Tag Archives: unlock

An update on civvy street – what is life like after prison

7 Jan

It’s been a little while since I posted last. My life has moved on, framed by experiences and educated by mistakes.

I believe that failure is the only education an entrepreneur gets – so you better listen to the teacher.

I moved away from writing on my prison experiences and commentary on the banking sector, as I wanted to make a life as far removed from the Sin City as possible. I try to communicate with old friends but am always wary that a bad choice in their own life will suck me under too. I’m a married man now, that girl who wrote to me every day, now holds my hand every night asleep. I had been out of prison a month or two and struggled to find work; so was blessed with some considerate family and friends to let me work on building sites, doing some labouring and for another do some admin work. Not what I had aspired to when I left University for the big smoke in 2005, but for the first time in my life I felt like a rich man with a couple of hundred quid in my pocket every Friday. It gave me the chance to save a little, and now I run a small sole trading business that pays our rent and keeps us stocked in a nice bottle of red once a week. I’m an uncle, I have my health and I’ve made new memories frequently. Spurs are still struggling to be a decent footballing side – some things never change.

It was a few months into doing odd jobs on building sites, that an offer of doing electrical testing popped up. I attended the interview more nervous than I have been before when sat down with fund managers. I established they were looking for an external company to outsource all of their testing work and not just an employee. Fortune favours the bold and in seconds, thats exactly what I was. I had my own safety testing company.

One thing no one can take is the education of spotting an opportunity.

My wife at the time had told me to not give up on using my brain or being afraid of business ventures. One mistake in the business world at 26/7 should not cap ambition. She was right – I had become insular in my attitude toward working for myself ever. Scared to put a foot wrong, I was wasting opportunity but so far not one company had offered me a job when I admitted from the outside I had a criminal record.

Here’s an educated young man, smartly turned out, well spoken and completely unemployable to those with little time to experiment with an ex-offender. It highlighted a problem once more that your punishment does not end. High insurance premiums, struggling to get a bank account, can’t get a job; the list is a lot longer than I can pen at this time. This is why prisons are a merry-go-round.

With no chance of being employed, the only solution for those with a bit of self motivation is to work for yourself. In fact those ex offenders I still speak to who have an income not derived from the Department of Social Security, work for themselves. Who would have thought that the so-called entrepreneurial driven economic recovery is being fuelled by old lags.

I drive through many town’s on business these days and often spot those Victorian walls that define a prison – the memories will never fade; and I wonder for a moment what life is like for those that will depart one day. Will they find a chance or will they get swept under the social injustice hoover once more. Conscious that this blog has strong SEO and is still read by thousands every year, if you find this post and want a chat about how you can build a life for yourself on the outside, you can message me and you’ll find an open set of ears. If you need advice on how to get on, check out Unlock an ex-offender charity organisation set up to help those on release. http://www.unlock.org.uk

Drop me a message on Twitter @disgracedbanker


Lord Taylor of Warwick Part 2

27 May

A hurricane is a brewing – I use this as an ideal opportunity to dry some clothes outside. On the flipside it could also be a terrible time to do so but I’ll take my chances.

On the news, I hear Lord Taylor of Warwick the Tory Lord jailed for expenses fraud has been given his electronic tag to observe a Home Detention Curfew. To the lay person, this means being released on tag. He will have to observe strict curfews or face being recalled to prison. Today is the 3 month point of my own sentence. Had I only received a year I too would be out today. I didn’t, so I’m not.

Anyone with a sentence between 6 months and 4 years is eligible for early release on tag. This means in the best case scenario an inmate can spend up to four and  a half months doing the remainder of their bird at home. This is providing they have a home to go to, are wanted their and not deemed a danger to the community. Importantly, it clears up bedspaces in our crowded system and makes for  a cheap solution to containment.

Lord Taylor’s first priority was to do some work for penal reform charities on his release:

“If anyone listens to me” He says.

It’s a strange turn of events when a member of the ruling elite need to be disgraced to better understand the plight of the contemporary mass and become more in tune with society. Sadly it also becomes that bit harder to be listened to when you find yourself in such a situation. He aims to see inmates categorised while in the court cells after sentencing. The burden this will ultimately relieve on strained resources would be of untold value. After sentencing, the 5 hours plus sat on a wooden bench in an empty space could be more efficiently used by HM Courts and save having to send sane non violent offenders on a prison merry-go-round just to have them wind up at the correct nick weeks later than need be. George is a case in point. I get the impression that a good deal of problems in the UK Prison system could be eradicated if better use of the money alloted was made.

I busy myself in the education office reminding inmates of the importance of manners when they demand I put their names down for the Education Gym session – many of whom are ineligible anyway. It falls on deaf ears, coincidentally I tend to forget to write their names down too, at just about the same time.

I can’t help but think of R, she sent me 5 emails today, I worry I’m being harsh. I have continued to write to her, I just haven’t sent the letters. I need my outlet, my writing keeps me occupied and it helps me vent the thoughts I don’t feel comfortable telling those around me here.

Today I am halfway to home leave.



Day 12

28 Feb

A new cell, a new window and I’m in luck, I’ve got sunshine views ripping through the cell, like colour has returned to my world.

With weather forecast for sunshine in the late 20’s, over the weekend; this could be bitter-sweet, considering the oven effect of Wandsworth. I turn down an opportunity to visit the gym to make a good example to my work party supervisor by being present for my first shift. I pick up my new uniform, effectively the same as before but this time I have the freedom to choose items that fit me. 3 of us together then sweep the 4’s landing, clean the officer’s toilet and tidy vacated cells. The latter is likely to yield some stories in time.

Marked out as  a worker in my fetching green cargo trousers, brown steel boots, i sense a cursory elevation in respect offered to us from the screws, though this belief is short lived when we return to the officer’s toilets later in the day. I can only imagine someone is trying to making our day uncomfortable, surely no one uses a toilet in such a manner otherwise. I shall see little more than, ‘the floor is being misused on a wholesale scale’.

We clean the landing as the other inmates are still banged up. It’s almost surreal, walking around the wing of a prison unhindered and for the time being in this controlled environment, free. I sense a mini milestone coming….. the first time my pre-prison plan reaches an objective.

I spent time before prison as this diary mentions, in researching, learning, absorbing, everything I could find out about incarceration. Addicted, it was never far from my mind, constantly above me in my thoughts. I know much already about prison law, more than many serial residents and I am also aware, in order to make my time tolerable inside, I should work as an orderly. Getting an orderly job was part of a mental to-do list I took on with me. Getting a job has given me some sense of control upon my own destiny. This is how I handle prison.

Nev and I seize a tv remote left behind and a watch discarded by it’s owner. Nev keeps asking me the time in the short while I’ve known him, this will cure that. Plus its an Arsenal watch, his team and my own’s rival. His need to know the time I think is down to his clear fascination in soap operas. He watches them all, a former armed gang member sedated with a big smile, as he deciphers and untangles the cobweb of relationship dramas that are the staple of British tv. Serving a 6 year minimum sentence, he’s not your normal ex-street punk from London. He is an infectious, warm man, with an obvious love for his wife and kids. He has good manners and has some interesting life experiences which he regaled me with last night. For me, coming from an entirely different background, its eye opening to see into the life of those I’d never normally cross paths with. Such moments of discursive intrigue are I feel, cathartic.

Work in the morning takes little more than an hour, which gives me the time to head back to my cell and continue with my writing. I switch on BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer and begin a secret affair with daytime TV that will be my ‘secret shame’ for the next year. I tuck into a peanut butter and jam sandwich with a black coffee, pleased with the spoils of minor achievement in my prison life.

I endeavour to enquire after my radio plug again today, empowered and emboldened with a sense of social standing, I am more positive over my chances of a successful resolution.

I head out to use the phones, a perk of the job, I can use them when I wish rather than join a queue during association. I pick up the phone glancing at my watch. Rachel will be up, I wonder if I can hear her voice, will she have her UK phone on? I find out…

ANSWERPHONE! I leave a message, that way one of us can hear another’s voice. I long to hear her’s. Less than two weeks without contact but so much turbulence in our lives, it feels strange not being able to discuss it all. That’s a punishment of prison, the loss of something you take for granted. It’s funny that the development of modern communication, so embedded within the framework of our lives, has in itself become a dependence that we experience noticeable emotional discomfort when it’s withdrawn. I’ll learn to live with it, I hate phones anyway! 🙂