Beyond Youth Custody


Adisa was sentenced to custody when he was 16 and has now been out of prison for more than two years. This is an edited account of his experience of the first few weeks after release.

I was a bit scared really. No one met me, it’s pretty far away. They gave me a lift to the train station, one of the officers. Everything was like, too fast. I was pretty scared when I was getting a lift. The guy wasn’t even going fast, must have been doing about 30, and I thought he was doing what, 60 or something.

I was wearing the same clothes as when I went in. I went back to my mum’s house. I went straight home… I was used to like, that close environment, being closed in. So I just stayed in my room for quite a while. I didn’t like it, being outside. I was scared, I didn’t even want to leave. I just wanted to go back to my cell really. I knew I was free, but I was scared because I didn’t know what to do with it. Usually, when you’re in there people make choices for you, and do stuff for you. You have to stuff for yourself when you’re at home.

I didn’t have a key to the door. Actually, when I first came back, the houses had just been done up, all the houses in the row, so when I stood in front of my house, I wasn’t sure if it was my house or not. I was looking at it for a while, Is that my house? I hope this is my house.’ My brother answered. He was like, ‘Wow, you’ve put weight on’. We just had a little chat. Mum wasn’t in, she was at work. I just went straight in my room and laid there for a while. Then my [younger siblings] came home from school. Nobody had told them where I’d been. They didn’t want them to get upset or nothing like that. I don’t know what the excuse was, I just went along with it. They were really tall when I got back.

I stayed in my room a lot, because I was used to being in my room at a certain time, so I just done the same, went upstairs, stayed in my room. I think it was like a couple of weeks I kept my routine going. Waking up at seven o’clock, tidying up, getting something to eat.

When you’re in prison, it’s full of people that you can’t trust. You don’t share stuff, but when you get out, your old mates, that you know and trust, you don’t have to look behind your back. First couple of months after getting out I was still a bit paranoid and like, didn’t know how to act around people. Including family, everyone, because obviously, you’re used to seeing them every two weeks.

Every week our pads [cells] had to be in a certain standard and we had to keep that standard. Spotless. Obviously they check every day. So I kept my bedroom that way too, how I liked it. You get a bit OCD. Now it’s not so tidy, not that much, just normal.

My first night at home, I had a good night’s sleep, but it was weird. I woke up thinking, ‘Oh, I am really home’. I’ve had dreams in prison, that when you wake up, you’re gonna be at home and when you wake up, obviously you’re not. It happens to a lot of people. It happened to me a few times when I first went in. But this time, I woke up and I was still at home.

After a few days with the YOT, I met [one of the staff of the resettlement project]. He sat me down, I think I’d been out two, three weeks and he went, ‘Right, you’ve been out, got used to being back, so what do you want to do, career wise? You’re not a kid any more, and these are the things you need to start thinking about.’ He said he’d sign me up for college. They thought I was confident enough. I got a little bit of help with CVs and interview technique. So I went college.

When people first get out they’re all happy and that, ‘Ah the things I can do’. But the first thing on their mind will be, ‘How am I going to make some money?… They need someone out there helping them out, asking them what they can see themselves doing, what they want to do. The best time to talk about that is the first couple of weeks… [when] they’re asking themselves what they’re gonna do.

In the first couple of weeks your mates get in touch and they know you’ve got no money. They’ll be like, ‘Come and do this with us, you’ll be fine’. All sorts of crime, it’s tempting. It’s easy to go back to it… It depends on the person concerned being determined not to go back to it, you know what I mean? The first two weeks, when you can start reoffending… it was tempting, because some of them are into drugs and have pots of money and I was like, sigh.

When you’re in prison and someone starts taking the piss, you have to stand your ground. When you get out, you’re always on your guard. You’re extra paranoid. You’ll be thinking someone’s following you. It’s a weird feeling; it’s not a good feeling. I was pretty scared of going out actually. All the noise and stuff like that.

I still think about it [the prison experience]. You’re never normal once you get out. Think about being stuck in a room, a small little room by yourself for a year, doing the same things every single day. There’s times when you’ll be in your pad literally all day. You’re just sat there just looking at the TV. Sat there doing nothing.

Prison’s easier than real life once you get used to it. Some people can handle being inside, some people can’t. Depends what kind of a person you are. I do wish sometimes I could go back there. Sometimes it feels too hard, you can’t be bothered so you just think, ‘Oh, I’ll go back in’. Some people can’t handle it being out. I’ve thought about it. Then I’ve thought about what I’d be missing out on. There’s no point being stupid and going back in. Might as well stay out and do good. I still struggle sometimes, but everyone does. It’s still a bit of a fight.

You say you’re used to being out, but you’re not. Prison just changes you altogether. You don’t think the same, you don’t act the same anymore. I just think it sends you a bit crazy really. Always stays with you. I think it’s the year missed. A year of growing up that you just missed growing up, sat doing nothing. Not getting used to being older and you still act the same age as you went in. It’s like time’s stood still and you’re still the person as when you went in.

I’m a professional [sports person] now. I’ve been doing that for a year. It’s discipline, it helps me stay calm. It helps you focus; you’re busy all the time.

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes