Genevieve talks about the reality of prison at the age of 59 and the impact of leaving her family behind in the US after deportation

I was 59 when I went to prison in the US, my first experience with the prison system, or for that matter any offence. But there I was, facing a two-year prison term, which seemed at the time to be my worst nightmare.

You need a primary source of strength that allows you to face and cope with daily prison life, and from the beginning I made a choice to find whatever joy I could regardless of my surroundings. This was a culture I had never experienced and people I thought I had very little in common. The loneliness and isolation were constantly there. I was able to make a couple of real friends but felt constantly vulnerable; you never knew what might be used against you. Those I befriended happened to be released well before me which then added to my distress.

So as I was reaching the end of my sentence, being deported back to England was not considered to be the slightest possibility. I was one when my English-born-and-raised parents immigrated to America and had lived in Texas ever since, married for over 30 years, with four children and five grandchildren: all American citizens.

But deportation was imminent - I had a month left.

My husband contacted the British Embassy to find out what options were available to help me and they told him about Prisoners Abroad. Thank God, and I say that with all love and respect.

I arrived back in England without knowing a soul. I had no family left here, and the knowledge that I was banned from ever returning to the US left the future bleak. It was like having the air sucked out of me. How was I going to make it? I was 61 and was full of ‘how do I…’ questions. I was alone, truly alone, for the first time in my life.

Scared? Oh yes I was.

My wonderful, loving and supportive family are back in the States but it’s up to me now. That’s when Rob Trotman, Resettlement Officer, saved my life. I walked into the Prisoners Abroad office fresh off the plane after a 10-hour flight, taken from incarceration with a small bag of a few items. Rob welcomed me like he had known me forever: an old friend stopping by for a visit. They paid for me to stay in a hostel and helped with food and transportation costs for two and a half months. I could go to their offices every day for help and a friendly, safe place to start reintegrating back into English life. At the time, each day felt so much longer than 24 hours. So much to accomplish, but there was Rob, every day like my old friend, kind, respectful and knowledgeable of what the processes were and telling me that it would all work out.

It was very hard - that almost sounds trite and a little whiney - but I was so lonely and scared. But each day I decided that I could do this; I had strong support from Rob and Prisoners Abroad. They have guided and continue to guide me in the right direction.

It’s been seven months now, and I’m in my own flat; I’m very involved in volunteering and looking for paid employment. I’ve learnt so much about where the resources are when I need more help. But it all started with Prisoners Abroad, and they are still there for me when I have questions, a wonderful resource to help keep me moving forward.

This is what I want, what society wants; self-sufficient, independent, positive and caring people reintegrating back into society.

Preventing homelessness is crucial.

Prisoners Abroad supports people who return back 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.