I know I’m stating the bleeding obvious by saying life since March 2020 has been indifferent to the life we had become so accustomed to. We all had to adapt to an alternative way of living. Most of it during a lockdown and with, sometimes strict, restrictions on the freedom snatched away from us overnight. It wasn’t easy, especially at first, but even now, over a year later, mistakes are still being made whilst governments around the globe are battling the pandemic. However, we were bombarded with information from left, right and centre from the government, government advisors, professors of science, our NHS, print and digital media, along with the social media experts. They provided information wherever you looked. The official information we received kept us informed. We knew what was going on and what they expected of us.
Now! imagine if we had gone through the lockdowns with a media blackout and no official information coming out from those at the top.
On the one hand, I believe our prisons have managed the pandemic pretty well. Could things have been done better? Of course, but as I mentioned in my opening, things could have also been a lot better out here, or worse. I feel we should afford some empathy that this has been an unprecedented time. Regarding the duty of care to people in prison? Taking a step back, it could have been so much worse. However, one thing the prison system did not manage well has been the lack of information and communication given to the family and loved ones of people in prison. It was as if the shutters of the ivory tower of the establishment were closed off to all and sundry.
I get it. The top brass are not there to manage people, they are there to manage the system. They then rely on their management team under them to manage the prisons. Then, within each prison, a governor/director is expected to manage their own prisons with their own management team under them. In the main, regarding our prison system, yes things could’ve been better handled, but again, it could also have been a lot worse.
I wrote in a previous blog an example of the importance of communication and keeping those that matter as well in all this, the family and loved ones of people in prison, informed of what is going on at the prison their loved one is in. Let’s say unlock at a prison is at 8.00 am. If at 7.30 I am told that unlock will not happen until lunchtime, 11.45 am, as much as it will frustrate me, at least I know and not left pacing up and down my cell at 8.10 am wondering why the fuck I haven’t been unlocked yet. By the time I am being told, I’m not listening to what I’m being told, I’m listening to my angry thoughts and dealing with the situation from that platform. Not good!
Research does not deny, and backs the importance of maintaining family ties to a person in prison. We talk a lot about the innocent victims of crime, but not so much about how families and loved ones are also innocent victims of crime. The person in prison is not the only one serving the sentence, and financially it doesn’t cost them a bean. Families and loved ones very much also serve the sentence and do so in more ways than just time.
When you have a vacuum, it provides others the opportunity to fill it with whatever narrative they see fit. Families and loved one’s play an important role, let’s please start treating them with the decency and respect they deserve.
Information and communication from the prison system has to be improved. I hope they can take the lesson on board. Yes, things could have been worse, but they could have been so much better just with better communication and understanding of the needs of the family and loved ones of people in prison.