For obvious reasons, the identity of the prisoner who is writing for us is kept anonymous. But here is an insight of what he thinks of some of the posts that have been featured on Prisoners Families Voices. Here is the first article:
Dear Prisoners Families Voices. May I start by saying a grateful thank you for the support you are continuing to give freely to my partner. I am a serving prisoner in Her Majesty's Prison and will be released in 2017.
Over the past six months, my partner has been sending in clippings from your blog site which have made interesting reading. Please do continue to keep up the excellent informative work.
I would like to share with your readers, my experience of prison visiting from the other side of the table. Before I continue, I would like to add that my articles to you will not necessarily focus on my time inside, but to give your readers an insight of how prisoners feel their families, friends and relatives are feeling. I have asked that once all 8 of my articles have been posted on to the blog site, the Editor has permission to reveal which prison I am currently serving my time in.
I am in the age bracket of between 30-50 years of age. My partner, son, and father, all come to visit me. My father comes once a month, and my partner and son visit once a fortnight, so I consider that as regular family contact of which I am truly grateful for. One topic in particular caught my eye when browsing through the clippings of your blog site in which my partner posted to me, was the subject on dementia. An individual on the wing has much experience of this, as his mother visits him and suffers with the illness. Let me just add by saying that prisoners have to support each other, as there isn't any support network in here for issues surrounding family. Some prisoners help others to read and write. Some listen to those who are in bereavement and others hear and support those with family issues. Sometimes, the wing is one big counselling service because there are no services provided by the prison itself. We have too, of a word, 'get on with it.' Referring back to the individual whose mother has dementia. Many of your readers it seems have asked if the prison officers/custody officers have had training in this particular field. If they have, I have seen no evidence of it in practice. I have been present in the visits room when the individual on my wing had a visit from his mother. She was accompanied by what appeared to be a friend, or maybe sister. During the visit, the lady became extremely agitated and shouted at the prisoner sat facing her. Because the majority of us are ignorant, call it human nature, we stared at the table with the commotion on it. The prisoner, along with the lady accompanying his mother, were anxious, embarrassed, and visibly upset. A prison officer attended to the table and both ladies walked out. The prisoner was then escorted back to the wing.
After my visit, I made a point of finding the prisoner. I know how rotten he must have felt, because you see, I was once a carer for my grandma who eventually passed away with the illness. It appeared that the prison officer didn't ask them to leave. But on the other hand after being told the situation, the two ladies who had travelled just under two hours to see the prisoner, were not offered any other alternative in the form of a quiet room that could have been monitored by someone 'in the know.' They left just 20 minutes in to their visit and may I add, had to travel home on public transport. The prisoner was distraught because his mother's illness had worsened since the last time he saw her, therefore was a shock to his system. Only I had the common decency to talk to the prisoner and hoped I made a difference by sharing my experiences with dementia. We all hear about how someone's partner/friend/stranger even, were caught passing drugs over to a prisoner on a visit and the commotion that goes with it, but we never hear about situations that really do matter such as dementia, disabilities, mental health issues and other obvious illnesses that enter visit rooms. Only the other week, a lady in a vibrant colorful headscarf entered the visits room. The prisoners burst in to tears. It was his mother who was terminally ill with cancer. Again, no privacy, no offers of a single visiting room, no fuck all. I promised myself I wouldn't swear writing these articles for you, but as you can fully understand, it leaves a very bitter taste in your mouth when you witness something as callous as that. And callous it is. I have no issues with the prison officers. In fact, I can honestly say that I am treated well and fairly. But the system do not train their officers to deal with issues I have written about. We have watched endless TV documentaries on prison officers struggling to deal with prisoners suffering with mental health illnesses. Here is a suggestion for any media/TV companies that read your blog site. Try making a documentary on some real issues like dementia, disabilities, cancer, and other illnesses that frequently walk through the doors of visiting rooms. Fuck the boring repetitive documentaries of families and prison officers smuggling drugs in to prison, get your teeth around issues that really matter. Lets be truthfully honest, drugs will always wriggle their way in, they have wormed their way in for years and always will.
PART 2 TOMORROW