I took the kids to the cinema yesterday (to see Alvin and the Chipmunks if you want to know). We walked there and then we got the bus home.
As I was paying for one adult and four children and watching all the tickets come shooting out like a ticker tape parade, I heard "Hello, Anne!" behind me. I turned round and there was a fairly recently liberated life sentence prisoner I had come to know well!
A couple of weeks after liberation this man had phoned me at work to say he was missing jail. And yesterday he said that, over the first six weeks or so, he'd experienced a few panic attacks. He has found being out of jail very difficult. This is someone for whom prison is no punishment really - he is "jail-wide", which means he is so experienced in prison life he knows all the dodges and tricks. He knows how to get by in jail. He is looked up to by younger or more inexperienced inmates who come to him for advice. In jail, he IS someone, in a sense. Out of jail, he's - well, he probably feels he's a nobody. And the world has moved on, and he struggles. Alcohol's a big issue for him in the community whereas in jail he's not surrounded by the stuff.
If you're the praying kind, please pray for him. He used to come regularly to the services in jail but I wasn't always sure why! I would hate for him to resort to crime specifically in order to get back to jail where he feels comfortable. He lives within walking distance of our church and has promised many times to come "some time".
And pray for youngsters everywhere who're on the path to where that man is today. He's not particularly young - I believe he's a grandfather - but there are youngsters today in secure units who will get out briefly, get into more trouble, be re-arrested, will graduate to Young Offenders Institution, will get out briefly, get into more trouble, be re-arrested, go to Big Men's Prison, and become as institutionalised as my friend whom I've described. It's not right.