Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Freedom can be a daunting experience

By David Honeywell

Several days ago I was contacted by the BBC team asking me to give my account of life in parole - ‘jam roll’ in prison slang.
Parole is when a prisoner is released early to serve out the rest of their sentence under supervision.

It must seem strange to my fellow criminologists who claim prison doesn’t work when I say prison worked for me.

The truth is, prison enabled me to get an education and it was my educational achievements that got me parole.

Had I not been in prison I may never have entered higher education.

Prison provided me with the opportunity to study without all the temptations of the outside world.

The idea of being released early is an exciting prospect for any prisoner but when freedom comes along, it can be the most daunting experience of all – so much that many of the more experienced jailbirds refuse to even be considered.

Late one afternoon in September 1984, my attention was drawn to a sheet of paper being slide under my cell door. I could see by the logo it was official. I knew it was my long awaited parole answer.

Parole is like remand time. You have no idea what fate awaits you and as a result those who are waiting are often highly strung.

On this day not even the prison wall could dampen my spirits. I was to be released in two weeks. It was a double celebration because not only was I being released from prison but I had just turned 21 so I had been given the key to the door a second time.

Who could ever think that freedom could be such a daunting experience though? Yet many face this after release. Three times I went to the Police station and Probation pleading to be sent back to prison but it seemed that whatever I said to them they no one was listening.

Those who were on parole always had the threat of being recalled back to prison hanging over them if it was deemed they were not managing their resettlement and showing signs of instability.

One Monday evening around 7.30pm in 1985, I answered a knock at the back door. I could see it was a Police sergeant. At the front another Police officer waited for me and within an hour I was back in custody. I knew my Probation officer was concerned about my behaviour and he had warned me that he had contacted the Home Office parole board.

After two weeks and to my relief I still hadn’t been recalled but it had been a close call and enough to kick start me into settling quite nicely so it was a shock when they took me back to Durham prison for another four months.

I saw what the older wiser prisoners meant now. It was easier to do your time and get out free without restrictions and the constant threat of recall. The second time I was on parole was 1998 and though I struggled to resettle committing further offences, I was never recalled. It seemed no matter what I did, they wouldn’t send me back to prison and with time, I began to settle. I am so pleased probation had faith in me because soon after I began to turn things around.

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