Whether you have been inside for just a quick visit of a few weeks, remanded in custody or served a long sentence you will have grown used to prison. Whilst release is never as great a shock as going inside for the first time, it can never the less be quite a shock to the system.
All decision making has been taken away from you, you will, most of the time, have been treated like a criminal, an idiot, a danger to society. Swear words will be ingrained in your mind to be uttered every few words even to your best friends or women. The odd Prison Officer who might have treated you like a person will have been like an oasis in a desert of misery and despair but remember you have survived.
If you are to survive life on the outside you need to prepare. If you have nowhere to live you will need a home to go to. If you have no money you will need money to live. See your entitlements to money on leaving. You will not be penniless on release but you will be soon after.
One way the system tries to help you adjust is to have home visits and community visits during the last weeks and months of your sentence. Obey the rules as any breach could get you longer inside. This means staying clear of pubs, drugs and trouble. Also being back on time and not trying to smuggle anything back inside.
Shelter, the local authority and other agencies will be able to help you obtain new accommodation but if you think this is a good fresh start, think again. You must make contact with these people to make sure you have a place to live.
If you can make contact with the Benefits Agency before you leave prison it is likely to speed up the process of securing your income.
You need to ensure in the last few days in Prison that you have everything you came in with including anything purchased or handed in at reception. Give away spare phone cards, food etc to other prisoners. If you want to hand over your radio to another prisoner than ask permission.
All prisons have their own procedure for leaving. At one I was in there was a paper chase on the last day. Getting signatures from all over the prison to say that you had handed back all equipment taken eg library books, prison chaplain, gym.
Resist the temptation to party the night before. I realise that if you are anywhere except a Cat D open prison the ability to party is somewhat limited but you will know if there is alcohol or drugs around. You are likely to be tested before leaving, so don't give cause for a negative test. After all you want to be out, not in on a charge.
If you intend to keep in touch with your mates inside remember to take their contact details. Be wary of giving your contact details on the outside to people who might be very nice and helpful inside but with whom you would not want to mix on the outside.
The last night will be pretty sleepless but the cold and rude Prison Officers will continue to the last. Try not to be provoked by their actions or utterances.
On morning of release in the prison which I last attended, an open prison, the process was for a cell inspection by the Wing Officer and then attendance at Reception with all personal belongings, bedding and the Paper Chase signatures. Then strip off and dress in your own clothes, sign the license, sign for all clothing and property, then to see the Release Officer who will supply you with a rail warrant, release grant and any money left over from personal cash and earnings. Then on the bus to the station.
The outside world will appear so beautiful and the local pub is attracting you like a magnet. Only when you are home can you relax.