P.I.: What were the next three months like for you?¶
R.: I had a second meeting in Lyon, but not much came from it. Then I was sent to Moulins for training, even though my wife lives in Lyon. The oldest students in my learning centre were 26 years old! That was my third failure. I then was given approval or the fourth time to go to a meeting in Moulins. It was with a specific service with the unemployment agency. The address on the notice was wrong and the supposed meeting was never actually set up. Luckily, the lady still accepted to see me. She listened to me describe my life story and she asked me if they had gone crazy.
P.I.: What did you say to yourself after that?¶
R.: I said to myself that the prison administration was just a previously constructed sham. I knew from the beginning that I would never find a job once out of prison. And surprise, surprise, I did not find one. So, I was going to get out when I was over 65 years old and I would be able to start getting my pension.
But the prison insisted that “I had to add substance to my reintegration project.”
That basically meant that in order to get released on parole, I had to be taken on as a volunteer with NGO or a charity organization. I tried to land this literal door-opener. I sent out twenty some applications throughout all of France. I applied to places like the Red Cross, soup kitchens, and thrift stores. Some of them got back to me, but said they did not need me. The majority of them did not even respond to my letter. Maybe I made the mistake of telling them that I was getting out of prison. After an unsuccessful year of job searching, a friend of mine put me in touch with Prison Insider. They offered me a volunteer job.
Things would have been a lot simpler if I had made a fake employment certificate right from the start. This phony certificate would have definitely gotten me released sooner. But this would have gotten me back into doing illegal things, and I did not want that whatsoever.
P.I.: What were your first six months of freedom like after being released from Moulins on July 5th, 2018?¶
R.: I spent a lot of time waiting, kind of like my first six months in prison. I waited to be able to open a bank account after having already been refused once. For five months, I only received monthly payments of 440 € (about 350 pounds) from the EIS. I waited five months before I started receiving retirement benefits. I am still waiting to find a slightly bigger apartment. My wife’s current studio is so tiny.
P.I.: What kind of prison release did you dream about?¶
R.: I wanted to be in the countryside and be able to fish. Life in a city centre did not really appeal to me.
P.I.: What legal checks and constraints are you subject to?¶
R.: Every month I must go to SPIP and I must hand in a piece of volunteer work to Prison Insider. Let me be clear that this is a legal obligation, but also a pleasure! I am not allowed to leave France without authorisation nor be away from Rhône County for more than two weeks with no updates.
P.I.: Do you think about prison often?¶
R.: No, I avoid doing that. But sometimes I think of my friends who are still in there. I spent a total of 25 years of my life behind bars. So, it is impossible for me to forget those I shared the prison adventure with. Because, whether we like it or not, prison is an adventure.