By an ex offender in the UK
I am 48 years old and for 18 months I have been living in my own one bedroomed council flat.
It isn't much but it is a massive achievement for me. Since the age of 19, prison was my home and the screws were my family. I had no blood family so the screws were the nearest best thing.
To cut a very long story short, I lived on the streets in the summer, and went back home, to prison, in the winter. The crimes I committed were petty ones but I made sure they were prolific enough to get me a decent stay inside. This continued for years and this (18 months) is by far the longest I have stayed out of prison. There were a couple of arsy screws but the majority were good people and as sad as this sounds, I was happy to see them. They treated me as a human being, something society didn't when I was homeless on the streets. I got battered, had the piss taken out of me by passersby and was spat at by people who thought they were a cut above the rest. Why would I not want to go back to prison? Granted it was my own choice but I had been floating through the system since I was ten years old so regime was all I knew. Prison was a safe place for me. Of course there were many times when it wasn't, but in general it was a safety net and my home.
I read a post on your blog about prison reform. I don't know where they are going to go with this but as far as I am concerned, the damage is done. I agree that you cannot reform prison's until you reform what lies outside of the walls. Remember Cameron's Big Society pledge? It never came to the front, it always remained on the back burner, well at least it did where I came from.
Moving my story on, 18 months ago I was supported by a homeless charity who I cannot thank enough. I needed counsilling and still to this day receive it and attend group meets which help me a lot. I don't have much but I have what I can call mine. Through group meets I have made friends and for the first time in my life, I don't want to go back to prison because I don't NEED to go back.
I am writing a book and would like to keep you updated. Thank you for sharing my story.