Absent loved ones this Christmas
When I first rekindled my relationship with my partner, serving an indeterminate sentence, he was almost over tariff and we both thought that it was just our first Christmas that we would miss out on being together for. Instead this Christmas will be our third one spent apart, and he’s been in prison even longer.
I’m not the only one who feels that something is missing each year because of a loved one in prison. In fact, the problem is far more widespread than many of us are aware of, mainly because so few people feel comfortable disclosing their situation.
I also had reservations about sharing, scared of being judged or making things difficult for my partner (which is why I’m keeping him anonymous throughout this blog).
A Mirror article (December 13th 2014) by Keir Mudie: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/christmas-heartache-200000-children-facing-4806674 highlights how there are more than 200,000 children with a parent in prison this Christmas. This heartbreaking statistic is grim reality to those of us who visit a loved one in prison. It is easy to spot the children who will be missing a parent this Christmas day, some of whom will have never spent a Christmas day with their parent.
Many of these children are being brought up by loving family members such as the remaining parent or a grandparent etc, but the Prison Reform Trust:
says that :
‘Fewer than 1% of all children in England are in
care, but looked after children make up 30% of
boys and 44% of girls in custody.’
Around the time of writing, an interview on BBC radio 1 is being broadcast interviewing a young person who is describing the issues she has faced since her stepdad was sent to prison:
You can catch up on the broadcast, as I will be, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006wkry
A Prison Fellowship project known as Angel Tree attempts to enable imprisoned parents to continue to be a felt presence for their children on Christmas morning. The organisation enables parents in prison to send their children a present at Christmas http://www.prisonfellowship.org.uk/what-we-do/angel-tree/ . I was pleased to be involved in a small way this year and it is a project that means so much to the many people affected when someone goes to prison.
The statistic about the number of children with a parent in prison is just the tip of the iceberg and is just the beginning of raising awareness of the number of people with an empty place at the table this Christmas day. The prison reform trust puts a 2013 figure on the number of people in prison as:
‘On 10 May 2013, the prison population in England
and Wales was 83,151.1 Between June 1993 and
June 2012 the prison population in England and
Wales increased by 41,800 prisoners to over 86,000.’
If each prisoner has at least one loved one, 83,151 people are thinking about them. The knock-on effect of this is huge and the likelihood is that the impact is actually far greater than this.
It doesn’t help to know that often the Christmases spent in prison are pretty dismal:
The article I link to above talks about Christmas spent on the inside. While the Guardian article I link to below describes Christmas on the outside for those left behind as well as how it feels for prisoners themselves to be separated from their loved ones:
Many would argue that the point of prison is to punish people for the crimes they have committed, to teach them a lesson. Some may even think that it is our own fault for choosing to stick by a loved one in prison. The truth is, when you love someone it is incredibly hard to walk away. For someone who has a parent in prison it is even harder too. So this year consider the hidden heartache for those who have a loved one in prison and remember that whether or not you sympathise with the prisoners, the only crime that has been committed by the ones on the outside is loving someone who can’t be with them.