Here we have another contribution from the other side of the fence, well worth highlighting in my view, especially as part was caught in the pesky spam filter:-
Ben details some of the issues prisoners who are not of the revolving door kind experience after release. One thing I’ve noticed both during my time inside and afterwards is that those who go in and out of prison don’t suffer the same kind of issues adjusting back to society that those serving a one off sentence tend to probably because the revolving door breed familiarity with problems both inside and out making them oddly easier to deal with in some ways.
TR was supposed to bring in a whole host of help for people leaving prison. The reality is what help there used to be has pretty much disappeared due to lack of funding thanks to the cuts implemented by I-have-a-fetish-for-high-viz-jackets-George and the CRC’s have definitely not put any money into replacing what has disappeared from the public sector. Add in the fact that resettlement departments in prison are beyond useless and always were and there is zero help around to help you get readjusted to life on the outside and it is a big readjustment even if you’ve only been inside for 12 months or so. And the longer you’ve been inside the worse time you will have readjusting.
In prison you are treated as inhuman at worst or at best the equivalent of an inconveniently delivered parcel to be passed around the system at whim. Granted there are some officers who are really decent and who treat people as human beings but they seem to be in the minority and management certainly doesn’t view any prisoner as a human being. All control over your life is taken away from you. You are dictated to as to when and where to sleep, when are where to eat, what to wear, what work you can or cannot do and so on. In fact the only control you will have over your life whilst inside is which one of the shitty menu choices to select each week. This is hardly teaching anyone to accept responsibility for their choices and to consider the consequences of their actions which seems to be essential for a law abiding life on the outside.
When you get out, probation will dictate who you live with, what work you may or may not do and who you can have a relationship with a lot of the time and the ever present threat of recall hangs over you at all times no matter how law abiding you are. You will probably be eating the same sort of shitty food you did inside as JSA isn’t sufficient to eat a well balanced nutritious diet and thus your health which was crap to start with after a diet of prison food will only worsen.
You will also be living in the same sort of piss poor accommodation as you did inside i.e. dirty, vermin infested, cold and poorly maintained due to the refusal of most landlords to take anyone on benefits and housing benefit basically consigning you to the worst sort of privately rented accommodation available because you can’t afford anything else. Getting social housing is virtually impossible as most Local Authorities consider you to be a very low priority despite the fact you are classified as vulnerable on release most of the time.
Then you also get dictated to by the DWP who makes you jump through increasingly ridiculous hoops to continue to receive the pitiful JSA allowance with the threat of sanctions also ever present. The fear factor you live under on a daily basis is immense.
All of this is added unnecessary stress for people trying to restart their lives after a prison sentence. And that is difficult enough for someone who didn’t have mental health issues before going to prison and who didn’t develop them inside as many do.
Psychologically adjusting back to life on the outside is not easy. Many people on first time sentences wrongly that it is going to be oh so easy to just pick up where they left off. Well it may be for a very lucky few but for the majority there is nowhere to live, you’ve lost all your possessions, often you partner and family too, your pets and your ability to get a job has just fallen off a cliff because for every Richard Branson willing to give offenders a second chance there are hundreds of employers that won’t even if probation is willing to let you work (which oddly a lot of OM’s don’t despite the stats which clearly show that you’re chances of reoffending diminish with a regular stable job).
Then even if you don’t have mental health issues there will be a lot of difficulty psychologically readjusting. Speaking to all those I have kept in contact with, we’ve all suffered from either depression, become anti social and averse to mixing with people or become isolated through ill health. We have difficulty trusting people on any level and we all have a deep seated anger, whether or not that is overtly expressed or buried. PTSD in people released from prison is not that unusual and a staggering majority will suffer from it in some form or other. Accessing counselling to deal with what you experienced for those inclined to do so is really difficult without money due to long waiting lists and a limit on sessions (most NHS Trusts limit you to six which would barely scratch the surface of the situation)
Prison doesn’t do anyone any good in the long term and scars you for life in some way or another either physically or mentally. Oh it may cause some to reconsider a life of crime as a career path but being inside damages people that were for the most part pretty damaged to start with. Whilst locking people up may remove them from society in the short term, eventually pretty much every prisoner will be released and will bring with them the scars of being imprisoned. Prison simply does not work and there are better ways for society to deal with law breakers for the most part but with the marked reluctance of any politician to buck the tabloid hysteria and actually develop a system that works in terms of desistance from crime but which does not severely damage people mitigates against it.