I have briefly mentioned to you that I work with people suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Call me naive, but I didn't think for a minute that the subject of prisoners families would ever be brought up on the EMI Unit in which I work on. For those of you who don't know, an EMI Unit is a secure unit for the elderly mentally infirm. I sincerely thought that my work as Prison Widow and the work I do with those suffering from this cruel illness would be world's apart. I quickly found out that it was quite the opposite.
When I first took on the role of activities coordinator twelve months ago, the Carer's and family members of the patients that reside on the unit found out that I wrote for Inside Time Newspaper. They started to read my columns and for some it changed their perspectives on prison life. Some of the young women that are employed where I work have a boyfriend/partner in prison and during our breaks, we talk about visits and some of the complications of being a prisoners wife/girlfriend.
Roughly three months ago, a relative of a patient approached me. She took me to one side and informed me that her mother's son, her step-brother, was in prison for an extremely lengthy time.
A number of our residents have family photographs on their walls or in their memory boxes which are often kept on a cabinet at the side of their beds.
The relative, who I will refer to as 'Jane' explained to me something that I had never thought about before.
Her Mum is on a secure EMI Unit and her son is in prison. Neither one of them is in a position to maintain contact with each other. I spend quite some time talking to her mother, and I know that she calls out her sons name frequently. 'Jane' told me that they had arranged for her step-brother to phone his mum when they visited her one time. But due to her mother's irritability and illness, the phone conversation simply wasn't a successful one. I suggested that he write to his mother or send her a card, but the heartbreaking fact of the matter is, he would never receive one back because his mother has lost all ability to write. Their contact is non existence. It is impossible for them to maintain ties on a personal level. Even a simple hug is completely out of the question.
One of my roles to do arts and crafts with the residents making greeting cards amongst many other things that family members can treasure. But prison's would not allow the items in because of the ribbons and gems that we glue on to the cards. Yes, the lady does indeed have dementia, but she is still a mother and a mother that shouts out for her son numerous times during the day. Let us just ask the Government and The Prison Service how maintaining family ties actually works in this particular situation? Think about it, because I am quite confident that 'Jane's' mother is not the only one separated from a loved-one who is serving time in prison.
PRISON WIDOW DAILY