When I was younger, I never thought I would find myself behind bars, but on Wednesday 30th August I was sent to Hull Crown Court.
I was shocked by the whole thing as it was my first criminal offence; attempted robbery with an offensive weapon. I was remanded in custody that afternoon, and taken down to a holding cell. For the next hour or two, I had to sit there and endure people banging against the walls and doors, shouting obscenities at me.
Two days later, I returned to Hull Crown Court, but this time I got sentenced for 9 months. Almost a year of my life, a baby was conceived and born in that time.
The next four weeks were very intense as I was banged up in my cell 22 hours a day, I had nothing to do as I wasn’t in education at that point. I was just moved around the prison like a chess piece, from wing to wing.
“They’d shout at me on the exercise yard, use offensive language and threaten me.”
After that I was transferred to Moorland Prison in Doncaster, for local sentencing and release prison. I was on 23 hour bang up again for 2 weeks. To make things worse, I was sharing with a homophobic methadone addict, who said he was catholic but never went to a single church service. Eventually I was sent to a single cell, thank god. One of the worst experiences I had in prison was when a gang decided to pick me as a target. They’d shout at me on the exercise yard, use offensive language and threaten me. What’s even worse was having to suffer in silence, knowing that if I reported it I’d be known as a grass, and that doesn’t go down well with other prisoners. So I kept my head down and persevered.
While I was there, I saw lots of people going under the influence of NPS (Spice). They were like walking, laughing zombies. I saw fights on a daily, mainly people getting black eyes for not paying some sort of debt. It made me realise that prison just feeds peoples anger, aggression and drug addictions – I feel like a lot of sentencing is counter-productive. I think the justice system should work with the community more than they do at present. For example, less severe sentences that are under a year could perhaps just consist of probation appointments and unpaid work. I feel like that would be a more positive way to deal with the crime, as it actually helps them get back on their feet and teach them how to function in society. It’s not as mentally damaging, like prison. And most importantly I think it’s less likely to result in them re-committing.
Another thing that I think was wrong with the system, was that I shared a visiting room and a chapel with Sex Offenders. These are the people who we’re supposed to be protected from by the prison, yet they are just thrown in and mixed together with the rest of us.
Education was the only positive outcome of being locked up. The prison had an education block where I achieved my maths level 1 and level 2 ITQ skills. That gave me something to work with when I finally got out.
Prison has also made me more wise, and made me value the small things a lot more. At first I didn’t understand why people would steal tea bags, coffee, sugar etc. from the prison canteen, but by the end I realised the little things in life matter, and I shouldn’t take any of it for granted.