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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

On being in prison...and working with Huhne: Simon`s story

It`s on bright, sunny days like these when I have the time to walk for miles, that I value my freedom the most. Not just being free from the the daily grind of work...but to make my own choices.

I don`t know about you but after health and home, my liberty is pretty high on the list of things that are precious to me. So regardless of my politics or my personal views on the Huhne-Pryce case, that television footage of prison vans taking the `convicts`to jail after sentence, sent a shiver down my spine.

As a working journalist I visited Shrewsbury prison, which has recently closed, and Pentonville in London. The place fascinated me, and scared me. I rattled off the interviews I`d set up, and couldn`t wait to leave.

Simon Davey, a 31 year old Shropshire man, found Pentonville pretty intimidating too. Especially arriving there after being sentenced to eight months for fraud in 2010. I`ve been speaking to him today about how it feels to be a new prisoner; and how his former boss Chris Huhne might be coping with his first full day in jail.

"I was terrified, to be blunt," he told me today. "I was in a prison van taking me from Wood Green to Pentonville, with all sorts of fears. I didn`t know what to expect, who I`d meet, or what it would be like. It was an alien world."

Simon said he expected Chris Huhne--who employed him as a young graduate caseworker when Huhne was an MEP--would be feeling much the same today at Wandsworth.

"Prison is terrifying. Everything`s so loud, so alien... and you have the whole regime to get used to."

Simon remembers that even in that chilling new environment, there was support offered to him in Pentonville in those early days--through a kind of buddy scheme.

"The guy they paired me up with was what I`d call a stereotypical `con`," remembers Simon. "This tall, lanky guy who`d been in and out of custody since the age of 13 for helping his dad deal in crack cocaine."

"He was called Billy. I thought at first `this is never going to work.` There was me, who`d had opportunities in life, parental support, a good education. With Billy. Who quite honestly looked like something from a storyline in Eastenders. This was really going to smash my naivety out of the water."

But it worked. Billy knew about prison life. He helped Simon. And before long Simon had a `job` to do in the jail--something that Chris Huhne, says Simon might also be able to secure.

"For me, " said Simon, a committed Christian, "it was working within the chaplaincy. I found myself in a trusted position within the jail.This was a multi faith chaplaincy, and I did things like helping with services, preparing for meetings, tidying and so on. I thrive on routine, and this offered me some."

Simon, who was later transferred to Ford prison, found that even keeping busy in jail,there was plenty of time to dwell on the crime that led him to be locked up.

He`d been working in a responsible office job. But in his private life, he was taking on what he now regards to be `irresponsible levels of credit`.

"I had spiralling debts, faced the bailiffs, the lot. I ended up transferring money from my employer to my own account--about £17,000."

Simon admitted that contemplating his crime from within the walls of Pentonville led him to some of his darkest moments.

"I`m fairly resilient. But I couldn`t stop thinking about what I`d put my mum through. I let her down. She lost friends. Neighbours spat at her. I still think about the distress I caused her."

Simon said his former employer Chris Huhne, from his post graduate days ten years ago, would also find himself with plenty of time to think about the devastating effect his actions, and those of his ex wife, have had on their wider family.

"I think some of those family issues have been made a bit too public," he said."He was foolish, and he did wrong. But he should be left to serve his sentence and not have his personality torn apart."

And in spite of everything, Simon still remembers Chris Huhne as `a sincere guy`, who would need help to rebuild his life.

Simon now devotes his life to helping prisoners do just that. He founded the national group, The Yellow Ribbon Resettlement Project. It offers two years support to ex convicts--right from the prison gate.

"Before prisoners are released, they have a mentor to prepare them for life outside. We offer help with work placements. And there`s actually someone at the prison gate to meet them the moment they`re released."

That help continues, from writing CVs, to finding somewhere to live. And that`s often in a completely new area.

"One thing I learned from Billy," said Simon, "was that he kept being released from jail, on licence. He`d go home, back to the same environment where there was a drug problem, and he`d re-offend."

The Yellow Ribbon scheme works all over the country to offer a really fresh start to former inmates in a new area, if that`s better for them.

It`s worked for Billy. He`s free, still only in his mid twenties, but is now a father--and a friend still, to Simon.

Simon`s also still in touch with the chaplaincy at Pentonville, the department which offered him work, hope, and self esteem.  And he agrees that his freedom, now, `means everything`.

"Even in my lower moments, I keep reminding myself of that. I`ve paid the price for my crime. Now,  I have my liberty and my freedom . I don`t want to lose that ever again."

 Fascinating interview! Just goes to show how a single mistake or misjudgement can change your life forever.

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    A Shropshire ex prisoner who also once worked with Chris Huhne talks about life, liberty,and letting people down. 
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    Thankyou,  for sharing your story with me today 
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    Thankyou,  for sharing your story with me today 
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    A Shropshire ex prisoner who once worked for Chris Huhne talks ab

     no need to thank.. It's only a retweet after all. ! Interesting subject !

  • 1 comment:

    1. Being imprisoned should have the same effect on others as it did on Simon. The existence and purpose of prison should never be to punish people. It's to rehabilitate them and help them get back on their feet. It's good that Simon realized his mistakes, and now that he's free, his aim should be to keep the liberty and freedom he has now. Anyway, thanks for the enlightening read, Jane! All the best!

      Eliseo Weinstein @ JR’S Bail Bond