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A Mother's Voice

A Mother’s Voice

Sharon – Mother of a serving prisoner

My son is currently serving a nine-year sentence.

As Covid-19 spreads across the country and the world at a devastating rate, you can imagine my anguish and heartache, nobody seems to care about.

My last contact with my son was on Mother’s Day, 22 March 2020. The memory of when we were able to celebrate it together in freedom, keeps me going through the pain and anxiety of not being able to see him since then.

Response to this global pandemic feels disorganised and inadequate, especially for those of us from the minority communities. As a mother I despair at the lack of transparency and the lack of meeting the needs of prisoners’ families, especially for the first two months. For some this might not seem like a long time, for mothers of those serving prison sentence it feels like an eternity.

It has been very hard to connect to our loved ones inside to fully understand how this experience is impacting them. I used to rely on visits to share our conversations without listening ears so the truth could be shared. I need my son to feel that he can talk to me and tell the truth of how life is affecting him during Covid-19. We no longer have this safe space.

Our conversations are guarded and filled with only small talks of weather, children, gym, food... Neither of us wants to share a real pain of the damage that Covid-19 is causing to us. We are trying to protect each other from more harm by not speaking about it at all.

Those of us outside can take for granted that we can pick up the phone or jump on a zoom call and talk to our loved ones. But for those of us supporting loved ones in prisons, it's not so easy.

My son is in a Cat D estate. He has worked very hard to reach this stage into his long sentence and he truly earned those small benefits that come with it: home leave, day release opportunity to work outside and hope to begin the journey of reintegration. All of his dreams have been frozen in space and time. And mine too.

I hear my son questioning himself why did I work so hard to acquire Cat D status just to be treated as a Cat B prisoner. He did understand the reasons behind strict restrictions when the whole country was in lockdown. He struggles to understand the reasons now as restrictions have been lifted outside. He struggles to understand if staff can come and go, which facilitates risk to them, why are they still denied a family contact. All I hear and feel is how the prolonged lockdown provides limited hope for the future and severely affects mental wellbeing of people.

He reads and watches the news how Covid-19 affects BAME communities, then feels more anxious as little is being done to discuss or reassure BAME prisoners. This lack of communication, internally and externally, reaffirms our feeling that for the service and the society, we mean nothing.

My son is lucky to be in a Cat D prison during the pandemic. He has earned his own cell and

The prison provides outside gym activity, albeit very limited, which amounts a lot during these difficult times. He is thankful we are able to provide funds, so he can purchase extra cleaning equipment instead of food to protect himself from the virus. Vast majority of prisons do not have same benefits and my heart goes out to those who cannot read or write to maintain contact or have funds to ring and talk.

I am writing this as an insight to a mother's journey of supporting a son who I recognise has done wrong. He and ourselves have accepted his punishment and have been carrying and willing to continue this burden.

All we can do, as BAME families, is to be there for continuous support, unconditional love and become their counsellors when it gets beyond the pain. We can provide hope for future, not only for our loved ones in prisons but also their children, their partners and other members of our families.

But who is there for us, mums? Who cares for me?

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