Steve is two years into an eight year sentence for possession of a firearm. He was asked to hold a gun for a friend in exchange for cash. Steve was going through some financial problems at the time. He would not snitch on his friend so took the conviction and was “made an example of” by the judge. He has a long-term girlfriend, Shelly (aged 30) and three children; James (aged 10), Jade (aged 7) and Joshua (aged 2). Joshua was born the week Steve was sentenced.
Steve calls Shelly.
You may well have new responsibilities now your family member has gone to prison. For example, you may now be the sole parent if you have children. You might need to work out with you family member what their role is in the relationship whilst they are inside. Do you want them to try and help solve problems? Or perhaps sometimes you want them to just listen and be supportive.
Talking with your family member can help make you and them feel normal. You can stay connected with them by talking about day to day things. If you don’t have much to say about what’s been happening on the out (especially if you have been stuck at home due to the pandemic), you can always talk about good times you had with each other in the past and/or talk about what you are looking forward to in the future. The Coronavirus pandemic has put lots of extra strain on life on both sides of the prison wall and it is important to try and remain mindful of this.
A face to face visit during the pandemic is very different to a normal visit. IF they are allowed, you will be sat two to three metres apart and your will have to wear face coverings provided by the prison. There will be no physical contact of any kind. Closed visits are available as an alternative to this but you need to accept the limitations that a closed visit brings ie you and your family member will be sat in a booth with a glass screen between you.
Steve calls Shelly.
Remember, you cannot call in to your loved one, so sometimes when they call you, you maybe involved in dealing with other things. You might want to try and agree on the best time for them to call you, but also be aware that this might not always work out. The routine in prison rarely changes, but on the outside things are different. Try to let your family member know in advance if you might not be able to take a call.
If you are finding it hard to cope, there are a number of organisations that offer help and support. Many of these involve people who have been in the same position as you. These are listed here.
In the prison there is the Children and Families team, based in the Chaplaincy.
Steve and Shelly – Purple Visit
Try to stay honest with each other. Sometimes you might want to ‘protect’ your family member from things that might upset them. However, not talking about issues might end up leading to bigger problems in the future.
Human beings hate uncertainty. Unfortunately, the pandemic has increased levels of uncertainty amongst all of us. Try to remain positive and hopeful, even though this can be difficult. Sharing problems with people you trust can help ease the burden.
Steve phones home.
Out of sight is not out of mind. If you have children, and your family member in prison is their dad, they still have a role to play, if that is appropriate.
It’s important you can all stay as connected with them as much as you possibly can. This can be hard.
Things that can help people in prison maintain their relationship with their children:
•Send them cards
•Draw pictures and/or ask them to send you drawings
•Write a story and ask them to write one back
The Children and Families Team at HMP Hewell offer a number of courses for prisoners who are fathers. These include Baby Bonding, Me and My Dad, Card and Craft workshops and Story Book Dads.
Story Book Dads is a national programme that helps prisoners record stories and get them sent out to children.
Some of these courses may not be running at the moment due to the pandemic.
Children Heard and Seen is an organisation that offers help and support especially for children who have a parent in prison.