UK: the harsh reality of being released from prison after more than a decade behind bars

The prisoner served more than 10 years behind bars and was then faced with re-building her life.

Every day behind bars is one day closer to when a prisoner hopes they may be released from jail.

For some the thought of that moment they walk through the gates to become a free person once again, is the only thing that keeps them going.

But how, after years of being mostly confined to the four walls of a cell, does a prisoner begin to even start again and reintegrate with society?

We spoke to one former prisoner who spent nearly 11 years behind bars at HMP Styal about the harsh reality of being released from prison.

She was handed a 20-year sentence for a conviction she is still fighting to this day and asked not to be named to protect her family’s privacy.

On the day she was to be released she said she was “up and ready” at 6am - to beat the queue of other prisoners who were also leaving.

She said: “You say your goodbyes the night before because the morning of you just want to get up and go. There are usually a few people going on the same day so you don’t want to be at the back of the queue.”

Prisoners are then taken to reception where they will go through a discharge process, which includes having the items confiscated from them on arrival - returned.

She said: “When you arrive at prison you get a property card so that when you leave they can check you have all your own property. I wasn’t strip searched, I was patted down and then a senior officer reads you your licence conditions which you then have to sign. And then you walk out the gates and for a lot of prisoners no-one is there and you have no-where to go.”

Sally said she was lucky that on her release from prison she was able to stay with her daughter.

However she said for many the reality of being back on the outside is a “big disappointment”.

She added: “I did a long time but I was lucky because I had family and when I came out I stayed with my daughter. But really it is quite hard to come out of prison and that is why a lot of people re-offend. If you come out and you have nowhere to live, that means you don’t have an address, so then you can’t get a bank account and you won’t have any credit records, so you can’t rent because a landlord won’t take you.
It is a vicious cycle really.I had chance to sort myself out - I was one of the lucky ones.”

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