Friday, 24 March 2017

Imagine - By Shaun Weldon

You've took the day off work, no alarm clock forcing you to open your eyes so you woke up a little later than usual, you should feel well rested and ready to face the day. The truth is you haven't slept a wink and you feel like your world is crumbling, your head is pounding and your stomach in knots, but why? Because today you are going visiting your offspring in prison. This is how I imagine I'd feel waking up on visiting day if my son or daughter were serving a sentence, it wouldn’t matter if it was a three month run or a ten year stretch, I imagine I'd wake up feeling the same. If, like myself, you haven't served a sentence or have never so much as stepped foot inside a prison then you can't put yourself in their shoes and the media paints the picture of what it's like for you. I'd have a million thoughts and a thousand questions running through my head every second of the day...Are they being targeted? Have they cracked under the pressures and temptations of drugs? Are they mentally stable? id constantly fear for their safety and sanity, they are my flesh and blood. I’d understand they're inside for a reason but as a parent you never stop worrying, regardless of their age, position and circumstances. I would be in hope of the visits filling the holes their absence would drill, but I imagine they just bore the holes and make them bigger, you're only going to be there for a fraction of the time that they are and you're going to have to leave them there, alone and lonely. I imagine I'd find visits quite daunting, I mean, you're not popping round to have a catch up over coffee and cake on a Sunday, you’re going seeing them in a place where they have been sent for an offence or a crime they have committed. I imagine it takes the strongest of people to hold it together when visiting a son or daughter, we hear of prison affecting a person's mental state but it can also affect the mental state of people on the outside, especially parents. Reminders of sons and daughters are everywhere, their favourite song or TV show, their favourite foods, things you did together but now do alone, these things can be a mental torture and will trigger emotions and worry, I imagine it feels similar to a grievance. I don't know how I'd deal with it to be honest, it's one of those situations that you can't rehearse, “I’ll do it on the night”, as they say. I want my children to grow up understanding which roads are the right roads to take, and I will be there to guide and advise as every parent would, but I cannot see into the future, nor can I see around corners. I can only pray they make the right choices because I can’t imagine what I'd do or how I would feel if either of them ended up on the other side of the wall.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Strangers aren't only the victims of crime by Paul

Dear Prison Widow. Please consider the contents of my email for publication. I would like to be addressed as Paul. Thank you.
I'll begin by telling you that I have been to prison 13 times for a string of offences related to drugs.
I too like a fellow contributor to your blog tried to advise certain people in authority, and likewise my views fell on deaf ears. Perhaps an anthology of stories written by ex offenders is an option. I for one would be eager to assist.
I am a recovering heroin addict and I have been clean for just under three years. The only victims I had chance to apologise to was my family. Many times over I have heard quotes by prisoners families that they do not wish to be labelled as victims; but I for one put my loved ones through sheer hell so I absolutely refer to my family as victims. It isn't right to house break in to strangers houses and steal and it isn't OK to rob your own family either. Families are victims too. I can painstakingly confirm that I stole from my own Mother more than a stranger on the street. She never once pressed charges but that does not make her exempt from being a victim of crime. Restorative practice work isn't just about meeting strangers you have wronged. It goes beyond that in my humble opinion but sadly families of prisoners receive little support in this particular area.
I remember a certain court appearance where my Mother was spat at and called a whore courtesy of my wrongdoings. My victims were scathing, rightly so, but my Mother was a victim too. Perhaps more so than the family sat in the gallery applauding my sentence.
Prison didn't punish me; and it didn't rehabilitate me either. I have been in various ones thirteen times so that speaks for itself. I owe my success to three people; those three people aren't professionals, probation officers or support workers, they are my Mother and two Sisters. I've put the work in too but without them, I would be another statistic buried six foot under courtesy of heroin.
Thank you for allowing people like myself to share their personal stories. The kindest of regards, Paul.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Fighting a losing battle from Darren

Hi Prison Widow UK and bloggers. Thank God I have finally found a platform that speaks its mind! Great blog by the way! 
I'm an ex prisoner and I can say this much; you are fighting a losing battle as far as drugs are concerned. There's too much money involved, bent screws, dodgy families and prisoners alike that make a killing from supplying HMP. The Government, MOJ and The Prison Service do not have a clue what to do next. They have let it go too far and the consequences of taking drugs in prison is neither here or there. Blind eyes are turned because there aren't enough screws to manage the issues. Over the past few weeks, I have sent emails and suggested a few things, but got no reply or acknowledgement. No one wants to listen and being ignored proves only one thing to me, they couldn't care less. Drugs are a huge part of society and the Police are banging their heads against a brick wall. Drugs in prison is huge business and yes indeed the prisoners run the system. A prison guard once said to me, "You can't beat the system" and I replied, "Is that right? Well take a look at them lot over there off their heads on drugs"! Pardon my French but the prison system in the UK is f***ed! I consider myself to be reformed and work full time. I have settled down and decided that I don't want to be another number making money for the establishments. I don't want my family spending their money visiting prisons and parting with their cash buying food etc. I'm not feeding HMP anymore.
I come across quite a few Prison Reform sites but what I don't come across is how they intend to reform them? What is prison reform? How are prison's 'reforming'? No one appears to have any answers. Thanks and all the best from Darren. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Forgotten Victims makes poem of the week again!

                               The Forgotten Victim

5 Things Only a Mother of an Addict Will Understand by Colleen Marlett

There’s no shortage of advice out there for people who have a loved one suffering from substance use disorder. “Don’t give the addict money.” “Never bail them out of jail.” “Stop enabling and being a codependent.” The list goes on and on All of this is fine and true, but as a mother of an addict, I am bound to my struggling child in a way that most do not understand. The love and connection that I have with my daughter can never be broken, and even though I know all the advice that articles may give for those with a loved one in addiction, there is just something about my experience that only mothers can understand. 
1. I hold close to my nurturing instincts. 
Many of us moms know the pain of knowing our addicted child may be living in the streets or hiding from us because of their drug abuse. They tend to isolate themselves from the people they love and become absent. I always keep my eyes open in case I run into her on the street. If I happen upon someone who knows her, I wonder if they know where she is. I ask questions like, “Is she OK?” “Is she eating?” “Does she have a warm place to sleep?” While I know not to enable her by giving her those things, it doesn't mean I don't want to know. I will never stop looking for her when she is absent from my life. If she’s running from the law, I will find her and I will turn her in. As much as it hurts to dial that number knowing it will send her to jail, it is the safest place for my daughter when she is in active use. I promise to muster up every ounce of courage in my body to do what’s right—not what’s easy.
2. I remember and love the child I raised. 
My daughter was and still is a kind-hearted, funny and outgoing person. Looking back, I knew I could count on her for anything. We were close. She was my mini-me. Today, I may not like who she is or what she is doing, but I will never stop loving her. No matter what her addiction might bring her to do, whether it’s lying or criminal behavior, I know that she is so much more than just her addiction and I will always love that part of her who is fighting to get out and survive.
3. I feel the pain of her addiction.
As the parent of a child suffering in the grips of addiction I can tell you this is not an easy journey. Even though my daughter is the one suffering from the disease, my misery is alive and well. It’s hard to express what it feels like to know your child has a hand in the torture she is experiencing. Although you know in your head this is a disease like any other, there is an element of choice that is unlike any other ailments. It breaks my heart when she chooses to poison her mind, body and soul, rather than pick herself up and change her life because we both know she does have a say in her outcome. If she accepts help, works hard and decides to survive, she can change everything. As a mother, watching her opt to destroy her life instead becomes unbearable at times.
4. I am always ready to hear from her. 
As trivial as it may sound, the ding of a text message or the sight of her number showing up as a call on my phone is a welcome and coveted occurrence. I look forward to it because it tells me my daughter is still alive. She made it through the night, through one more dose of poison. Although not all encounters are pleasant and, admittedly, time off from some of our exchanges is also welcomed, those notifications on my phone are cherished sounds that help me get through my day when I do receive them. It is as important to me as any other aspect of my relationship with my addicted daughter. It’s the code or the sign that helps me hang on.
5. I will never give up hope. 
Hope is the only thing we have to cling to at times. It is what breathes life into a parent of a child in addiction. Without hope we have nothing, and with hope we can lay our heads on our pillows at night and most get a little more sleep. Hope is what carries us through the day when we are wondering if our child made it through the night. We hope for good whether so our child is warm. We hope something might turn our child around before their rock bottom hits, knowing rock bottom could be the end. Above all, we hope that our children know we will never go away. Hope becomes everything and, as a mother of an addict, I will never give it up. My daughter is my world. She is my first born and she owns a piece of my soul that belongs only to her. No matter how old your child is when they travel through this dark place, they are always your little boy or girl. Nothing can ever change that. I won't abandon my daughter’s heart because I simply can't. It's just not possible for me. Her affliction is like any other, and I wouldn't leave her if she had cancer or any other disease that threatened her life. I will gently guide her when she allows me to and keeping the home fires burning for the day she finally comes back to us.

No solution any time soon from Benny

I cringed reading Prison Widows post on benefit fraud but she does have a point. 
I've been in and out of prison for the most of my life but have stayed out of trouble now for 8 years and I am doing well. 
I used to sell drugs, went to jail for it, got released and sold drugs again. Prison wasn't enough for me and it didn't bother me or stop me committing crime. Sorry but it didn't. I made dirty money and it wasn't hard work. But 8 years ago I met a woman who changed my life and she is the very reason I have packed all that stupidity in. If she hadn't come in to my life then I have to be dead straight with you, I'd be either ripping the system off or I'd be back inside, so please don't diss the family tie thing because it has worked wonders for me. I used to claim benefits and sell drugs. Girls I knew on the gear and crack would sell themselves on the block and make a fortune but the money was purely to keep their habits ticking over. They were all benefit claimants and if they didn't need the dollar for drugs then they'd be raking it in.. but then I don't suppose they'd be on the block if they didn't use drugs. I'm not trying to justify it saying it's OK to earn cash on top of benefits because they're junkies because none of it is OK, I'm just basically giving my opinion. But looking at it from Prison Widow's point of view, I can't really argue with the issues she raised because the woman she offered support to didn't ask to be left in debt when her man went to jail and tried to make ends meet doing some cleaning on the side for cash. It's a mad one and I am stuck for words on that score. 
The kids round my way know me and know what I used to be. I never glorify that and I am always telling them that jail is a waste of their time but many of them have been in YOI's and they say it's no big deal. The UK need to start making it a big deal, not in a way of punishment or hard time but in a constructive way and as an ex con I dont have any answers to that because prison didn't bother me either. Drugs are a major major issue and let's face it, there isn't going to be a solution any time soon. Good blog and by the way a prison officer friend of mine pointed me to it and told me to give it a read. Cheers, Benny.

Are drug dealers and prostitutes exempt from benefit fraud by Prison Widow UK

I have just returned home from a lady's house after supporting her through what I call a complete and utter farce. 
Now, I cannot condone what she did, although yes, I completely understand why she did it. Her partner was imprisoned 4 months ago, so having left her high and dry in debt with 3 kids to feed, she did a bit of cash in hand work as a cleaner - that's until someone grassed her up. Yes it would have been more productive to work and claim tax credits, or universal credit, whatever it's called these days; but she didn't. 
She's a good Mum, been through hell and high waters with her partner, and needed some quick cash. 
Today she was grilled by a benefits fraud person and the benefits fraud person was not impressed with a handful of questions I threw on the table. 
OK, the lady was guilty and threw the towel in. She'll have to pay back the money she owes them. Fair enough. 
Here are the questions I threw on the interviewers toes:

1. Next door but one to this lady, lives a group of drug addicts. Two men, two women. They all claim benefits but the tenancy is in just one person's name.
They all claim benefits, PIP, whatever it's called, and the two women work on the beat every night selling their bodies for cash in hand. As I understand it, prostitutes work on a cash up front rule, right? 

2. The people are well known to the Police. The rent is paid through housing benefit payments and in a nutshell, there's some serious wonga going in to that household, but the benefits department don't question it. 

3. A drug dealer lives on the same street. He lives with his partner and kids. Been at it for years and his woman claims benefits, rent paid for, free school meals and the rest of it. The authorities aren't interested in them either.

The interviewer replied that she couldn't comment. Why not? The questions are simple. Are drug dealers and prostitutes exempt from benefit fraud? 
They earn cash in hand money whilst claiming state benefits so all I wanted to know was, how does it work? 

Eventually the fraud person came out with a corker! She said they can't prove prostitutes receive cash in hand! But hang on a minute, if they followed them after an hour or so on the beat, wouldn't they witness hundreds of pounds being exchanged beween them and their crack dealers? Or do women/men prostitute themselves offering sex in vulnerable red light districts for free? Volunteer work? I don't think so. 
Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm not judging anyone here, I am asking a few honest questions as to why some people appear exempt from benefit fraud. No doubt it will have something to do with the 'professions' being illegal but what lucrative professions they are to screw the tax man to the wall! 

If I claimed Job Seekers, and I am half tempted to run an experiement, and declared cash in hand earnings stating I earned it through sexual favours working on the beat, would any monies be deducted from my claim? And how about tax credits if I worked 16 hours or over in the red light district? 
How does it work in Holbeck in Leeds? It's legal to work as a prostitute in Holbeck and I fully support it too. It is a good thing to keep women safe and councils across the country should follow their example in my opinion. 

Thoughts? Email me! 

Prison IS Punishment by LP

Hi to Prison Widow UK Blog. What a dazzling read by Karl! (post below)
I was in prison for 3.5 years and 3.5 years on licence. Before I went inside I was on a subutex script and intended coming off the gear. I was foolish, selfish and a total idiot. I got sent down and was padded up with a gear (heroin) head who actually smoked gear of a night in our cell. Anyone who is or has been on gear will know how ruthless the drug is to come off. It is not a quick fix and it is not a drug that you can kick without putting some damn hard work in to. Being banged up for most of the day depressed me and so I gave in didn't I. I started smoking the smack again and me and my pad mate were bang at it. Prison isn't a place to sort your head out. It isn't a rehab and if I hear the word rehabilitation being used in connection with prisons I kill myself laughing because it is far from it. It aint the Governor or prison officers fault, it is the top dudes above them that are the deluded ones. The saying is; prison is not a place for punishment, the punishment is being sent to prison and that is bull sh*t because it is pure punishment inside for a con who genuinely wants to sort his/her life out when half of the wing is zombied by people off their faces on legal highs and the rest of it. Flip the coin and think about it that way because when you are in low mood and trying to re-train your brain to kick a drug habit and get padded up someone who is still an addict who justs wants to smoke smack all the way through his sentence and only at arms length away from you, that IS punishment! Lovin your blog, keep it going Prison Widow UK and its a massive hat tip from me. Yours, LP.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Stitching Prisoners up to Fail from Karl

Hi Prison Widow Blogger. My name is Karl and I am an ex prisoner. First and foremost let me say that spice is becoming ridiculous in prisons and anyone in their right frame of mind would stay off it and refuse it. Easier said than done in some cases though.
Secondly, I so get where the 'think outside the box' is coming from. When I was inside, I trained to become a gym instructor and passed all my courses. That's great isn't it but when I was released, and when I applied for jobs in this field, my DBS flagged up my convictions and no surprise, I am still unemployed. I don't blame the prison staff, I blame the white collar hooray Henry's who are making unrealistic decisions thinking they know what is best for prisoner rehabilitation - actually there is no prisoner rehabilitation, so you see my point? I was banged up with a junkie and all he wanted to do was score drugs on association. He had no ambition, no thought for his family and no self esteem whatsoever. In fact and no disrespect to the guy, he actually made me depressed and I became withdrawn with little motivation. It was only when I moved to a semi-half decent prison that I progressed. Prison is same as it is on the out, if you are surrounded by negative people, the feeling impacts on you too, but on the out you have the chance to break free from that. On the inside you don't and it isn't great watching morons getting off their tits on spice, making no sense and talking about setting up a spice empire when they get out. It is all negative. There is no upside to it and please don't patronize us by saying, 'oh just ignore them' because when you are banged up with one, how does that work exactly?
I don't take drugs but it would be all the same if I was a drug user wanting to get clean then I end up in a cell with a raging junkie who's priority is getting high every day. Sorry UK Government, you know exactly what you are doing and that is from the word go in prison, you are stitching people up to fail. Peace and love, Karl. 

Dreading a phone call saying my son is dead

Dear Prison Widow UK. Gosh I don't know where to start but I guess from the beginning is a good idea. I am a mum of two sons, both in prison. Me and my daughter visit separately because they are in different prisons so we alternate the visits if that makes sense. I found out that one of my sons has been badgered in to smoking spice where my other son refuses to take it and can stand up for himself. I received a call last week from someone I don't know informing me that my son had been violently sick therefore could not phone me that evening. The person who phoned me was a girlfriend of an inmate who knows my son. I was thankful of that call because it is very highly unlikely that the prison would have alerted me. This is how families are treated! We don't get notified if our loved ones are ill or have been stuck in the middle of a riot, but it's OK for the prison to be swamped with drugs. Pathetic and annoying! Anyway, my son recovered but is still smoking it. He might end up dead the next time he gets high and that terrifies me. How is the Prison Service going to get on top of this mess? I understand that there is no quick fix but what is going on because it is now getting beyond a joke. I feel sick to the pit of my stomach every waking day thinking I am going to get a phone call saying my son is dead. From Hil. 

Prisoners off their heads on chemical cocktail called ‘Prison Spice’

A source inside HMP Liverpool said: “There were so many Spiceheads panicking over where they were going to get their next hit. “They were so hooked they were like zombies and they would have done anything to get their hands on it. “So someone came up with the idea of making it themselves. A recipe was made – and with it a hell of a lot of money.” The main ingredients of“Prison Spice” are acetone – found in nail varnish remover – alcohol and a herbal plant base such as sage or oregano. The source said: “A powder is made which is the synthetic cannabis. Sometimes this has to be smuggled in as it’s a mix of loads of chemicals, but it’s very easy to conceal.“Then a solvent is produced using a blend of the nail varnish remover and alcohol. The powder is dissolved in the acetone then sprayed on to to the herbs and you’ve got your Spice.“It’s a very crude product and no one really knows what’s in it, but it has the desired effect for Spice Heads – giving them a high that takes them out of the game.”

Think outside the box by Ste

Hi Prison Widow Blog. I am an ex prisoner struggling to find a job but I keep going.
Congrats to Darren and Adele setting up their own business. They are 100% spot on about prisons not thinking outside the box. You can bet other nicks in the EU do which is why for example prisons in the Netherlands are closing down because there aren't enough prisoners. The UK have always been backwards in coming forwards but don't let that be a shock to you. I gained some great skills in prison to be fair but I understand the unrealistic quote for sure. Sometimes the simple things in life work far better! I was told that honesty is the best policy but it's not doing me any favours on the job search front. Back to the drawing board? Best wishes to all, Ste. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Ex Offender and Wife start their own craft business

3D Birthday Wish Frames
Thanks to Prison Widow UK (Alison) for giving me and my husband a new focus and little business.
My hubby is an ex offender and together with some help and coaching from Alison Henderson, we now have our own little craft business making personalised occasion frames. Prison Widow UK featured a story about us titled, Paper can Reduce Reoffending and even our children join in and help.
We create a little more than frames but don't want to give too much away lol, but my hubby is a dab hand at crafts and looking at him you would not think so! We recycle a lot of things and always coming up with new exciting ideas. Our business comes from word of mouth and social media and we can now afford our very own website which is in under construction and we can't wait. In my opinion and my husband agrees with me, prisons aren't thinking outside the box at all. My hubby did do some art whilst inside but was taught art that unrealistically would not sell and could not be used to start up a little business. The simplest of ideas work and there should absolutely be more 'realistic' workshops in prisons that people can actually do something with on release from prison! We have been taught by Prison Widow UK (Alison) to make wedding bouquets and wedding invitations in origami along with a lot of other things to childrens personalised bedroom wall art and these are affordable to purchase by the way. Thanks again Alison and keep doing what you do best!
3D Mothers Day Frame 
We will feature the website once it is completed and wish Darren and Adele all the very best for the future! 

What support? From Anon

Dear Prison Widow UK. In response to the post from Volunteer, when my partner was released from prison, that is where the support came to a grinding halt. For want of a word, visiting and writing to him in prison was the easiest part. When he came home and tried to find a job and stay off the drugs, that's where everything went pear shape and the only support probation offered was another ride in a prison van for breaching his licence. He's back inside again and I am losing the will to continue with the relationship. I think families who have loved ones with drug addictions need a lot of support.
I don't have much more to add to my email to be fair other than I feel deflated and pretty much lied to in to believing that my partner would be a changed person when he came home. Anon.

Support for families once a loved one is released from prison? Enquiries from a volunteer

Before last year, I had never set foot inside a prison and didn't really expect to. I've been volunteering and working with a charity and have met some amazing families doing this. You can see the family time is limited though, for those who can make visits when their loved ones are moved from county to country. I'd love to be involved with offering some post-release family support but wonder how this would work for the best? I'm thinking something like an after school club for some fun and games to make up for some of that lost time but also to set up for a brighter future being home. Because as much as I love working with the families and it's nice to see children again, it's horrible when you see them back inside. Part of this wondering has been trying to find out what is already taken place - has anyone received or heard of any support for families once released? I recognise this means you'd have to tell people a member of the family has been in prison, and there's some agencies *ahem* you probably don't want or get extended contact with but would you have liked some family support to re-adjust or is it a case of forget about it and leave us alone? Thank you. 

A 'Release' Road to Nowhere by Gregg

I'll come down off my high horse and attempt to write my thoughts in a civilised manner. I have been in prison, still searching for job opportunities and still travelling on the same road that appears to be leading nowhere. 
Prisoners aren't ill-informed, far from it, and the bare fact of the matter is, the Government and Prison Service can introduce as much education as they like in jails but the end result is this; if college and uni graduates are struggling to find employment out here then how does the Government honestly expect ex cons to find work? My neice is working in a pound shop as a sales assistant and has a string of qualifications and does not have a criminal record. Don't let the powers that be fool you; prisons are here to make money; ask G4S and Sodexo! 
I have all my GCSE'S and was forced to reverse back to baby steps whilst I was serving my time and more to the point; unless I lie, my CV still has gaps because the gaps = prison time.
On a more positive note, I did enjoy some of the activities, but again, I have a criminal record so the gym jobs I have applied for came back to me with 'sorry on this occasion your application as been unsuccessful'. 
I went to jail because I was convicted of selling drugs. The competition inside was rife so my 'career' came to a halt when I began my sentence. It's a mugs game anyway, but a lucrative one if you want to make some quick readies. 
I'd had enough of ducking and diving so concentrated on how I could get myself out of the cycle of sneaking around, selling drugs and ruining lifes. I was in a positive mind set when I was in prison but as soon as I was released; I came down to earth with a bang! Let me tell you this; prison does not prepare you for release. If anything, they want you to wipe your feet on the 'welcome back' door mat. The UK prison figures are the highest in the EU; well of course they are, did you really expect to be astounded by that? 

Friday, 17 March 2017

My son is better off on home curfew than in prison!

My son is in prison and according to my other son, he has been using spice in prison.
Another prisoner posted a group photo on social media and my son was in it and it looked like they were having a great time on drugs. My son wasn't a drug addict before he went in prison and I am disgusted the courts have sent him to a so called prison, if that's what you can call it, to learn from his mistakes. What an absolute joke this country is and I never thought I would say this but he is better off at home on a monitored curfew than in a system run funhouse! It makes me sick because it's the families left to pick up the pieces! No wonder the UK has the highest prison figures in Europe! Anonymous. 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Left to your own devices when released from prison by Elle

RE: I told my victims the truth about prison

I am writing to you re: I told my victims the truth about prison by an ex con.
I served 3 and a half years in prison and I actually did learn some new skills. The problem was, the new skills I was taught did not do me any favours when I was released from prison because no employers would give me the chance to showcase them - because I have a criminal record. I had dreams and aspirations in prison hoping for a chance of a better productive life when I was released but 18 months on I am still unemployed and I am still applying for jobs. I will be brutally honest; prison did not prepare me for the endless knock backs here on the out. I have kept in touch with some of the women I was inside with on Facebook and none of them are in employment.
I have to agree with the ex con about tutors and lecturers who haven't walked in our shoes. I would like to see and hear off more successful people who have been in prison and have overcome obstacles. Learning new skills and furthering education in prison is all well and good but who do we actually showcase these skills to if no one is prepared to give us, ex prisoners, a chance. By the way I admire the ex con for being honest to his victims. My time in prison wasn't all doom and gloom and to be fair; it wouldn't bother me in the slightest bit if I ended up back in there; but the thing is; I don't want to go back inside. I have been to prison 3 times and 3 and half years is the longest sentence I served. The help I have received since being out has been virtually NIL. You are left to your own devices sadly. From Elle

Book art by Jenni Rhodes at Prison Widow UK


I told my victims the truth about prison by an ex con

The UK has the highest prison population in the EU. Hardly surprising is it! The system is an embarrassment and here is my story.
Drugs and junkie acquaintances were the only family I wanted because I was one of them. A raging hard core smack head in love with heroin. 
I'd do anything for a tenner bag and one day I broke in to someones home and robbed them. To cut the long story short, I met with my victims on a supervised visit and I apologised to them personally. They asked me if I had learnt anything by being in prison and I told them the truth. No, I didn't learn a thing. In fact I smoked drugs, got pissed and had a laugh. Imagine how they felt? But I aint gonna lie and sugar coat it because it was a complete waste of time and tax payers money. I took courses whilst in there but I wasn't thick, I have a string of qualifications. My problem was, I was a junkie, and I was sent to prison because I broke the law and 2 people's hearts when I burgled their home. I remember being in a class in prison run by some lecturer who didn't even know what colour heroin was! A nice gentleman don't get me wrong but clueless to the life a junkie leads on the outside. I met my victims after I spent some months in a rehab centre. I am still in touch with them as a matter of fact and drug free, yes, I am very remorseful. They were under the impression that prison would 'sort me out' rehabilitate me and cure me. I carried on getting off my face in prison smoking as much drugs as I could hands on and I look back now and think, Jesus Christ, the UK system is one embarrassing run shambles.
I am starting my own blog soon so I will send you the link when I am up and running. Regards to all, an ex-con. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Swinfen Hall prison cell windows have 'no glass'

Inmates are living in cells without glass in the windows in conditions described as "squalid". An inspection of Swinfen Hall prison near Lichfield, Staffordshire found almost all areas have deteriorated and the prison is "not safe enough". The report also found inmates at the prison and young offenders institution were not having daily showers. A spokesperson for the prison said the problems reflected "operational pressures".The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said: "Basic standards to improve".

How do prisoners families succeed? From Yvonne

Hi, just a question for people reading your blog.
Families of prisoners who strengthen ties can reduce re offending according to the Government and charities. How can one be successful in achieving this quote when a loved one is addicted to illegal substances? I for one would like to see proof in the pudding please. By using such a quote, where is the support for families and how is this achieved because my family have tried, worn the t-shirt and dried it back out again to no avail. If the Government want to hand over the responsibility to families because rehabilitation methods are failing miserably and the probation service has now merely become a meet and greet and tick box exercise; how do families succeed? I would love to hear off any proffessonal please. It seriously is about time something was proved to us. Regards Yvonne Higson. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Make prison visits more meaninful - from Di

Dear Prison Widow. I love your paper art and so agree that prison visits are boring! Don't get me wrong I love seeing my OH (other half) but after ten minutes we have nothing to say to each other. I would like visits to be more constructive and meaningful because neither of us get anything from them because we speak on the phone every evening anyway. If the Gov and whoever else out there wants families to engage more and assist in reducing reoffending then they should know that this has to be a joint effort. Prisoners cannot come out to us so let us go to them and make visits meaninful instead of the same old humdrum. Love from Di.

Reducing Re offending with Paper - By Prison Widow UK

Many will have read my articles in Inside Time, but I'm not just a pretty face! As well as supporting indivuduals in the community, I run this blog in my spare time, for free, run a ladies group at a well known mental health charity and sell my art and crafts.

I have been invited to in some ladies prison's which I am very much looking forward to and excited about. I have also been working with an ex-offender teaching him how to make paper floral back drops. Yes, that's right, he is a he! You wouldn't think that an ex hardened criminal enjoys making paper flowers but - he passed his knowledge on to his partner and they are now both making a little craft business from it. I would say this is potentially reducing re offending. Families needn't have to introduce their skills, skills can be introduced to families from the inside quite easily.

The picture (above) is a small wall art display (made with a lady suffering from severe depression) made purely from paper. It cost 5p to make, if that!
I make back drops for wedding photo's, table centre-pieces, bouquets and floral hair garments all from paper. A £1.00 pack of craft paper can produce a large wall display and there would still be sheets of paper left.

There are plenty of social media sites, free to join and use, to sell your art, and handmade personalised items are extremely popular these days.
The ex prisoner I am supporting says even his children help out making wall art and promotes positive interaction and meaningful conversation.


For me, apart from family day visits, a lot of prison visits aren't constructive. Most of the conversations during a prison visit have already been spoken about on the phone or penned in letters.
I would like to see workshops introduced via visits. (that's if some prison's aren't already doing it)
I don't know any child/children that doesn't like making things!
We aren't talking about baby-ish activities; these are age-appropriate craft activities with the potential of making a small family unit business. Bring the outside world, IN, and give it a go! Prisoners are bored, families are bored and the kids are equally bored having yet another colouring book thrust in to their hands. The outlay is next to nothing!

Alison Henderson AKA Prison Widow UK 

Families and Probation - by Leah

Dear Prison Widow. I have to respond to some of the latest posts on your blog especially to those who have loved ones addicted to drugs. 
I was with my partner for 12 years and he was battling an heroin addiction. It made me ill and eventually I let him go. I couldn't do it anymore. I stood by him through 2 x prison sentences and it never worked. Heroin had a bigger grip on him in the end. 
All this bull about families being able to deter their loved ones from re offending is more than a joke! Perhaps some families have indeed helped but try helping a drug addict who doesn't want to help them self. Heroin in particular has the upper hand. No one can reduce re offending when an addict needs that drug to function and I will stand face to face with anyone who wants a debate with me on it. By the way, where do the likes of probation officers come in to the equation? Isn't it their job to prevent re offending? One of their roles is to protect the public so if families hold the key to preventing re offending then quite simply the national probation service is failing miserably. Obviously especially if people think the families hold the magic dust!
Best wishes from Leah. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Frozen Spice: Synthetic drug 'turning addicts into Walking Dead'

It's called "frozen spice", and it's becoming a problem of almost epidemic proportions among Manchester's homeless. Spice is a chemically made synthetic marijuana, and like many of the drugs categorised as New Psychoactive Substances, or NPS, it used to be sold as a so-called legal high. Since May 2016 drugs such as spice have been illegal, but that doesn't mean that, in Manchester at least, it can't be easily obtained. Shaun and Jason first started smoking spice when they were in prison. Their addiction means that most of the money they make begging in the city centre is given to dealers to buy bags of the drug at £10 a time. "The first time I had it in prison it had me up against my cell wall for 24 hours," Shaun tells us. "I said I'd never do it again after that, but I've been smoking it ever since. "I'm going to give it up," he promises himself. "But the side effects and withdrawal can be worse than heroin." Jason says he too wants to stop smoking spice. "The first thing I need to do it is accommodation," he says. "I'm moving into a hostel soon, so maybe that'll be my chance to change this lifestyle, 'cos that's what this is, it's a lifestyle." As we spoke to the pair, the spice they were smoking began to take effect, and they lapsed into a morbid silence. It's a scene all too familiar to Julie Boyle. She works for the LifeShare Charity in Manchester, and estimates more than 95% of the homeless people she helps are using spice. "This latest variant, frozen spice, is really bad. I've never seen anything like it," she tells us. "It leaves them almost catatonic when they use it. It's like the Walking Dead in the centre of town now. I saw one man so out of it, two other men were just going through his pockets. "It's difficult to tackle too," she adds. "The addiction is so severe that it's actually harder to come off spice than it is to come off heroin."Inspector Phil Spurgeon, from Greater Manchester Police's City Centre Team, said: "We are working hard to prevent the dealing of spice in the city centre, focusing on building intelligence and carrying out enforcement work."We are seeing more and more people using spice in busy public areas in the city centre and we must tackle it to ensure the area is still a safe place for the whole community."

Put my son in the army, not prison!

Hi to Sara. I read Sara's post about passing the buck on families and I absolutely agree with her 100 percent. I am not disputing that 'some' families can help to reduce reoffending but try being a parent of a son or daughter who is addicted to heroin. No one can help an heroin addict. The drug is too powerful for any parent to wrestle with and only the addict can make changes to their life's. My son is in prison at the moment and I have for the first time in 10 years laid out my boundaries. I will no longer enable my son by sending him money and if he asks for money when he phones, I hang up. I have had it all from him! Mum I am being bullied, Mum I owe money to a dealer, Mum can you post some money to such and such a body, Mum I am desperate and so on. The stories, the lies and manipulation, I have had it all full force. I used to believe many of his stories and even shocked myself believing them because they were so out there and completely unrealistic! Like so many other families who have lived this nightmare; my son has robbed off me, treated me like garbage and lied through his back teeth all for the love of heroin! I have had drug dealers threatening me because he owes money and I have paid the scum at my front door because the threats were vicious. Woe betide anymore of them knock on my door because I have had enough of this crap. I have never used drugs in my life and I cannot stress how ill this has made me. Three years ago my son overdosed and nearly died. He ended up in hospital and as soon as he was discharged, he was shooting up heroin in the hospital car park with another heroin addict friend. My daughter arrived there to pick him up and spotted him sat in a car with another drug addict along with the needles and whatever else they use to get high. He was caught red handed and I didn't speak to him for months which made me sick and I ended up on anxiety medication. In my heart of hearts I know fully well he will be released from prison in November and his first port of call will be who he can buy drugs off. I wish the judge would have given him 6 months in the army instead of prison! Finally I would like to say that the war on drugs is a lie. If anything the drugs culture has become much worse and more people are dying from their addictions. The day will come when I receive a call asking me to identify my son in the morgue. In the Governments eyes he is just another junkie; a number and a victim to a drug that should be wiped off this planet. Love to all of you from Lizzie x 

Guys Marsh Prison: Evacuation after fire is started 'by inmate on roof'

Around 60 inmates were evacuated after a "large fire" broke out at a prison near Shaftesbury in Dorset. It is understood a prisoner clambered onto the pitched roof of one of the house blocks at HMP Guys Marsh, took off his clothes and set fire to them. The fire is believed to have damaged the roof and inmates in the block were taken to a secure area. The prisoner has been brought down from the roof and the Prison Service said there was no risk to the public. BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said it is believed the prisoner was drunk and was protesting at changes to the prison regime. A source said the protest started around 17:00 GMT and hours later the prisoner started ripping off roof tiles before setting his clothes alight.The inmate was treated by paramedics as a precautionary measure but had not been arrested.

Passing the buck on to prisoners families

My brother is a repeat offender. He comes from a decent hard working family who has done everything in our power to support him. He has a drug problem and after a lot of soul searching and research, rehabilitation is not that simple and families are not getting enough support despite what everyone says about families holding the key to reducing reoffending. When drugs are involved, how do families help to reduce reoffending? Drug addicts more often than not hurt the very people (US) the families that stand by them. As I said, my brother has a drug problem and commits crime for money to spend on drugs. He is currently in prison where he can and is using drugs so where do the 'supportive' genious families come in to it? I am sick of hearing families can reduce reoffending and why is it rammed down our necks? Is it by any chance because agencies, probation, prison staff and the Government are failing and haven't a bloody clue what to do next therefore are passing the buck over to families who have the magical cure? It's a farce and everyone knows it to! From Sara. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Boy locked in UK prison cell for over 23 hours a day

The High Court has agreed to a judicial review of the case of a teenage boy who is being locked in a cell in Feltham Prison in London for more than 23 hours a day. The Howard League for Penal Reform has brought the case. Dr Laura Janes, their legal director and the solicitor representing the boy, says the practice is not permitted and amounts to "inhumane and degrading treatment". Dr Janes told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that according to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, over a quarter of boys at this prison are spending 22 hours a day or more in their rooms, in effect in solitary confinement. Read moreThe terror of young offender institutions.

His father has left him - from Anonymous

Hello. Please can you not print my name and details. Thank you.
My son is having a hard time. He is 17 and when he was 14 I asked his dad to leave our family home because he was using drugs. His dad had been clean for roughly 7 years but looking back I am not 100% he was. Anyway, 3 years ago I finished our relationship because I found a needle hidden in our bathroom.
I haven't been in touch with my ex since and he hasn't been in touch with our son which is heartbreaking because he and our son were very close. 
I find it sickening that drug addicts can turn their backs on the people closest to them but then why should any child be subjected to a drug addict parent who lives a life full of pipe dreams and false promises? I have flourished and feel good about myself and the best thing I did was to get rid of my ex. But my son has very much been affected by the break up and the fact his dad hasn't bothered to even phone him. He knows his dad is a heroin addict and I often find my son googling about heroin and how this evil drug changes people, not for the better might I add, but for the worse. How do I help him to come to terms with this? Thanks, Anonymous. 

COMMENT: One of the best community forums we can recommend is:         Sober Recovey.  They host forums for families and the threads are extremely supportive ones. 

Family support - from Lucy

Dear Prisoners Families Blog. 
I have read some of the posts on ex offenders and jobs. I met my partner when he was in prison through writing to him.
He too found a job through an agency and is still working full time today.
It hasn't been without its problems though because at first he could not understand why people worked for very little money. It sounds crazy doesn't it but the fact is he had never been educated or encouraged when growing up. His family, parents, were drug addicts and his upbringing wasn't great as you can imagine. Now he is thriving in his job and says he is proud of what he has achieved and is still achieving today. I am always here to support him and with hard work and commitment it can be done. Thanks for listening. Best wishes and kind regards, Lucy. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

When reality hits - from Lee Ex Offender

Dear Prison Widow. Here's my two pence worth. I have just been reading the post (below) about an ex con earning £265.00 a week. 
For one, anyone in prison with a drug problem cannot be rehabilitated until they address their addictions and there are drugs in prison so the chances of rehabilitation for many are pretty slim. Secondly, prison is a false community. It isn't 'reality' and working for £25.00-£30.00 a week for outside employers inside is not reality either. The work may introduce new skills but prison wages do not prepare prisoners for the reality that lies ahead. The ex offender said it all. They gave a good description of real wages and what happens to the money once you get paid. Pay day is 'pay out day' and there is little left to use for enjoyment. I have been in prison, didn't like it and don't wanna go back. 
I found a job and I really struggle living. I work full time and this year I have been to the foodbank twice because I cannot manage. There would have been a time in my life if I was skint and had no food, I'd have nicked it from the supermarket without any remorse whatsoever. I begrudge going to the foodbank when I work full time but it's not just me, there are loads of working people subjected to having to go to a foodbank after a full weeks work. I wasn't rehabilitated for this shite that's for sure and the prison never prepared me for being hard up when I got myself a job either. Release from prison and trying to get on track is no bed of roses. There isn't much help despite what is apparently on offer. 
My family have really helped me out and I consider myself lucky in that respect because many people in prison do not have the support of their families because of one thing and another. Best wishes, Lee. 

Ex offender earns £265.00 per week

Dear Prison Widow UK. 
Many of your readers, should you publish my email, will more than likely cringe at my ramblings, but what I am about to say, needs to be said.
I have been to prison 4 times and all of my sentences were 3 and a half years and under. I 'rehabilitated' myself and found factory work via a local employment agency. The wages were crap and I had little money left once I paid my rent, put my gas and electric on, paid my council tax, water rates and TV licence. So, is this what the UK is preparing ex offenders for? A skint straight life with very little prospects? I watch the news, read the papers and scour community forums listening to families who are financially up against it and terrifed of the bailiffs knocking at their doors.
I live next door to a young single Mum who somehow manages to work and bring her two children up single-handedly. We help each other out scraping tea-bags together and a couple of tea-spoons of sugar when times are hard - which might I point out is every damn week! By the way, this is not a 'woe is me' email, this is life! 
Seriously and with all due respect, is this hum-drum straight life worth the stress? Granted I have stayed out of prison but prison is pretty much a walk in the park compared to working full time and scraping by. I was chatting to a few youths the other day who smoke weed at the back of the street I live on. One of the lads said he had recently come out of jail and when I asked him if prison was no more, he laughed and said he doubts it. 
I come out with £265.00 per week. I get a bit of help with my rent and council tax. I have DWP benefit deductions that I pay back from a previous loan I had from them and I get a pat on the back for being an ex-con who has gone straight and WOW! Has found employment.
Do you want me to be truthful? The straight life is monotonous. The weekly wage I receive I used to make per day when I was living a rogue lifestyle. I got used to the 'good'money and I will be frank with you, I miss it. I often feel my straight life is step back, not forward because how can one honestly tell me that struggling to make ends meet is a step forward?
The Government tell me what I am doing is the right way to live but struggling to make ends meet depresses me. Please remember I am 'criminal minded' and I am not on my own. I don't use drugs but I can absolutely understand why some people turn to them. I feel like a pheasant under the spell of the powers that be living a straight life which is absolutely crap. I can't live on these pathetic wages, I am just merely existing. From Ex-Con.