Case Study: The cost of imprisonment

When my partner went to prison, none of us could get our heads round it. We just couldn’t come to terms with it. It was the first time any of us had any contact with prison. It felt like living in a nightmare.

We had three children, all under ten, and they took it so hard. They couldn’t understand what was happening. They withdrew in school and in nursery and became anxious, having nightmares about Daddy being gone forever. I could barely understand and accept it myself, so beginning to explain it all to the kids felt like an impossible task. I didn’t feel like I was equipped to deal with it – not all on my own…

On top of the constant stress and complicated emotions, there were new financial concerns to deal with. Before he went away, my partner was the main breadwinner in the house as well as a huge part of our family life. I had been working part-time on and off since the birth of our youngest, but my wages were not enough to support a family. This loss of income, on top of the costs of supporting my partner in prison and travelling up to visit him whenever we could, meant that we were low on money in a way that I never had been before. I found myself suddenly a single parent with no stable income, no plan and no support. I found myself going without meals and hot showers to save money and make sure my children didn’t go without. I felt so ashamed. I didn’t want to tell anyone.

I was finding it more and more difficult to pay our rent. Our landlord wasn’t happy, and I started to think that we might have to move out of the house we’d lived in for the last nine years. I didn’t know what to do. We had nowhere else to go! I was getting desperate.

That’s when I found Families Outside… I called their Helpline one afternoon and not long after that one of their Regional Support Coordinators came round to see me to give some one-on-one support. Being able to talk to her and hear her advice made me think, ‘Maybe everything is going to be okay…’. Over the next few weeks, we formed a real bond as she started to help me put things in place to improve things financially for my family.

She gave me information about the benefits I was entitled to and how to claim them. This made a huge difference. She also supported me to have an open discussion with my landlord about our change in circumstances. Now my benefits are in place and the housing issue has been resolved. That was a massive relief!

She also helped us manage the travel costs associated with visiting the prison by introducing me to the Help with Prison Visits scheme and explaining how it works. Now I can claim back my travel costs of getting to the prison, which was another weight off my shoulders.

But, most valuable of all, was the emotional support and reassurance she provided. When I felt so ashamed and alone, I was able to turn to her for a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. I will be forever grateful for that.


At Families Outside we understand the financial impact of imprisonment. Our recent financial impact report, Paying The Price: The Cost to Families of Imprisonment and Release, showed that these costs disproportionately fall to single, low-income women. And women’s poverty, in many cases such as this one, is also child poverty. Read the full report here.

If you are struggling with this and need support, you can reach out to our non-judgemental Support & Information Helpline.

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