Edward was apprehensive about having to go to an Approved Premises, also known as a ‘hostel’. What he’d read about them had been far from encouraging but in Edward’s case, the hostel was also a long way from home making it difficult to re-build his relationship with his wife, family and friends.
After serving 10 years in prison (2/3rd’s of a 15 year sentence) I was due for automatic release on a 15 month licence last month. During my entire incarceration I have maintained my innocence of the historic allegations for which I was convicted at the age of 69. I’m now 79 with serious health problems which I didn’t have before I was sent to prison.
As I was nearing my release date, my Offender Manager stated in his report that I would need to reside in Approved Premises (a hostel) which were just a bus ride away from my home. This would have been absolutely fine as it would have meant that I’d still have had the support of my wife and friends as well as access to my GP, dentist and optician. In fact there would be very little change to what was in place prior to my going to prison.
My wife and I own our own home and we’d envisaged that we would still be able to be together for most of the day and that I would return to the hostel each night. This, unfortunately, was not to be.
On the day before my release, I was asked to attend a meeting where I was told what my licence conditions were going to be. I was horrified to discover that the Approved Premises that I thought I was going to had been changed and I would now be staying in one which was over 50 miles from my home.
On signing my release papers, I was told that I had to be there at 3pm despite not being able to leave the prison until 11am. It was made very clear to me that if I failed to get there on time, then I would be in breach of my licence and subject to recall. I’m certain I wouldn’t have got to the hostel on time (or even known how to get there) by myself. My wife (also in her 70’s and not confident in driving on motorways) drove to the prison, waited over 2 hours for me to be released and then drove me to the hostel. It was a dreadful journey, both because of the volume of motorway traffic and the fact that we had no idea where we were going.
On our eventual arrival at the hostel (only 40 minutes late) my wife wasn’t even allowed through the door but had to get straight back in the car and do the return journey alone.
That was on the Tuesday. On Thursday and again on Saturday, my wife travelled to the hostel again as she was really worried about me. This time she came by train to avoid the long drive but with two trains to catch it’s still a 2.5 hour journey each way and, of course, we have to consider the cost. She’s not going to be able to do this too often.
So here I am, stuck 50 miles from my home, where I don’t know my way around and have managed to get lost several times. Considering the Probation Service seem to view me as being a ‘risk to the public’ how does wandering aimlessly around a strange city, full of places that I’m instructed to avoid without knowing where they are, reduce risk or help integrate me back into society? If they are so worried about the risk I pose, why aren’t I able to live in a hostel where I can keep in touch with my wife, or safer still, live at home?
Probation Service Instructions state that licence conditions should be:
Preventative not punitive, necessary, proportionate and reasonable.”
I can’t see that this has been applied in my case or how my present situation benefits anyone at all.
In her final annual report, Dame Glenys Stacey, the outgoing Chief Inspector of Probation, has described the current models as ‘irredeemably flawed‘ and recommends that the Probation Service should, in future, meet the
Reasonable needs of individuals under probation supervision.”
I absolutely agree.
By Edward (name changed to protect identity)