Michael was arrested at the airport in Jamaica. He was on his way home to see his pregnant girlfriend. Except, at the time he should have been landing at Heathrow, he was in a jail cell.
I lived in fear. Violence is everywhere. I saw people beaten and stabbed. My partner was pregnant at the time and I remember saying to myself: “Just keep alive for a year, so you can see your child.”
We had no toilet in my cell. You just used a bottle or whatever you could find. If you spill anything near another prisoner – you’ll probably be killed for it.
The food is barely edible – chicken fat and skin. I had diarrhoea, of course. Like I said, there are no toilets in the cells so I had to use newspapers and plastic bags. It strips you of every shred of dignity. There are no bunks. You lie on the floor as still as you can, trying not to touch other prisoners.
The only charity that helped me was Prisoners Abroad. They sent me a survival grant every month, the equivalent of £30.
Without that money I would not be here now. If you have no money in prison you’re nothing, you’re nobody. You’ll get the worst of everything; the worst place to sleep, the worst food, the worst cell. You can’t survive like that – not for a year.
With the money from Prisoners Abroad I bought clean drinking water and basic food from the guards, like everyone else. I don’t know what I would have done without that survival grant from Prisoners Abroad.
My baby was born while I was in prison. You feel so helpless. Everyone you love is thousands of miles away and there’s nothing you can do to look after them. Anything could happen to them and you can do nothing to help. It’s terrifying.
Prisoners Abroad sent me books and magazines too, and freepost envelopes so I could write to my family. It took away the terror and boredom – at least for a few hours. It helped me feel like a proper person again.
“I hate to think what life in prison would have been like for me without Prisoners Abroad. They made life bearable when I didn’t think I could survive. I deserved to go to prison. It’s not something I’m proud of. But I’m back home in Britain now, with my family at last.”
As a caseworker I see every day what Prisoners Abroad does, but hearing Michael talk about how much it meant to him affected me deeply.
Elena Gonzalez-Conde Linares, Caseworker, Prisoners Abroad