I escaped my thug ex by going to prison – but now I live in a car park selling oral sex for £25 to survive
- The Sun Uk
- Sex & Love
STANDING in a car park in her underwear, with all her belongings scattered around her, Gemma pulls up a pair of black, lacy stockings as she prepares to meet a client.
Recently freed from prison, the mum-of-two is homeless and using sex work to fund her drug habit - charging strangers £50 for sex, £200 for the night or £40 for a 'girlfriend experience'.
Living in the cold Swindon car park, she shrugs ripped blue jeans over her stockings and carefully applies makeup to her face, determined to look good for her clients.
She says: "I get £25 a b*** job, £50 for sex, £100 an hour or £200 for the night.
"I got £40 the other day for a girlfriend experience. He just took me out, we had a few beers and a few cigarettes and I got paid £40 for that."
Gemma, who hasn't seen her kids for more than a year, is appearing in Channel 4's new programme Life After Lock-Up, which follows the lives of eight convicted criminals for a year as they deal with life outside prison walls and try to reintegrate into society.
Incredibly Gemma explains how she'd rather live in a car park than the accommodation she's been offered 20 miles away and said she thoroughly enjoyed her time in prison.
"I love prison, I ain't gonna lie," the mum tells producers, displaying two missing teeth that were allegedly knocked out during an attack by her abusive ex.
Figures show more than half of prisoners will be back behind bars within 12 months of their release, with re-offending estimated to cost UK taxpayers £15 billion a year.
Gemma, who is battling mental health issues and ‘suicidal lows’ as well as a drug addiction, was jailed for six weeks for shoplifting and criminal damage.
'When you're living like this, prison's a nicer alternative'
Now released, she is fending for herself - and admits she preferred being locked up.
"When you're living like this, prison's a nicer alternative."
She says that during her time behind bars, she was warm and dry, living in a safe environment free from abuse, and fed every day.
In contrast, while homeless, she has found herself so hungry she’s had to resort to jumping in skips and desperately rummaging through waste to find food.
Gemma has been living in the car park in the Wiltshire town since before she was jailed, after deciding to leave her ex and their three-bedroom home.
'You just put up with things when you're in love'
She claims her former partner smashed her teeth out, split her head open and broke her cheekbone, jaw and nose - although he has never been charged.
"You just put up with things when you're in love, don't you?" the mum says in the first episode of the three-part documentary series, which airs tonight.
She also hasn’t seen her two young children for more than a year after they were taken off her by social services amid her chaotic life at home.
Gemma, who has been on the streets for 14 months, spent several nights in a B&B provided by the council following her release from prison.
'Drugs numb you from the cold'
But the accommodation was around 20 miles away from her hometown and, preferring to stay in Swindon, she soon returned to the car park.
Now, she lives a life of sex work, rough sleeping and drugs - which she says “numb your pain” and “numb you from the cold”.
In the programme, Gemma is filmed getting high on drugs, as she compares the ‘rush’ she gets to a mum holding their newborn baby for the first time.
“You know your highest high in life… it's nearly up there with that,” she says.
She adds that she used to spend about £1,800 a day on illegal substances - blowing an estimated £400,000 on crack and cocaine in her first six months of getting hooked.
It's unclear how she managed to get the money.
Gemma tells producers: “I’ve been in stilettos around the swimming pool, sniffing as much coke as I can, smoking as much crack as I can - I ain't got s*** now.”
The mum is also filmed visiting a stall run by Alternative Angels, a group of local volunteers serving up warm drinks and hot meals to people in need.
She picks up some hot chocolate and crumble.
And in another clip, she looks through all the belongings she owns in the car park - including Picnic bars, pain relief, a charger and some Robinsons Squash'd.
Gemma claims she’s been seeking help for her housing and mental health issues for the past two years, but seems to be stuck in a ‘catch 22’ situation.
'Just because I've been homeless doesn't mean I don't paint my toenails'
She tearfully says she can’t ‘deal with her head space’ when she’s off drugs - but when she’s on them, she can’t live the life she wants to with her children.
She describes every day as ‘torture’ - but there is one thing that cheers her up.
"I like looking good, it makes you feel better,” she says.
“I love doing my makeup and that. Just because I've been homeless doesn't mean that I don't paint my toenails and I don't wash and I don't do my makeup.”
Another ex-offender who appears in the programme is Chris, who served 32 years behind bars for murder after delivering 16 blows to his victim.
Now out on parole, he is filmed enjoying a Full English breakfast as a relative tells him: “Forget about it, you're a free man. Live your life now, our kid.”
Chris tells producers he was 19 when he was arrested for murder in January 1986, and that it’s still difficult for him to speak about his ‘horrendous’ offence.
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However, he appears to try to blame the London killing on underlying issues caused by abuse he allegedly suffered at boarding school, when he was a teen.
He even claims he’s not a violent person - but by the end of the first episode, after just 62 days of freedom, he is back in prison again for assaulting a police officer.
Other convicted criminals who appear in the episode include Azhar, whose relationship with his wife broke down after he was locked up for burglary, and Rhys, who has spent 34 out of the past 38 months in prison after carrying out drug offences, assaults and other crimes.
- Life After Lock-Up starts tonight (Monday, April 8) at 10pm on Channel 4