A Sydney socialite who spent eight months in a prison cell is now hoping to make up for her crimes by supporting women who have found themselves in her shoes.
Annabel Walker spent eight months behind bars after being jailed for fraud and deception in September 2020.
The 33-year-old extorted about $26,000 from those closest to her including her friends and boyfriend.
She defrauded her former employer, hotel operator Australian Leisure Group, out of $17,000.
Walker, who once wore designer clothes, said she now treasures a cheap white singlet she bought in prison using her $16 weekly wage, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Former Sydney socialite Annabel Walker has opened up on what her life is like after spending eight months in prison for fraud and deception
‘I can’t throw it out because I worked hard for these singlets. It reminds me of how excited and proud of myself I was when I got it,’ she said.
Walker spent a stint at Silverwater women’s jail but served the majority of her sentence at Dillwynia Correctional Centre.
She says she believed prison was the only way she was going to ‘set myself straight’.
Surrounded by women convicted of terrifying crimes, Walker watched on in horror as inmates got into violent fights or took drugs.
‘You’re with some people who aren’t stable and I think that’s probably the scariest thing because everything is heightened,’ she said.
‘And that’s one of the hardest things because you never feel safe.’
She said she quickly had to get used to a lack of privacy, recalling a fellow inmate holding up towels around her so she could shower without being filmed.
Instead of dining at fancy restaurants as she did before her stint in jail, Walker lived off crackers and tuna as she struggled to stomach the meals provided to her.
Despite once living in a prison cell, Walker said it was her release back into society that was harder.
She said she was overwhelmed with anxiety about the judgement she received having been a former inmate.
She secured a rental property to live in but getting employment wasn’t as easy.
Walker stole thousands from friends and even her boss but has vowed she will never break the law again
The 33-year-old said she sent about 50 messages to women’s justice organisations but getting a call back was near impossible.
Walker eventually enrolled in a program which helps mentor and find jobs for women with criminal records named Success Works.
She was later referred to another organisation Keeping Women Out of Prison where she secured a role as an executive assistant.
The 33-year-old is now working on a program which details every step of life in prison from when the sentence is handed down to release day.
Speaking earlier this year in an interview with No Filter, Walker said she felt like she had a ‘target’ on her back in prison due to her privileged upbringing.
Walker said despite living in a jail cell for eight months, the transition back to society was even harder
She used to show off her lavish lifestyle on social media, drinking champagne at expensive Sydney eastern suburbs restaurants, wearing designer handbags, and holidaying in luxurious resorts – making the transition to prison that much harder.
‘I definitely did have a target on my back because I was well-spoken and I also was just oblivious to everything going on,’ she said.
‘There’s two kinds of people in jail. There’s the ones that look at you and just see that you’re suffering and you might be weak and they might want to help you. And then there’s ones that see that as ”I’m gonna walk all over you”.’
Walker now works for an organisation that helps support women in the criminal justice system
She said while she saw a ‘lot of love’ during her prison stint, jail was a ‘frightening’ place to be.
‘There’s a lot of drugs in prisons, but women that are pregnant like a woman shot up something at eight months pregnant and lost her baby,’ she said.
‘She’d stayed sober for eight months, got the temptation and then she had a stillborn.’
Walker is hoping to turn her life around by supporting women with criminal records, having being jailed herself for eight months
Walker described having regular ‘degrading’ strip searches at all hours of the day and night.
‘If you have your period you have to pull your tampon out and show them that it’s not drugs. And I’ve had that happen where I’ve had my period and pretty degrading,’ she said.
In another blow, Walker’s uncle and grandmother both died while she was behind bars, meaning she missed both of their funerals.