The following is a letter to insidetime, from issue July 2012
A visitor in distress
From Claire – A prisoner’s relative
I am a grandmother with a granddaughter on remand and have been frustrated by the treatment of myself and my family by the security officers at HMP Bronzefield and I would like to give you some insight into our families feelings, which if you feel it is appropriate you may publish.
What did I do to deserve this treatment?
I am not given eye contact when I speak to prison staff , I am told to wait and left wondering what is happening. I am expected to know all the rules ,I am expected to accept not even the common courtesy of a reply when I ask a question , and I am expected not to receive a reply or acknowledgement to my letters voicing my concerns.
Am I a prisoner? NO, I am a family member who is made to feel guilty for wanting no more than to visit my family in what are already difficult circumstances. At every turn it feels as though my patience is to be tested to the limit, I am given different information from each officer and even when I have done my homework to make sure I am doing the right thing I am told I am not correct and if I have a problem to write to the Head of Security. But I know, from experience, that after several letters I will not even receive an acknowledgement let alone a solution.
I am sure that at times the staff do receive abuse but not from every one, I have never been rude or ignored the person talking to me but it seems I am to be treated as though I have.
I have been told ‘It’s not our problem’, ‘we are short staffed’ , but then I have watched an officer plucking her eyebrows whilst on duty, not very professional! Another day an officer was commenting to her colleague that this was the first time she had been on reception fully staffed in the six months she had been there! I have been advised on what property I can bring on Sunday and when I bring them on the Monday the rules have changed and I can’t leave them, and guess what, it’s that ‘write-in-if-you've-got-a-problem’ solution. Visiting times have been changed without notice or the website being updated, and after I arrive on time visiting starts late and we only get a 45 minute visit. The excuse? ‘It’s not our fault we’re short staffed’, and, wait for it, yes, ‘write in if you have a problem’. On occasions I have been requested to remove my cardigan, and then other times I am not , it seems as though rules are made up and implemented at the staff’s whim depending on how they are feeling.
I realise that rules have to be in place, fine, but at least implement them consistently , and don't treat us with contempt when we question why it’s different depending on whom you talk to. Even a phone call to the prison is difficult, a message has to be left on the majority of occasions and if you do receive a call back - “Bronzefield” is the only word spoken as an introduction , would a ‘hello’ really be that hard?
Why do staff feel they must intimidate and treat with contempt both prisoners and their visitors? Is it a lack of regulation , training, or just because they can?
I have complained but found that it had repercussions not only for me, but also my family and the prisoner. All I ask is that you remember we are not guilty of any other crime than loving our family enough to want to visit and support them and I do believe that even the law considers us all innocent until proven guilty, so please don't treat us as if we are second class and only worthy of contempt and intimidation.
And please could the people who decide to change rules, times or any other procedure , consider the effect on families and at least give us notice and make sure all avenues of information have been updated.
Perhaps if common courtesy was the rule and not the exception you would receive more respect from the majority of people you deal with.
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