Here, one of the people we represent – who has always maintained innocence – describes the experience of leaving prison without having had the conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal.
I have been out of prison for almost 2 weeks and I can tell you that things are more difficult than imagined.
The journey away from the prison was a curious experience. Having spent 14 years inside, constantly maintaining my innocence, the process of release was traumatic. Even to the last minute inside I was assumed guilty, and I had staff telling me to use the skills I had learned during offending behaviour work to ensure I don’t “reoffend”.
On the train, it felt almost as if I was entering a new world. In prison people were used to me continually maintaining innocence and now I was moving to a world where I would just be considered an ex-offender, with no recognition of innocence or maintained innocence. With each mile along the train tracks, I was moving away from my recognised stance.
Now I am feeling like I am devoid of energy. I had let myself believe that once I left prison I would be able to focus more on clearing my name, but if I am honest I have very little time at present. Simple things like sorting our benefits are difficult. A lack of ID makes the free world so much harder to engage with. I have also been advised to change my name –that in itself is a difficult thing. The lack of ID in my current name makes it complicated but, more than that, it feels as though by changing name I am saying that my name is a criminal name which I don’t want to be associated with.
And I suppose I should admit that I am, for the first time allowing myself to feel. I feel resentment now. I never allowed myself negative feelings about my situation whilst I was incarcerated as I didn’t want to waste energy. Now though, I cannot help but feel. I am having to rebuild a life, in extremely difficult circumstances, when I should never have lost the life I had. Normally, after a great trauma, a person can lean on family and/or friends for support. But having been inside for so long I have lost all of these. I have lost everything, through no fault of my own, and the idea and reality of having to try to rebuild some form of normality is a daunting task.