Drake Hall's creative writing

Time to think about women

Drake Hall’s new Writer in Residence, is working with women to produce a magazine, ‘Take a Drake’, and this month, for Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, they have agreed to let PET publish some of the women’s stories. Under the heading ‘Time to think about women’, the editorial team put together creative writing, letters and described women who they were inspired by.

Colin Whitfield Activities custodial manager at Drake Hall, said: “'Take a Drake' allows women to contribute original works to the magazine in a positive way; supported and guided by the writer in residence.

"They get a real sense of achievement when they see their words published. This in turn can boost self esteem and give them confidence as they move forward on the road to release."

My Learning Journey: Gemma

Coming to prison was a massive shock. When I first arrived I used to play up and I thought I could beat the system. But as time went on I realised jail can make you or break you. You can make your sentence harder or easier. So, I took a step back from playing up. One day I woke up and said to myself I need to pull myself together to get through my sentence quicker. The name of the game is to stay focussed and busy. I have moved around different prisons, but the best rated is Drake Hall.

I go to work every day. In my spare time I read, write and draw. I go to the gym most days and I have done various course within the prison.

Here’s what I have achieved: NVQ Level 2 hospitality and catering; Level 2 Business; Qualifications in graphic design; computing; maths and English; food and hygiene level 2 and gym certificates.

I have realised just to settle down and keep calm and carry on. I’ve also done different jobs in prison, working in the kitchens and the gardens. I have done quite a lot of gardening projects, gardening is good therapy. Now I am working in DHL.

My message to other women in prison is: no matter what life throws at you, you keep walking until the light at the end of the tunnel gets bigger and bigger. Hold onto hope, behave and keep focussed.

 

Your sentence will be over before you know it and then you can lead a brighter, happier and better future. Never look back once those gates open. Keep smiling!

Gemma

Through the Gates – by Sarah

As my time here comes to an end, the overwhelming excitement and fear that combine together is a nice yet sickening feeling. I don’t normally wish my time away, but God knows how badly I want this day to come. I visualise where my new life and the journey I have chosen to will take me. There are paths that divide. The only way is up for me. The time I have to make it up to my family, getting to meet my nephew for the very first time, the bonding I will build between family and friends.

Walking through the gates will be like the limelight is on me and I yearn to do the right thing.

To stop and think before I act. The walking away from people, places and things when I feel uncomfortable.

To do someone a good turn everyday without getting caught out.

To dress as well as I can and to learn something new every day.

To be the person my mum and dad brought me up to be.

To smile at myself anytime I look in the mirror.

To give thanks every day I wake up.

To accept the things that I had the courage to change.

To put the effort in to make a difference when I can.

To take everything I have learned – good and bad – and turn it into something beyond.

To help others to ensure they don’t choose and live the life I once lived. Giving back to the community.

To know that even though I spend time behind doors it has made me a stronger, wiser woman .

To be proud to walk out with my head held high.

My Learning Journey - Florina

Coming to the prison made me realise I must learn to put myself first.

I always looked after my family and the others but I have always been the last. I missed years of my life just working and I have been happy just to provide for my family making their lives beautiful. For me it was enough to see them smiling and this would mean the world to me.

Being imprisoned I do have time to think and analyse my life and I want to make changes in my future life. I have plans to travel the world and to not miss any Christmas and Easter holidays no more. I know it would take a while but I am sure it will happen just because now I am ready to make the changes and I accept it was wrong to look only after the others and not myself.

We are learning from our mistakes and I can say now ‘’I have learned’’.

Florina

An Inspirational Woman by Paula

Baroness Jean Corston has campaigned for women in prison most of her life. She would like to see more community based sentences that help women maintain family ties and sustain employment opportunities. Jean is forward thinking and seems to understand the impact of putting women in prison.

She thinks that teaching women a lesson by incarceration is barbaric and unjust. She campaigns for better health and social care interventions in the community which prevent women falling into the criminal justice system. I recently wrote to the Baroness for inspiration on ways I can campaign for improved support for vulnerable women. I am pleased to say she took time to write back and she gave me some ideas.

I would like to see women and men with addiction issues getting the residential rehabilitation treatment they need in order to stop committing petty offences. Rehab costs about £8000 where as jail costs £45000 per year per person. In the male prisons more than 60% go on to re-offend within two years so clearly there is something very wrong with how we as a society manage those offenders with addictions. When I leave prison I will be campaigning for clearer pathways from courtrooms into treatment centres.

Before I came to prison I had been clean and sober for 11 years. During this time I had worked in residential and prescribing drug services. I achieved a University degree in Public Services Management and a 3 year Diploma in counselling. I relapsed and was given a prison sentence. I felt upset that I didn't get the funding for treatment as my relapse and mental health were so poor. During my sentence I beat myself up a lot and had such regret. But now I'm trying to focus on what I can do to improve and recover.

I have put my time into setting up NA meetings and assisting in education. I am writing a book and focusing on getting work in drug services. Anyone in prison with addiction problems can get recovery here at Drake. We are not evil people getting good. We are sick people getting well.

If you can see your addiction as a serious illness then you can change. Imagine a life without the madness. A job, car, family and self -respect. All these things are possible if you are willing to get yourself to the recovery groups. A lot of people will say negative stuff about recovery but don't listen to garbage. Do it for you. Life will be beyond your wildest dreams.

Inspirational Women

Susanne Mubarak

She was the woman who changed the lives of all the women in the Arabic world. She was fighting for the equality of women in the Arabic world and she was the one who achieved the right for women to drive a car. Her other achievements include the right to free speech and equality for women and men. She made life better for Arabian women.

Hafida

Diana

Princess Diana was born 1961. She is my role model because she was very independent, she always stood on her own two feet. She loved to help people less fortunate than herself. She travelled to different countries helping people. She was an amazing mom who loved her children!

Nardein

PLEASE NOTE - The images shown here were taken at HMPYOI Drake Hall, but do not depict the women who wrote these stories