Timothy was deported from the USA in January 2023. Whilst in prison, he found it incredibly helpful to read about the experiences of those who had been deported, so he wrote his own account of his first month in London for our overseas newsletter that is sent to British citizens in prison around the world.

Once I was released from prison, I was able to self-deport due to my low security level. This made things a lot easier, as I just had to get myself to the airport and on a plane. From there, I took a direct flight to Heathrow. I would like to say that my newfound freedom was amazing, but being in prison isn’t too different to a long flight - people telling you what to do and where to go, rubbish food, weird smells, someone snoring next to you.

As we landed and the plane approached the gate, I was getting my stuff together when suddenly there was an announcement asking if “Timothy…” could make his way to the front of the plane. At this point, my stomach dropped and I had a million potential scenarios running through my mind. Having gone through the US justice system, I’m not that comfortable around the police, but I grabbed my stuff and marched past everyone to the front of the plane.

When I exited, there were two police officers waiting for me.* They asked me a bit about my offences, time served and what my plans were on my return. It was honestly a bit disheartening because in my mind I had the idea that I was getting off the plane a totally free man, and these two officers showed up suggesting that they would be keeping an eye on me. However, I know that if I had been in the USA I would be dealing with years of Federal Probation, and knowing I have some accountability has helped me out.

From there, I trekked over to Heathrow Travel Care (HTC). My flight arrived early in the morning, so I had to wait for them to open. Once they did, the staff sat me down and gave me a good breakdown of what to expect, and gave me the arrival pack from Prisoners Abroad. As well as a phone, this included an Oyster Card (for public transit), and a supermarket voucher for groceries and essentials, all of which were invaluable.

I called Prisoners Abroad and they let me know where I was going to be staying, and one of the HTC staff took me to the Underground and pointed me in the right direction.

Travelling to where I was staying was fairly straightforward, and when I arrived around noon I was pretty wiped out. They let me know I couldn’t check in until three, but I was able to put my bags in a locker and walked around for a bit. My accommodation was great – clean, friendly staff, location right in the heart of London.

The key to me staying out of trouble that first week was keeping busy (the Devil makes work for idle hands…), having a plan of what I was going to do every day, and getting out of the accommodation.

There are lot of amazing free things to do around London that are very easy to get to – I’ve spent the last month exploring free museums, parks and different attractions and have not even come close to seeing everything.

I also spent quite a bit of time at the local library. You can sign up for a basic card and use the computers there. While the phone that Prisoners Abroad gives you is a lifesaver, it can be tricky to navigate web pages on it, and the ability to use a computer with a screen and keyboard was extremely helpful once I started the process of signing up for benefits, so I would recommend those returning from an overseas sentence get signed up. It was also a place where I could chill out and get some space.

After my first week, I moved across town, which was much more peaceful. I have been in London for a month now, and have lived in four different places.

Moving from place to place is a hassle, but in retrospect it has been really useful for me learning to navigate London, and now having spent a month getting familiar with four different areas I’m starting to feel more comfortable with London as a whole and how everything connects.

After a few days of me being back and re-acclimatising, I travelled to the Prisoners Abroad office and completed the application for Universal Credit, filled out a passport application, and set up a doctor’s appointment to renew my prescriptions. I had a follow-up appointment about my Universal Credit to confirm my identity, but once everything was in motion, it was out of my hands, so the only thing I could do was be patient.

These couple of weeks were very challenging, as everything that was happening was out of my control, and I felt stalled in the process.

I tried to set up a daily routine, and set goals to achieve every day, even if it was just going for a walk or doing laundry, as it was very easy to stay in bed and feel down.

It took a few weeks, but my application for Universal Credit was approved, and in a week I will start receiving benefits and be able to look for permanent housing. After stressing myself out for years in prison and for a month back here, in retrospect I should have just relaxed and trusted the process. Prisoners Abroad know exactly what they are doing, having done it many times before.

*People returning to the UK may be met by the police on arrival, regardless of the severity of offence.

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.

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