I’d like to share with you my families story and how the current pandemic has affected us.  Firstly I’d like to introduce myself.  My name is L, my fiancé is D (whom is currently on remand).  I have 3 daughters aged 14, 10 and 6.  So here goes………prior to COVID 19 we faced a variety of difficulties with D being incarcerated.  The toughest being the disruption it caused to my 3 children’s lives in particular my 6 year old.  My lovely little girl went from carefree to uptight, anxious and more importantly, terrified overnight.  Terrified that her mummy was going to be taken away just like her daddy had.  It took me almost 3 months of consistent routine and continued reassurance just to get her to do a full school day.  This is where we were introduced to the lovely [Regional Family Support Coordinator – RFSC] from Families Outside.

So fast forwarding a bit here, our routine was simply off to school then straight up to [prison] for family visits with D.  The excitement of getting to spend time as a family was felt by all of us even if it was short lived.   Then BOOM COVID 19 hits the world, UK lockdown commences.  For us that means no more family visits.  Very little contact with my fiancé and the girls having virtually no contact with their dad.  Our routine that had taken so long to set and that we worked so hard for is once again up in arms.  My little 6 year old’s world has crumbled once again.  No more daddy time.  No more night time phone call to tell our girls he loves them.  Our youngest won’t sleep as she waits most nights on the phone ringing then she is up at the crack of dawn in case he gets to call in the morning.  Which means she is so tired the next day that her mood and behaviour becomes a daily challenge.  My middle daughter has started to display serious signs of OCD where everything in her room has to be immaculate to the point she is sleeping on her bedroom floor so as not to crease her bedding.  I know this is because her bedroom is her safe place and she sees if no one comes into her room no one can touch what she has in her head as her happy place.  Moving onto my 14 year old whom, like most teenagers, seems to let very little upset her normally as she has her friends, she is happy and obviously our lockdown has prevented her from being with people that she feels “normal” around.  She’s also had to take on a much more adult, caring responsibilities role in the household to help me with looking after the house and her siblings.  Something that’s new for her….and me.  And then there’s me.  Sometimes I take myself to my room at various times throughout the day, close my door and cry my heart out.  The house feels too tense and so stressful as we all want what we can’t have and that’s our family back together.

The new corona bill has been passed in parliament which means D’s time bar has been extended for a 2nd time.  At present, he has now been on remand for 7 months.  Our trial should have been one and dusted by now but, due to the pandemic, a new First Diet date has been fixed for the 28th of July which might not seem that long away to some but for me and my family that seems like an eternity.  From there a new Trial date must be fixed which is anticipated for September.  Which, by that time, D will have spent almost a year on remand.  Until then every day is like groundhog day for me.  Awake in the morning ready to home-school my girls by myself, tackle the stress and uncertainty that surrounds our future whilst trying to remain calm and positive for my kids.  To make life a bigger challenge my 34 year old brother has terminal cancer which I’m struggling to come to terms with.  I feel so alone I would love to be able to speak to D and tell him how I feel but he literally is able to call and say hi and bye so bit by bit my life is crumbling and I have no control.

The SPS have confirmed that prisoners are to be issued with a mobile phone to enable more family contact.  On talking to the prison 3 weeks ago I was told by now the phones would be in place however, we are now being told it looks like another 3-4 weeks before this happens.  We have been promised virtual visits and that materials have been purchased however, in another blow, the prisoners were told that the legislation still needs passed in parliament before this can happen.  I’m screaming out in my head when or is this ever going to end.  When am I going to see his beautiful face again or have a proper conversation?

I often feel like I have no one to turn to because unless you’re in this situation with someone you love very much, someone that is the missing chain to my perfect happy family then you don’t understand what it’s like.

All I read is negativity on social media.  If someone writes about the effects COVID is having on prisoners, I see comments like “they don’t deserve rights, they should have thought about that before breaking the law” well what about prisoners that have not been convicted that await trial like my partner?  The prisoners are human beings that still have family and friends that love and care about them.  I worry about the effects this must be having on the prisoners and how this is affecting their mental health being locked up for 23 hours a day like caged animals with minimal interaction, no stimulation.  I know personally that D’s struggling and that he lived for his visits and calls to his family. I can hear it in his voice on the short phone call we have once a day. I can hear day by day how he gets sadder and sadder.  On occasions I’ve heard other prisoners shouting when I’m on the phone to D, shouting out from behind their cell door because they are left in their cell for so long.  I think we are a long way away from restrictions being lifted and visits recommended.  For me that means my groundhog day continues until we are told otherwise………

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