed. I longed to feel the sun on my skin, to read a book, to feel human, but it was impossible. There were no jobs available, no space on the education courses, and no library or gym access. For the first time in my life, I was truly alone.

The word ‘guilty’ changed my life. Friends and family turned their backs. The doors to work are now firmly closed, and the degree I was working towards is worthless. I am not a drug addict, gang member or uneducated, but the label I now own will stick. I find myself wondering if I will carry this label as a life sentence, once I have served my time.

I felt as though I had no future beyond these walls. When news reached me of a death in the family, I fell into the darkest abyss. I was helpless, unable to attend the funeral. I decided the only thing I could control was my death. I set to myself with a razor blade, determined I would not see the dawn.

That night, my cell mate saved my life and raised the alarm. How easy it would have been for him to roll over and go back to sleep. It was the first bit of humanity I saw in that prison. I spoke with the chaplain a few days later and slowly began to step back from the edge…

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the November 2018 edition of  Reform

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