You forget how big the world is when you've been inside for a while, even opening a door for myself feels weird.
Stan is getting ready for release from custody. As part of his preparation for life 'on the out', he's been given permission for some short outings from the prison to help with the transition back into the community.
For his first outing, accompanied by an In2Out member of staff, he went to a cafe and ordered from the menu. This was his first experience of how the community had changed because of COVID, with people wearing face masks and social distancing, which led to a lot of questions.
It's weird being out and having to consider traffic and other people when walking around. Seeing all these people and new things around me is just... a lot.
Next time he went for lunch, but his meal came without any cutlery. At a loss of what to do and who to ask, he talked through his options and decided on a course of action. Returning to his table, with cutlery in hand, he was really pleased at having solved the problem.
After lunch he went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for a meal he wanted to cook. He had drawn up a shopping list and had a budget. Finding the ingredients and comparing prices was a struggle at first but he soon got the hang of it, and finding the best choices boosted his confidence.
Life in prison is not just about the removal of physical freedom - it's Life stripped down. You follow the prison rules and routine - eat what's on offer, when it's time. Banged up. Lights out. Very little choice, very little decision making involved.
What I realised today is that I have so many decisions to make all the time - what to eat, what to buy, where to go - it's quite daunting actually.
Back 'on the out', there's a maze of decision, of directions you must take and actions you must make. Many lads are overwhelmed by the extremes of these situations and, without support and guidance, find it difficult to navigate. In2Out participants have their Mentor to support them, and it's great that this now includes these short releases from custody in preparation for what lies ahead.