People often feel like they are prisoners in their own lives, own minds and own bodies. Feeling out of control in their own personal world. Not being able to move freely in their lives in case they do the wrong thing or upset someone. Not being able to make decisions or escape negative thoughts whirling around their minds. A victim, if you like, of their own mental illness and the feeling of not being able to escape.
But imagine being a prisoner of all of those things and actually being incarcerated. Not only in your own mind but also in the physical sense of being under lock and key in an actual prison?
Now there isn't much sympathy for being in prison because lets face it, you are usually in there for a very good reason.
People are convicted every day for various crimes. Different countries have different punishments and ways of dealing with people who break the law.
The UK's criminal justice system is far from perfect and there are many flaw within the system. Sometimes it goes in the victims favour, other times the criminals. Sometimes there is never really a good outcome for either parties.
For now I will look at the people behind the bars, the people who have been convicted of doing wrong. Those people, unless complete sociopaths/serial killers/psychos or just general arseholes who have no remorse...they are not included in my surmise, for that takes years of psychotherapy and studies and evidence to even contemplate the debate.
I am talking about average Joe who ended up being incarcerated for a crime s/he regrets or at least wishes s/he hadn't been caught for (just kidding)!
For many of these people (I'm not saying all) they have made a mistake, a big one. They have trusted the wrong person, needed a quick fix, fast money, fast sex, feeding an addiction, fell in love, turned a blind eye, did something only others could fantasise of and overall bad timing.
Generally people have been caught because they were trying to achieve something in a moment of madness or to protect someone or something. What they were trying to achieve is rarely a good thing but for them at that very moment it felt the right thing.
I am far from judgmental and I personally think glassing someone, stabbing someone and kicking the shit out of someone is horrendous but I am not talking about those people. Like I said I am talking about average Joe. I would say "petty crime" but that's a whole definition to debate itself, what crime might be worse to one person is considered less severe to someone else.
I for one have been bought up with morals and do understand the difference between right and wrong but it doesn't mean we are liable to not make any bad judgement calls.
Every criminal will have mitigating circumstances and whether the lay person or the authorities buy into their mitigation comes down to how they are treated.
I spent almost a year learning from other women as to why they had been sentenced to imprisonment and what their crimes and mitigating circumstances were.
For most if not all of these women I encountered were not only suffering with the emotional battle of being in prison to their own thoughts and lives but also now behind lock and key. A double imprisonment if you wish.
Not everyone in prison suffers with mental illness and not every women is suffering with it prior to being imprisoned. But as a statistic (that is probably out of date), 1 in every 3rd person in a GP waiting room is there for depression and that is an old statistic and also only accounts for the people who have seen a GP to even be a statistic! Sadly, that is a lot of depressed people.
So the chances of most women in a prison are likely to have had depression at some point. So many of them attempted to self harm or attempt suicide. Many were on anti -depressants or having some kind of therapy. Some of them turned to religion or became suddenly attracted to women as a form of comfort. Everyone was dealing with their own mind imprisonment under lock and key.
A common theme as to why the women I chatted to stated they were in prison is because of men or their families. Their crimes varied from get away drivers, drug mules, robbery, fraud, importation and so on. Most at some point struggled. Many women had been separated from their children, yet they were attempting to commit the crime to provide for the children.
Several women from South Africa, South America and the Caribbean islands were in for importation of drugs. Most say it was to get money for their family, to stop being killed, protect their loved ones or prevent being raped. It was very sad hearing their stories.
What I noticed was that the women formed an alliance. No matter where they came from or what crime they committed they stuck together "Us against the world" type mantra. Of course there were arguments, bitchiness and sometimes plane cruelty but nothing too dissimilar to what you get in real life, it is just exacerbated because they couldn't escape. But the women generally settled down and re formed their alliance once more.
Inside the prison, the women were made to either work or gain education, this is part of the UK's rehabilitation system inside HM prisons. Many of the women got qualifications and did what they needed to do to pass as much time as possible and yes they did have fun at times, celebrate birthdays and Christmas if even in the non celebratory conventional way!
They all seemed to make the most of a bad situation. It proved to me even when feelings of desperation and utmost sadness crept in they still coped. People are far more resilient than they give themselves credit for.
I guess what I am trying to say is before you judge, slander or dismiss people who have been in prison (minus the categories I mentioned at the start, that is your personal choice) Please support and encourage them to move on from their period of incarceration as it is something they will never forget. It is now part of their personality and in bedded in their soul. It was a time in their lives when they were suffering most and having the double misfortune of being imprisoned not only in their own minds but inside four walls too.
The women I met were probably the strongest women I have ever had the pleasure in meeting. This is such a positive thing because the world is cruel when you have a criminal record. It has effected the women I know in so many ways. Ways in which you wouldn't even think of. So although they did their "time" behind bars they will also be imprisoned by society and punished for years to come, probably the rest of their lives in some cases.
Spare a thought for them upon their release, as so many people end up doing something they shouldn't have done due to fear, greed or plain stupidness.
People commit crimes every day and don't get caught. You, reading this, might end up in prison because you were harmlessly speeding after a large glass of wine at the works lunch and knock a pedestrian down...suddenly you find yourself in front of the magistrate and being sentenced to man slaughter and drink/wreckless driving (yes this happened to one of the women, I spoke too) How often do you do something without thinking through the consequences rationally in your minds. It is no different really. Be kind.