I want to introduce you to a new charity that is extremely important to me – Not Beyond Redemption.
I’m so proud to be one of the founding donors for Not Beyond Redemption and I would appreciate it if you to take the time to read all of this blog and take a look at the website before forming any opinions.
Why Am I Involved?
Exactly 3 years ago I was invited to visit some of the inmates at HMP Send with Camilla Baldwin, one of the UK’s leading family lawyers. Camilla was setting out to offer legal support to women in HMP Send and I was offered the opportunity to talk to some of them, hear their stories and answer some questions that they had for me.
It turned out to be life changing experience for me and something that I will never forget. I saw what Camilla saw in them and I wanted to help to support Mothers in prison.
I Could Have Been in their Position
The women I met could have been you or I. You may not believe me, but we were all the same and just sat round in a circle chatting and drinking coffee. They were all Mums who loved their children and were a similar age to me. The only difference was that they had made mistakes in life that led to them ending up in prison.
I was free to walk out of the prison and go home to my children but they weren’t and it made me feel awful as I said goodbye to them after a good few hours in their company.
The stories that the women told me are still imprinted in my mind today. I often think about the petty crimes that some of them had committed but had still been put in prison over and separated from their children for. I truly felt that I could have gone down the same road as many of them due to the difficulties in my past. It’s the start of a vicious cycle that there seems to be no way out of for some people. I didn’t judge them for their crimes, I just felt fortunate that I was able to get myself away from the life that I was living in my teens and early twenties. I could so easily have been them and so could many others, so that’s why I ask you not to be judgemental of them.
Did you know;
- 82% of women in UK prisons are serving custodial sentences for a non-violent crimes
- 17000+ children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment each year
- 62% of women are in prison serving a sentence of six months or less
Whilst I do not condone committing crime, I do realise that some people find themselves in desperate situations in life where they feel that they have no other option available to them. You should count yourself lucky if you have never experienced that feeling.
It costs on average £55,889 per year to keep one female in prison but it would cost close to £4500 per year to put an offender tag on her instead, whilst imposing curfews and schedules for her. She could also be given community service and ordered to attend a rehabilitation programme. This would mean that she would still loose her freedom and be punished, but she wouldn’t be taken away from her children and risk losing them and their home in the process.
Separating women from their children for petty/minor crimes causes a vicious cycle for the children and leaves many of them in the care system and being adopted out to new families. With the absence of a Mother figure, these children, some as young as eight, can be picked up by gangs and introduced to the world of crime as drug mules. By inappropriately punishing Mothers for non-violent crimes, we are failing their children and future generations.
Can you imagine losing your children after having been desperate enough to commit a crime in order to be able to feed them or dress them? It doesn’t even bare thinking about.
About Not Beyond Redemption
Camilla Baldwin and her team have now set up Not Beyond Redemption to help Mothers in prison across the 12 female only prisons in the UK. Not Beyond Redemption is providing free family law advice to women who are in prison, or who have left prison. They have a team of specialist family lawyers and volunteers who focus on helping to re-establish critical access and relationships between mothers and their children.
It is a fact that most women in prison are unaware of their rights, and since 2013, Legal Aid has been unavailable for most family cases, which means these women simply do not have access to justice.
The charity’s scope of work is varied and ranges from helping women understand a way through the myriad of legal matters, including understanding their rights, to writing legal letters and representing them in courts across the country – all on a pro bono basis.
- A female prisoner is sent a letter telling her she has to appear in court on a certain date or her children will be adopted out to another family, but she either won’t get the letter in time or can’t get to court because she is in prison, so she loses her children for the rest of her life and the rest of their lives.
- This is direct from an inmate that I spoke to myself and it broke my heart. She maintains that she is not guilty of the crime that she is in prison for. All through her court case her children lived with their Grandparents. When she was found guilty, the Grandparents also maintained her innocence so the children were then taken away from them and put into the care system. The children were then putting themselves in danger because they kept running away from their foster home to get back their Grandparents. They became disruptive and acted up at school too so were becoming labelled as trouble-makers in the school system. What possible benefit was there to putting these children in care when they could’ve been with family members? It’s like punishing the children for their Mother’s alleged crime.
This is why Not Beyond Redemption also offers support to the families of the women and continues to do so after the mothers have been released from prison, for as long as they need help. This could even be up to the child’s adulthood.
Not Beyond Redemption is committed to reconnecting women with their children in order to help them all pave the way to a better future and I am extremely honoured to be able to play a part in trying to change the future for these women and their children.