Guest blogger, SDV Visitor Mary Child, writes about the experience of life after detention for someone released from Dungavel after many months
Release from detention is surely something that everyone detained longs for for but when it happens it’s not always easy. I met my friend one dark evening, newly free, disoriented, alone and surrounded by belongings at Hamilton bus station. Accommodation, of a sort, in Glasgow is provided by the Home Office, but the means of getting there isn’t. Luckily we had already met during my visits to Dungavel and my friend had the phone number of a car owner to contact. When we found the flat it was dirty, drab and dispiriting in a bleak tower block in an unknown area of an unknown city.
In detention practical aspects of life are all organised for you. Suddenly, he had to negotiate everything from finding the shops and finding and choosing the shopping to working out how to source toilet rolls, cooking pots and light bulbs for the flat. The location of the Home Office building and how to get there needed to be sorted out immediately. Being newly arrived in a strange city with no money wouldn’t have been accepted as an excuse for not signing there the day after release.
A cacophony of new experiences and every mundane task was a challenge. Here’s what my friend remembers, “I was handed Asda vouchers for my weekly shop. Being new in Glasgow meant that I didn’t even know where the nearest Asda store was. Everything was difficult, asking directions, walking miles to the store, walking back with the weekly shop. I suddenly had to share accommodation with strangers, in Dungavel I had a room of my own. Detention doesn’t prepare you for anything, they just open the door and say ‘Go’.”
I was so excited when my friend phoned to say he had been released, but it’s been a difficult transition and many challenges remain. I’m left wondering how other people cope on release. I hope there is someone there to support them in learning how to survive outside after a long period of time in detention.