Chris was imprisoned in France. He shares the difficult story of his path to arrest and his experience throughout his sentence so far.

I am 62 years old and I have never been in trouble in my life - not even the proverbial speeding ticket. In fact, I used to work for the prison service back in the UK. I had a responsible job and a good career history. I had a perfect life. I worked hard to provide and made sure my family had all they needed and were happy.

Then it all changed.

We moved to France and, upon arrival, my wife told me our marriage was over and she had found someone else. Within a week I was living in a caravan and was cut off from my two sons who were (and are) my whole life. I tried to make the best of the situation and remain positive, although I knew I was anything but. I attempted to arrange regular contact with my kids and always tried to be respectful and calm, but to no avail.

As the weeks passed, I was alienated from my two boys and my wife eventually cut off all contact. I was at such a low point and it was then that I tried to take my own life. The thing that stopped me was seeing a toy dinosaur on the window ledge that belonged to my little boy. I knew it wasn’t the answer, even though the pain of separation was unbearable. All I wanted was to draw a line underneath my marriage and move on, but still be a dad to my boys.

Throughout my marriage, I had been a victim of domestic abuse. As a man, it’s hard to accept and I was acutely embarrassed and ashamed. I still am. My wife flew into uncontrolled rages and would hit me. On one occasion, she blackened my eye and fractured my eye socket, but I didn’t report it to the police. Being in France I didn’t know how, or if it would be taken seriously.

I went back home to the UK to seek help and counselling from a male abuse centre. A week or so later, I found that my mental health had improved. I could see a way out of the abuse and felt a lot better about myself.

I was wrong to think that. On the day I returned to France, I went to the family house to collect my bank card to buy fuel for my generator, but I was attacked by my wife’s partner who partially blinded me by ramming a piece of wood into my head whilst I sat in the car.

To cut a long story short, I ended up in hospital for my injury and for the trauma. I was discharged after 14 days, and the police arrested me for attempted murder after the assailant claimed I used a knife against him. My wife also claimed the same story, but the truth of it was completely different.

I was taken into police custody and gave a lengthy statement before being held in the prison cell for two nights. I had no idea what was going on.

Apart from being given a translator when I made my statement, I had no one to tell me what was happening, and I didn’t speak enough French. I thought I would simply be released once the truth came out and that it was some sort of dreadful mistake. But, instead of being released, I was taken to prison. I couldn’t speak the language and I was in a whole different world.

However, my first introduction to my cell mates was altogether different to what I had expected, Instead of being hostile, they treated me with kindness and compassion and shared what food they had with me. One guy spoke a bit of English and after a while we learned a little about each other.

I was in a cell with five other guys in a three-bunk cell. I had a mattress on the floor.

The jail itself was dilapidated and damp with basic facilities. The prison staff shared the appalling conditions with the inmates and a mutual respect prevailed between us. The daily regime of prison life whilst on remand was hard to deal with. Two hours a day in the exercise yard followed by TV, food, and sleep. Unfortunately, there were no education courses running to alleviate the boredom and there wasn't much to read apart from three books in English.

Prisoners Abroad were my salvation. It was the only connection to an outside world I had and understood. I had never heard of them before my incarceration, but they reached out to me from the British consul in Paris.

I was surprised how quickly I acclimatised to prison life. I think it was partly because in my heart I knew I was innocent of the charges. But the biggest reason is quite simple; I couldn’t change my circumstances so I could only deal with the now rather than the past or future. The now was here in jail.

Once I accepted that in my mind it took away the fear and anxiety. You simply must surrender to fact that you can’t change anything. You just have to deal with the now. It’s a state of mind. You cannot change the circumstances you find yourself in, so acceptance is better than resistance.

By putting myself in that mindset, I found my prison time easier to deal with.

I was in prison on remand for a month, which I know is nothing compared to what some other people have to serve. But it’s all relative. The shock and dread are the same if not the time served.

At my court date, I was found guilty. I didn’t have resources or knowledge of the judicial system to represent myself better and I remember well my solicitor saying “I’m not here to prove you innocent just to get you out of jail."

I am now serving an 18 month suspended sentence. I have no contact with my wife, and I am going through a divorce. I have also had no contact with my sons for seven months and I have lost everything. I live everyday thinking of the injustice of my situation.

But there is hope.

I have survived a jail term and thankfully realised that taking your own life is not the answer to your situation, as much as it may make sense at that time. Around me are the protective arms of many, many people who believe in me and know the truth. Through them I have rediscovered that kindness, compassion and a gentleness exists even in times of desperation and adversity.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.

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