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A former prisoner has revealed how being released from jail during the coronavirus lockdown was a 'godsend'.
David Haze, 36, was released from prison on 8 April 2020, and says the moment he walked through the gates, his mum didn't give him a hug and instead sprayed him with 'disinfectant'.
But David, who was convicted of burglary and now works as a consultant for Penal Reform Solutions, says that freedom has never been better than in the middle of a pandemic because it allowed him time and space.
Speaking to LADbible, David said: "I truly believe coming out to lockdown was a godsend. It gave me more time to adjust to life instead of rushing into anything and mending my family ties. My family let me figure things out myself this time instead of showering me with help and it's been the best thing."
He went on: "I remember all the prison staff telling me that I would be better off staying inside prison rather than being released, I thought they were mad. Despite the restrictions of lockdown, I could still get into the fresh air whenever I liked, never had to sit behind a locked door again, moved around at my own free will, looked up at the stars at night, enjoyed a fire in the garden, surfed the internet, binged Netflix, ate what I wanted.
"When I was released and walked through those gates into freedom the first thing my mum did was spray me with disinfectant, no hug or kiss. It was weird seeing the roads so empty and having to queue to go into shops, but you get very used to queuing inside [prison].
"Soon after I got home I went out for a bike ride and remember how quiet it was, no cars, no people, no music - prison is a loud place, which can be intimidating. I put my headphones in and listened to some music of my choice as I cycled with the sun on my face and shed a little tear of happiness."
David, from Bournemouth, continued: "I made all these plans to hit the road running when I was released, get a job, find a flat but I couldn't do any of that due to lockdown and I think if I did jump into it all a few weeks later I would have probably had some kind of breakdown as I wouldn't have taken a moment to adjust.
"Lockdown gave me a chance to stop and smell the roses, assess where I'd just been, take it all on board and evaluate everything. It also gave me time to adjust to life without bars, routine and having everything done for me. But most importantly it gave me the chance to rebuild damaged relationships with the people I cared about most."
David was first charged with and convicted of burglary in 2014 and says he didn't address any of his issues the first time round. Upon being released in September 2015, he started his own company but when things broke down he turned back to burglary in 2017.
The second time round, he was given a sentence of five years and eight months (which he served half of) but he 'took advantage of everything on offer' and attempted to understand himself as much as possible.
Up to now, David has grown his family unit and mended broken relationships, he's got a full time job and is in a loving relationship. On top of this he's done some charity fundraising, walking 100km within 24 hours to help fight modern slavery and travelling 50km on a stand up paddle boarding to raise money for youth unemployment.
During his second stint in prison, he met Kam Stevens who was also serving a sentence for burglary in the same wing. Together they knew they were destined for more meaningful things away from prison.
"Kam and I said no matter what we both work on or create we will always make sure we include the other," David said, adding: "For example, Kam wrote a play in prison which was performed by serving residents and open to the public. This led to his university scholarship.
"With my adventure stuff I do now I make sure Kam is involved filming where he can and I have him as my number 2 on the 'Everest Reform Project'. We made sure that we would always be there for one another, to keep each other positive, inspired and most of all remind each other of the days we have left behind us to move in one direction only, forward."
But one thing's for sure, David won't forget his time in prison any time soon though and speaking about it he explained: "Violence, bullying and drugs are rife throughout the prison system and pretty much something you see nearly everyday, fights, stabbing, intimidation and people overdosing on drugs.
"Mental health is another big issue, people find it hard to get the help they need and the help isn't there. I tried to see a therapist my whole sentence to help with my mental health and it never happened. I should also mention though that there is a lot of talent in prison too, people just need the right nurturing to shine."
David concluded: "I'll forever be on a journey of self discovery, learning who I am and growing as an individual which I believe we should all do. I want to continue to utilise support around me but also continue being a good person, a good son, brother, boyfriend and uncle."
David wants to continue living through adventure and will be highlighting the need for more to be done around reform and rehabilitation, which is why he will be taking part in the Everest Reform Project.
The project will see David, Kam and two prison officers summit Mount Everest in May 2023 to raise awareness around prison reform.
When Covid allows, David also plans to paddle board the four longest lakes in the UK in as many days and is hopeful to set four world records which will also be raising awareness for the charity Alliance of Sport who promote the power of sport in the Criminal Justice System. You can donate to his JustGiving page here.
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