went to prison in a Reiss jumpsuit. You’re allowed to wear whatever you want when you’re locked up in the UK, but there I was in HMP Holloway, wearing a jumpsuit anyway. Every night, I’d wash it in the sink and hang it up to dry in my cell. Then the next day, I’d pull it over my pregnant stomach and go to work in the kitchen, microwaving out-of-date food and stirring huge pans of gloopy stew with Shellacked nails. It wasn’t that I wanted to look amazing. It’s just that I’d never expected to be in jail in the first place, so I didn’t have anything else to wear.
Growing up, I was always incredibly ambitious but I never knew what I actually wanted to do. I ended up leaving school at 16 and working in financial services while studying IT in the evenings. It wasn’t a career I’d ever thought about pursuing, but I was good at it. Within three months, I’d been promoted. When the company went bust a year later, I was devastated, but was quickly headhunted. Then that company collapsed too. By the time I’d been made redundant for a third time, I didn’t know what to do.
It was around then that I fell in love. He was older – he said he was 25, but it later turned out he was 37 – and he seemed to have his life together: he drove a new Range Rover and went on holidays all the time. When he said he was interested in me too, I felt special, and he bought me everything I asked for. A few months into the relationship, I discovered he was committing fraud – stealing money by cloning strangers’ cards or assuming their identities. I felt like I’d been let down by the system so many times already that I just went along with it. Then, when he said he could help me launch my own business, I went along with that, too – renting an office and signing the papers. It was only when he was arrested six months later that I realised I was in over my head.
I knew I was guilty – and that I had to take responsibility for the crime I’d committed – so I turned myself in to the police. Released after days of interviews, I realised I had to turn my life around. I got a new job in PR and moved back in with my family. I felt like I was back at square one, but I stuck at it. Slowly, I started dating again, and last year I fell pregnant by a man I loved and trusted. I finally thought my life was on track – until the police knocked on my door and explained that they were pursuing my case again. Standing in the courtroom at eight months pregnant, I watched my mum crying as I was sentenced to 12 weeks behind bars.
When you’re pregnant in prison, giving birth is the most terrifying thing you can think of. Nobody tells you what’s going to happen – if they’re going to take your baby away from you; if your waters will break in your cell. Thankfully, neither of those things happened to me. After four weeks of stirring soup at Holloway, the stress made me start bleeding. I was taken to the local hospital for a check-up and the midwife decided to keep me there until I went into labour. My family was allowed to visit and I stayed there for a week with my daughter before we were sent to a Mother and Baby Unit in the grounds of the main prison.
With my daughter in my arms, I started thinking about what I needed to do when I was released. For the first time in my life, I had access to all of these different support groups, but I felt sad that I’d had to wait until I was in prison to access that kind of guidance. It dawned on me that when I was freed I could merge all of my passions and set up something to help young women avoid making the same mistakes as me. I wanted to pair girls in need of expertise with women who’d been through it all before. I sat for hours listing names of people who I wanted
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