I thought, four years ago when I decided to write to a prisoner in Bang Kwang prison that it would be a once a month or so exchange of letters, keeping his spirits up and some general chit chat. I chose Gary so that just was never going to happen :-)
My husband and I have got to know Gary so well over the past four years all via the written word.
We sent parcels over to help him and his fellow prisoners, passed on messages and generally did what we could to help “the old man”.
Gary in now in his 60’s and has been in prison for over 9 years. Nine very hard years in “the Bangkok Hilton”. Not many farangs (foreign prisoners) manage to survive for so long especially at his age. Gary really is an exceptional man.
So he is home and in Wandsworth Prison in London. He is hoping to be moved to a more suitable prison in the next few months. He is a category B prisoner “Those who do not require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult”. Hopefully in time this will change.
Gary is at present allowed 2 hour visits a month, but as he had no visits for the first months he has been in prison we were able to have two consecutive hours. The previous blog has described the process we went through to visit Gary but I would like to add that at no point did I feel intimidated, scared, upset or otherwise uncomfortable before, during or after the visit. The other visitors are friendly and helpful, the staff and guards are equally friendly and very
efficient, there is a bit of waiting around while they process everyone’s id but to be honest there was less hassle than flying to America.
The best part of the visit was putting our arms around Gary and hugging. He has such an open happy face, his eyes have a twinkle about them hiding all he has been through and still going
Gary is a real character, he starts telling you about one thing and then whoosh off he goes on a tangent and ten minutes later he has lost total track of what he started talking about lol. We are having to go back and visit to get the end of several stories he started but never finished as he meandered through his thoughts, having so much to share with us.
During the visit we laughed, oh boy did we laugh, he has such a wicked sense of humour and thankfully we all seem to laugh at the same things. He tries so hard to pull my leg but just gets
himself in a tizzy and ends up being put on the virtual “naughty step”.
Being able to have a cup of tea and a snack makes the visit seem very civilised. We held hands off and on during the visit and even had a sneaky kiss (a peck lol). I at no point felt the presence of the guards who were of course watching, they did so from a discrete distance and I never noticed them stopping others kissing and hugging over the table during their visits. At the end of the visit we had more hugs and kisses and left with big smiles, knowing that we will be able to visit him
again. But looking back as we left the room I saw a little old man sitting alone at a table and my heart went out to him. He should not still be in prison.
The move back to a British prison has not been easy for Gary. The cultural shock after living in Bangkwang for 9 years must be very hard for him. Though he is getting medical care it seems very slow coming. He has not yet seen a dentist and what teeth he does have left are in great need
of attention and he needs dentures. He has just had his first visit to an optician and hopefully he will have new glasses soon. His eyesight has deteriorated greatly over the years in Bangkwang and he has great trouble seeing with the glasses he is now wearing.
Gary is in lock down for long periods of time, as are the other prisoners in Wandsworth and he gets little time out of doors. After being in Bangkwang where most of the time he was out of doors or locked in the very over crowded cage, not being allowed outdoors is hitting him hard. It is not the prison systems fault, they are overcrowded and it is a prison, not a holiday camp, but this is an aspect of being back here that Gary is finding hard to get used to. I am sure there are
other problems Gary is finding being in a British jail but Gary being Gary only touched on them as he keeps the conversation on happy subjects and very rarely does he talk of the bad things he has been through or the bad side of his life now.
If anyone who reads Garys blogs would like to write directly to him, even just a post card saying hello would be gratefully received. Or if you would like to send him an email that we will print out and forward on to him then again Gary love to hear from you.