Today was my second session with Sam. After 26 years in custody, he’s due for release next month. It was clear at the outset that we both felt more comfortable in each other’s company today and good to meet without a prison officer present.
As has already become the norm, he respectfully (and unnecessarily) apologised repeatedly for his attire and lack of shaving. I made a joke of not having shaved myself and got the first of his wonderful smiles.
Last time we met Sam talked a lot. It was the second time we’d met and there was 26 years to cover! This time I wanted to focus on his priorities, as his release is just around the corner. As a result of the demanding timeframe his horizons had shrunk to the practicalities of where he will be living, how he will feed himself and how he will manage his mental and emotional health.
I decided to focus on the past two weeks of preparation in order to inform the next two. Sam shared his extraordinary focus and work-ethic with all the tasks he is ticking off, albeit with steps forward and back as is the prison resettlement system. From meeting with CAB and DWP, to lining up health assessments for his benefit claim, resolving his bank account (with no address) and getting a TV sorted for his probation hostel – he made me feel exhausted.
He knows himself best and that he will struggle to socialise with the other residents. By nature of his curfew he’ll be spending a lot of time in his room. Suddenly a TV becomes a mental health issue and with £40 to last until his first benefit payment, it’s going to be tough.
I quoted back at him his productivity of the last two weeks to focus on the next two. He came up with six things he wanted to move forward on that would allay his anxiety about release.
None of this is going to make his release stress-free or straightforward. And it’s important to stress that Sam is pushing all of this. I’m just there to ask (mostly) helpful questions.
Next time I’ll be talking about how we turned his ‘baggage’ into a positive.