Lucy's Story*

I was in prison over in Thailand for one year, I started out on a vacation for one month, at the end of my holiday, in Bangkok airport, I ended up arrested, and I served one year in prison.

What you go through every day is surreal – it’s a case of surviving, and you constantly think about your family. Visitors buy food for you which is a luxury – as the normal rations were beans, rice and tofu, or  beans and stewed potatoes. Everyone was given two boiled eggs and few slices of mango every two weeks. All the food was boiled to death – there was a man from correction who checked the state of the food – the meat and fish were on the borderline so the prison had to be careful.

I was moved prisons, the hygiene in the second prison was worse but the treatment was better for women, there was more solidarity – these are the things that really made a difference.

But the main help was Prisoners Abroad, I was visited by the embassy who introduced them to me early on in my sentence. I was able to share updates with my aunt through them, I was also sent newsletters and money which meant I could buy food to keep me strong try to stay healthy. I shared whatever I could with the other inmates. The handbook that I was sent was a godsend – it gave me tips on diet and exercises – these little things helped me feel remembered and I was able to appreciate life still.

I was isolated and was living in my own head almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had such a confined space to sleep in, and have bad back problems because of it. I had no space to sit and be by myself for just five minutes – and even though there were so many people around me, I felt so alone. We all make mistakes and we do pay heavily for mistakes we make abroad; being imprisoned abroad.  I came to terms with the situation I was in which made things a lot easier – I felt more relaxed knowing I had accepted things.

Prisoners Abroad’s family support was amazing – they gave great advice and emotional support to me and my family and made me feel like I wasn’t alone, like I hadn’t been forgotten. Knowing that there were people there caring about me and my family made me feel secure, remembered. Receiving the newsletters made me feel part of a community across the globe, people were reaching out from every corner and being supported by Prisoners Abroad – it was such a precious feeling – identifying with others from their letters and words; I felt connected and positive.

Everything can seem so surreal, but you need a fighting spirit. The money I had been given allowed me to preserve my dignity for which I am so grateful.

I embraced every day and I embraced the culture. It was a hard life in there with nothing – I recognised that and it made me more thankful for the work that Prisoners Abroad do. Thai prisoners were living for the moment, but I was living for the longer term and that’s what hope did; I recognised that and I held onto that. Every thought I had, had to be positive, and that’s the attitude I have carried forward to now. I kept thinking that every day was a step closer to home, and I didn’t allow myself any self-pity. If I slept badly one night, the next day I would think positively and reckon that the following night I would sleep a lot better.

I was released on a Saturday morning and I was moved to immigration and detention – but they don’t accept new people on the weekend. However, nothing could take away from the fact that I was coming home, and I was underneath Prisoners Abroad’s umbrella.

*name changed to protect identity