The anticipation of prison is supposedly worse than the reality, but in my early days “inside”, I was in hell.
No one prepared me for the loss of control: a woman who had spent her professional life as a senior lawyer managing and giving instructions, now I was subject to alien discipline. I was told when to sleep and eat, my access to washing facilities were restricted.
My wardrobe became shelves, my dry-clean only clothes destroyed by industrial washing machines. My teeth were a talking point (I had all of mine).
The days before sentencing are frantic, filled with legal urgency and poignant farewells. Then, inertia. From the moment I was taken down to the cells, I ceased to be an individual and became a prisoner. I began the endless waiting which would characterise custody. The boredom is excruciating.
Usually forthright, I was initially mute lest my accent bought mockery (“posh”). To the other prisoners, my background may as well have been on Mars. This wasn’t an environment where intelligence counted. The educated were the oppressors, criminals were victims and lawyers were the reason why everyone was there.
The initial loneliness was hardest. There was no one with whom to share my bewilderment. I could no longer choose Wagner and Radio 4: instead it was Kanye West and EastEnders, dictated by my cellmates. I lived on £15 a week. Every phone call was monitored; I was unable to express my constant fears to my mother and partner.
I may have deserved it. But in the early days, it was no woman’s land.
The writer, a City lawyer, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to five years in prison. She was released last year.
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