I wanted to write this, because even if it helps one person gain the strength, and courage to stand up for their loved one in prison, like I did, then I’ll be happy.
Unfortunately, prisoners very rarely get the chance to stand up and speak out for themselves. Those they leave behind are left to pick up the pieces, and the knock on effects it has is devastating to everyone left on the outside, especially now, with the restrictions due to COVID, it’s very stressful, and near inhumane which makes you worry that little bit more.
So, it started for me when my partner was recalled to prison for a driving offence. He had a previous Imprisonment for Public Protection sentence (IPP) and therefore, the strict license conditions meant there was no choice but to recall him. This decision was made by the PPCS, even though his offender manager (probation officer) didn’t feel this was the necessary action, it was taken completely out of her hands.
I was devastated. Anyone who understands the IPP prisoner recall process will know there is no end date, no time scale to when he will get out, it’s just a case of applying for parole when told it is ok to do so, even then with the IPP we was told, and also know from past experiences it can be a lengthy process, as most IPP prisoners will be deferred to an oral hearing, which can take a while to actually get a date for.
But I wasn’t prepared to sit back and wait, especially when he has 4 children at home, all completely heartbroken, the youngest being 6 months old at the time.
I had constant correspondence with the probation officer and solicitor, and was asking for any advice as to what I can do to help. I was advised that references can help, from people who know him well such as his family or people of the community. I had numerous references written up by teachers from the children’s school, their football coaches, my family, his family, and ex employers. These references were all very positive, and all spoke highly of his character. Some even offered bursary and jobs upon his release.
I never went a day without emailing and telephoning anyone I could to ask for help, or to get advice and information. I read up and researched every night, so I had enough knowledge to know exactly what the process was, and what he was entitled to, as well as deadlines the system had to give him decisions etc.
After 4 weeks in he was sentenced. 9 months for the driving offence, but that didn’t mean he was coming home once that was over, due to him being recalled on an IPP license. They reduced the sentence to 5 months, due to the positive references, the email his probation sent supporting his release, and also due to the conditions in the prison due to COVID. We were happy with the result, as it could of been worse, but we were still unsure of an actual release date due to the recall process.
I think the not knowing when he was coming home was the worst part of it all. I was devastated. I felt numb. I felt an actual pain in my heart. I couldn’t think straight all day every day all I could think of was him, in there, and not knowing how long for. Then looking at the baby thinking how old will she be when he gets out, is he going to miss her first steps, first words, first birthday?
This was all new to me. I didn’t know what to do what was going to happen. Not knowing the process, and feeling helpless, was the most difficult part for me, so I got stuck in, and tried to educate myself as much as possible.
I found Twitter was quite helpful this gives daily updates on prison conditions and backlogs in parole due to COVID.
Websites such as Email a Prisoner, where you can send emails and pictures, and they get printed out by wing staff and handed to the prisoner everyday.
Prison Phone is great, as it is a cheaper way to connect via phone. Tariffs to mobiles are quite high from the prison so this really helps keep the price per minute down, and helps you manage their credits.
There is lots of help and advice out there you just need to look, which can be hard to do if your mind is elsewhere with worry, but you will never know if you don’t try and find out. I just kept researching and looking up on the Government websites, as we were told he would never get a paper hearing but yet he did, and is now due to come home next week after us initially thinking it would be years. This was all thanks to his solicitor and probation of course, but I honestly think if I hadn’t of gained the knowledge and confidence to ask for what he was entitled to and constantly speaking to officials we wouldn’t be in this position.
In the midst of all this I found my passion. I became very intrigued by it all and was interested to learn about the system, the process, and just law in general, especially criminal and prison law, so I have now enrolled on to a access to law course. Hopefully with further education I can pursue a career in law. So if anything this has been the worst experience for me, but has had a positive ending, and I feel like this happened for me to find my path maybe? It has also brought us closer and given us the chance to appreciate each other more.
So, as I said, if this helps one person I’ll be happy. Just stay positive, gain knowledge of the system, speak up for your loved one, and always remember it’s not going to be forever, no matter how long it is.