Personal accounts - Diane Morgan

After a series of unfortunate events I found myself in what I can only describe as a dark place. This is when I began to break the law. I was not a very clever criminal, but I suppose that was my point. After being arrested several times and many court appearances and visits to probation I was sent to prison. Many people would think that this would be the end for me. In fact it turned out to be the opposite.

When I found myself in the prison system I soon realised that my life could be over. I did not receive a long prison sentence, but a day in prison was more than I could bear. For me prison was the start of my recovery. Whilst being on the wrong side of the law I almost lead a double life none of my family were aware of what I had done. So from being taken from court my solicitor had to inform my partner of what had happened. Of course someone also had to tell my children.

I have never felt as alone as I was there.  No one cared whether I was okay or not.  Obviously I know I was there to be punished but it’s such a cruel place.  I arrived late afternoon on a Friday before a bank holiday weekend.  I was allowed to make a call that was only three minutes long. In this call I believe all I did was cry. I had just been strip searched which is such an awful ordeal.  As my partner had no idea that I was in this type of trouble, trying to speak to him, and the fact that my children were left behind, was too much to bear.  Late evening I was taken to my cell and I just cried. I could not believe where I was and how on earth I was going to cope.  I was told my phone credit would be allocated as soon as possible, but of course this was a weekend and a bank holiday weekend. I in fact was not able to phone anyone until the Thursday.

The first morning they opened my cell I was petrified. I did not know what to do, luckily there was an older lady who obviously saw the terror in my eyes and she explained everything, this lady kept me going all the time I was there.

I wrote many letters to explain and my mum decided to send the most horrendous types of letters which made me even more depressed than I was before I went in there.  You realise that no one cares about any problems you may have.  I met women who had problems with alcohol and they went to support groups twice a week in the prison.  There were women with drug problems again they went to groups.  However us women that were depressed were not addressed, not cared about.

I wrote to my children every day, the guilt I felt was awful. I made a decision that I did not want them to visit me as sometimes the visiting room is not a pleasant place to be.  My partner was only ever able to come up on a Saturday and that’s if he could get through on the phone to book a visit.  The visits were awful, I just got so upset and of course my partner had no idea why his once so good girlfriend had ended up in prison. Of course I did not understand it myself so how could I even begin to tell him. 

I realised that I needed help, although that help was not available to me in prison. I knew I wanted to do something, maybe education. I did all the courses that were available to me in prison, although I knew I still did not feel quite right. Whilst in prison I applied for an access course at my local college, thankfully I was accepted and this is where my life was turned around.

In the first week we were told of all the different facilities available to us and this is when I saw the counselling service leaflet. A few days later I rang the number. I had been taking anti-depressants for many years but had never really spoken about my problems. I was so scared of the counselling process and it was very hard every week. I could not believe just how many issues l had. After a few months of this I began to realise I was not this awful person.

My confidence grew - I totally enjoyed my course and decided to apply for university. I am just starting my final year, I am a student rep, mentor and ambassador. My life is hard work but it’s also amazing.

I am still faced with difficult times, but I now have the tools to be able to cope with whatever life has to throw at me. I am going to do my dissertation on mental health issues and how the probation service deal with such matters. This subject is close to my heart as I believe there needs to be more help out there for female offenders who suffer any type of mental illness.

I was lucky that I had the strength to go to college and access the counselling service available there.  I often worry about those who do not have the strength. Prisons and probation should be able to help those of us that suffer depression.  Prison does not address this, and if anything makes anyone suffering depression a lot worse.  When you leave prison you have the problems you went in with and then a hell of a lot more besides. We often see that people reoffend, but this is because people’s issues are not addressed.

Counselling is the way forward and I am sure if women suffering any mental illness are noticed then the offending would possibly stop.  Of course I can only speak for myself but my offending was a cry for help that never got answered.