By Jamal

Jamal has recently returned to the UK after being deported at the end of his nine-year sentence in the USA. He wrote this piece for our most recent overseas newsletter in the hopes of encouraging others who are facing deportation. We thought you might like to read it too, as it details how emotional the process of starting a new life in an unfamiliar country can be - and how Prisoners Abroad can help to ease some of the anxieties.

Greetings to my brothers and sisters languishing in detention overseas. I write to you as a former prisoner from the USA recently deported to Mother England after nine hard years in state prison in Florida.

I want to focus on and share what there is to look forward to and expect once you are finally on your journey home to the UK. My only family back in England was my brother, and he sadly passed away whilst I was in prison, so I had no one to expect me on my return.

So, as you can imagine, fear and anxiety started to overwhelm me in the run up to my deportation. I’m sure I won’t have been alone in experiencing this, but it is very unsettling indeed.

Where will I go when I land in England? What will I do when I reach the airport? How will I eat? Where will I sleep?

I was glad to be leaving the prison behind but the uncertainty facing me upon my arrival in England is just as worrisome and just as intimidating as the first time I walked alone into prison. I had a lot of anxiety, but the pre-release support that was offered by Prisoners Abroad helped to ease my fears. Believe me when I tell you; I went through this myself personally.

Firstly, and most importantly, I would advise anyone in a similar situation to hold Prisoners Abroad very close. Do everything they tell you to do and keep up close communication with them as to your situation. Let them know, if you can, when you are expected to arrive, and if you can’t, don’t worry because as you land in the airport there will be help waiting for you; Travel Care, the social work agency based at the airport, can direct you to Prisoners Abroad’s office and provide the cost of your fare.

They are expecting you. So just relax your nerves. Prisoners Abroad’s got you. You are not alone in this. They couldn’t care less why or how long you have been in prison. Nobody will be judging you.

Once you have visited their office, Prisoners Abroad will start to look into all your needs. Medical, housing, benefits (money), and preparation to re-enter the society and work force. Any problems at all, or concerns you may have, let them know and they will deal with that for you. They will hold your hand every step of the way. You will never be left alone to find your way.

In under six months I’ve been able to move in to my own place, I have all my medications, I have a doctor to go to for my tests, I have enough money in my pocket, and I’m doing my thing. I’m completely independent and never had to phone any friends or family begging for help with anything.

The things that Prisoners Abroad have done for me are utterly and completely amazing. They have made my journey back so seamless and effortless.

I have tried my best to keep this article as simple as possible because I really want you to understand that you must not drive yourself crazy with anxiety; there is absolutely no need to at all. Prisoners Abroad has been doing this for over 40 years.

Once you get on that plane to head home let it all go and leave that mess behind. It’s over and done with. Be confident that you have your people that know all about you waiting in the UK to make sure you are taken good care of when you land. You can be happy like me, and prison will become just a bad memory.

I hope my words will make a difference to some of you. Prison is like going to war. If you haven’t been there, there is no way you could understand. But we do, and I’ll be here to meet some of you, because there are regular support groups held at the Prisoners Abroad office for us to shoot the breeze and bond together.

So hang tough, and just remember: to change is not necessarily to lose one’s identity; to change sometimes is to find it. So embrace the change coming and allow yourself to be happy again.

Offering a guiding hand

Prisoners Abroad supports people who return to the UK after prison; we find them somewhere to stay, provide grants for food and travel, and help them take the vital steps to a new life.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?