Beth's story

I probably have about 200 tattoos. I'm in my late 40s and each one holds meaning and represents a period in my life. My parents never liked them, and I think their reactions after my first made me get more. Of course, they can feel like a hindrance. People see them and make a judgement, but they don't know me. Some people will ask if they hurt, and I say that I've experienced more hurt in my life than at any time under an ink needle.

I didn't have an easy childhood. When I was 7, I witnessed violence between my parents daily. It was normal; I didn't think anything of it. If my brother was getting a beating, I would just continue to watch the tv.

Looking back, I realise how wrong that was for a child to witness. Every bit of your upbringing shapes your behaviour as an adult. I know that environment has had an impact on my life. It made me desensitised to violence.

It's easy for people to think that prison is a simple life. It's not like what you see on TV. I talked to the photographs and had conversations with them just for something to do. Sixty seconds didn't go by where I wasn't aware that I was in prison. For ten years, I lived like this.

My daughter was 13 when I first went to prison. She didn't fully understand the situation, and I could see the way it damaged her. I missed so much of her growing up.

I never had much of an education when I was younger. I was embarrassed that I couldn't read or write well. So, when my daughter became a qualified nurse, I was full of pride.

In prison, I tried to better myself and use the time to make a difference. I discovered fitness and found comfort in distance running. I had never considered myself athletic, but through a gym orderly, I found my feet. I was soon running 10 miles every day, and my mental health was better, my physical health was better, and my attitude was better. The orderly helped me achieve my Fitness Level 1, 2 and 3 certificates. I found something that I was good at.

After I was released, my experience at my first Approved Premise (AP) was not good. I had little support, and I was always walking on eggshells. I felt myself slip back into the life I thought I had outgrown. A short while later, I was recalled and spent another year in prison. I wanted this to be the last time I ever stepped foot inside. So when I entered Hestia’s AP, I was so grateful. I felt the support of the staff from day one. They help me stay on the right track, and I know they will be there to listen on the tough days. 

After ten years, I finally see myself ready to move on with my life. I have learnt from my mistakes, and I never want to be back 'behind the door'.

At times I have felt broken. Both my parents died while I was inside. I could say goodbye to my mum in hospital, but I couldn't go to the funeral, which was my fault. I had committed a crime, and I needed to pay for it.

I want people to know that no matter how long you spend in there, it's time you're never going to get back. It helps to look for the positives and the right people to hang around with. Take the time to find an interest, whether it be fitness, a gardening course, cooking course, anything that you can work towards.

Now, I'm a better person, a better mother, a better everything because I used my time the right way.

One day, I want to go for a run and come back and sit down in my living room, with my slippers on and watch whatever I want on the TV. By then, I'll probably have a couple more tattoos, and I'll be so happy.