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  • I think it was my first day in prison that I met Andy. I was there in my black t shirt, black army trousers, black boots, trying to be inconspicuous. I was a blonde woman, in an all male prison.... My job was to find men who wanted drug treatment on the out, to prepare them for it, to set it up, to take them there and to let go. Only the last bit was really hard.

    I got given Andy's name and cell number so walked on over. On the landing, a 6ft 6, well pumped black guy stood in my way. You Andy, I asked? Already I surprised him. No staff call inmates by their first name. Its meant to be something to do with them knowing their place. I think its about making them feel like dogs. I explained to Andy why I was there. He loomed over me, not saying a word, but staring, not smiling. I paused.

    Do I intimidate you? He slowly asked.
    Yes. Yes you do. You are fucking huge, I replied, laughing a little too much....

    From that moment on, Andy and I were friends... Of a sort. I was paid to professionally help him. But what is friendship if its not enjoying each others company, sharing values, mutual admiration and shared humour.

    Andy was, on paper, a bad man. If he was a cartoon, he would have been drawn with monobrow. This man, I got to know, was gentle because in here he could be. He was funny, because in here it was not a weakness. He used his intelligence to reflect and grow, because here he had time and safety.

    Andy worked hard with me. I am guessing he had never talked about his feelings so much. And I am not taking the credit, it was just his time and I had the honour to be there while it was happening.

    Andy chose to do day rehab. With the help of colleagues outside, we got him a house to go to when his time was done. I visited a few times. I could see he was scared. The last time I went, I could see he was high, and he was so ashamed.

    His community worker kept on with him long after my role was deleted. The intense work we did was unique and had huge successes. But we were expensive as intense work means low numbers. Lives seem to be only worth enriching if they are plentiful.

    So Andy, last I heard he was in rehab and doing well. I am so proud of him for all he is and was. And I want to believe he is happy, in love, safe, and creative. I would not be surprised to find him on cowbird....

    He gave me a gift that I hold dear. And I hope he knows that.

    Sent from my Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
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