My first post-prison Christmas

Edward and Jacob were both released from prison earlier this year. As they anticipate their first Christmas after being released, we hear about how they’ll be celebrating, how this year’s festivities compare with the ones before, and what their ambitions are for 2017.

Edward

This year they'll be the opportunity to catch up on some lost time, and an opportunity to talk about what the future holds.

Before this Christmas, the last Christmas I was out of prison was 2013. However, my last Christmas before that was, wait for it… 2006. I know, crazy, but we here now - that’s all that matters.

The last two Christmas I spent in prison were better than you may think. Because of the situation there is a sense of togetherness, brotherhood. For Christmas the lads would save money and then pool it together making roughly £20 each to buy our food. You could cook your own food where I was, and on Christmas Day we tried to put together a menu that would rival The Ritz. Just to give you an idea of what we made, there was: lamb shoulder, curries, mac and cheese, potato salad, chicken, cheesecakes, banoffee pie, just to name a few.  

Although we did eat well, of course it’s a day that you should be happy and enjoying with your family, and at certain times of day you can't help but let your mind wander, thinking about what they’re getting up to. I don't have kids so I didn't have the stress of missing them which a lot of the lads did. Ultimately it was a good day but when you were behind the door you can't help but feel lonely and sad.

This Christmas, I’ll be looking to spend as much of Christmas as possible with the family. I’m going to start my day at my niece’s house, and from there I’ll go to my sister’s house to spend the rest of the day there. They’ll be the opportunity to catch up on some lost time, and an opportunity to talk about what the future holds.

In terms of the future, I have some business plans I’m pursuing at the moment, in the health and fitness field. I’ve made some good contacts that will help me along the way with my goals, offer me mentorship, and keep me on track. I know it will be a long journey ahead, so for my more immediate plan I have secured some training in the rail track sector which in turn will lead to employment. I’m signing on at the job centre and exploring other avenues in the meantime.

Being in prison will definitely change the way I approach things this year. In prison I decided to really get to know myself for the first time, figure out what I really want in life, and how to get there without violating the rights of others. This is my definition of success. I read lots of books in my last 18 months in prison - in excess of 35 - and ultimately they have helped me to open my mind and change my outlook on my life and what I think is possible.

I don’t do New Year resolution - simply put they never work. The way I see it if you want to change something just do it. Ultimately it’s about the mindset - you have to believe it before you can see it. 

Jacob

My fondest memory of Christmas in prison is coordinating with my girlfriend by watching It’s a Wonderful Life at the same time

This will be my first Christmas home since being released from prison in April this year. My girlfriend and I were tempted to lock the door and just have Christmas to ourselves but we felt I have already spent one Christmas too many locked behind a door so we have opted for a rather hectic, family-focused schedule. Early morning my mum’s family are coming around our new home for turkey and cranberry sandwiches (brie for the veggies). Late morning - my dad’s for a cup of tea. Early afternoon - a drink with Emily’s mum’s family. The rest of the day - a mini Christmas dinner and stop over at Emily’s dad’s house. I am really excited for it.

Christmas 2015 was my first and last festive period behind the sturdy metal door. I had to make it an exceptional Christmas as I couldn’t bear the thought of allowing the tiny pocket of festive cheer go to waste. I appealed to prison staff to allow me to get some craft papers, paper chains and Sellotape (I think they just allowed me them to keep me quiet) and I got the lads sticking paper chains together during bang up (a great way to distract them from the four walls). The prison had grown some real Christmas trees which were put on the wings and most people pulled together to make it as warm as an environment it could be. I like how Christmas does that.

For lunch we made it a special occasion - five of us went into my friend’s pad, pushing a couple of tiny tables together, bringing our own chairs and with two people sitting on the bed we sat down to an abstract Christmas dinner which was cut short after 30 minutes for midday bang up, where we are individually locked behind our doors for a couple of hours.

I also spent Christmas day on the phone to my family in 15 minute intervals before the phone would disconnect. My fondest memory is coordinating with Emily by watching It’s a Wonderful Life at the same time (many miles apart) and just knowing she was doing the same thing was a wonderful feeling.

This year, I’ll get to watch it with her.

I often think: ‘Oh, it’s just another day in the year’ which to be fair it is, but now I feel it is more of a reference point to ask: ‘Where was I this time last year? Mentally, emotionally and physically?’ Christmas is a time to take stock of yourself and the life you’re living; it’s when we appreciate growth over the year passed and share hopes for the years to come.

Even if things haven’t gone to plan this year, I know one thing for sure and that is: Christmas is a time to appreciate any and all of greatness and love in your life right now.

Merry Christmas!