Dedicated to my mum, my world, my protector, my worst critic, my best friend and the definition of strength.
My family offered me patience, they showed me true loyalty, their forgiveness, hope and motivation were the reasons I was able to endure such adverse circumstances throughout my investigation, trial, prison sentence and on to my rehabilitation. I am sure, these traits shown by my family, are also offered by thousands of families supporting their loved ones world wide, on their terrible, trying and often unbearable journey through our criminal justice and prison systems.
My sisters, my mother, father and distant family all pulled together at such a traumatic time for me and my young daughter, to make my time inside as pain free as they possibly could. Money sent to me, by all, weekly. Letters sent daily, stamps, phone calls, emails, that took a considerable amount of their time up, still came through. They say I still owe them thousands! I actually do. Other than owing them thousands, I owe them my life, I owe them success and I owe them gratitude. I don’t need to write a blog, for them to read, for them to know how much I appreciate every single thing they did to help me, support me, and love me against all odds. Even when I didn’t want to be loved. Even when I wanted to give up, they never let me. I am a fighter, my family took over when I needed a rest.
My mum, one tough woman. I love her beyond words. To say she is my rock would be the biggest understatement I have ever made. This woman is the ultimate, tough love lady. She has three daughters, successful, independent and warriors. Thanks to her. If ever I have messed up, at anything and I feel like I need a hug or comfort, I go to my mum. Not because I will get a hug, because this woman will tell me, I messed up, big time, she will tell me to remember this, learn from this and be a big girl and find a way to move on, without help, because if I got myself in a mess, I am sure as hell capable of getting myself out of it. Obviously not my time in prison, because I couldn’t get myself out, and she would not have assisted with my escape! Actually, had I of suggested it, she probably would have! Situations where my mum had foreseen a bad outcome, she wont say so, she will let it play out and let me make my own mistakes. She will then enable me to correct them myself. Never have I heard my mum say ‘I told you so’.
The glue that holds my family together. My mum didn’t come to court with me the day I got sent to prison for two years. My first phone call to her, is a cold memory that sends chills through my body just recalling it. I had cried for an hour on my own before I went to the phone. To get it all out of the way and not let her hear my pain. I called, she answered…
“Michaela, are you ok, did you get the stuff we sent in for you, we are coming to see you in a few days”.
“Yes, I got it, thanks. Mum, this isn’t weeks, months, I have got two years”.
My eyes are welling up now just as I type this, my mum paused, I think to compose herself, her reply was something I never expected.
“At least no-one has died. Don’t worry about anything”
When she said this, she was chocking up, she didn’t know what to say, I could tell she was crying. When I asked her if she was crying, she just cried, I told her I would call her back and hung up the phone.
Too hear this woman crying, because of what was happening to her family, hurt me to the core. I didn’t want her to hear me cry and I didn’t want to hear her cry. Thankfully, that was the first and last time throughout my prison sentence that I heard her cry. She, of course, endured my frustration, screams and tears for the next two years. She still gets it now. That’s what mums are for!
Her dedication to her daughter and taking on the responsibility of my daughter for the next two years, just shows what a strong woman she is. Every single weekend in two years she came to see me. I was miles away from home. She even cancelled Christmas! I think my daughter was the only one who got presents! She said, How could she celebrate, knowing that one of her daughter was suffering so badly. She was always made up, dressed nice, smiling. I could tell, for the time I was in prison, she was broken.
My family witnessed all of the trials and tribulations I faced when I was on bail for two years, in prison for two years and then on license for two years. They still see the constant barriers I now face as a young women, with a serious criminal conviction, trying to succeed in my own life, as well as raise awareness of the challenges all ex offenders face during their rehabilitation. As well as highlight serious issues that I have witnessed, causing a detrimental effect to the rehabilitation and ultimately, the release of prisoners.
By no means am I of the opinion that all prisoners families are not supportive, because I know, from my own experience, with my own family, and from seeing such devoted support, drive, determination and restlessness from so many families on visits every weekend for the two years I was in prison. I have seen this and I know it is the case for the majority of serving prisoners and their families. However, I have also, witnessed and watched the disastrous affects, when this does not happen. Yes, I know it is a minority but to let this concern and serious issue go over my head, because in most cases it doesn’t happen, I would not be being true to myself. To know of things that are happening that are so counterproductive to rehabilitation and for me not to address it, is out of the question.
I have always and I will, always, question anything I feel causes damage, to something I feel so passionately about. I did this in prison, I did this on probation and I still do it now. I have seen women in prison, serving sentences for assisting their then partners, in prison to commit crime inside. This is a concern, as it can and does put vulnerable prisoners at risk. It risks rehabilitation and releases. It also sometimes ends with another conviction and another person in prison.
My thoughts, concern and experience of women who assist with this (my experience is mainly of women as I was in a female prison) does not mean I think that all women who support their partners or all families who support their loved ones in prison are involved in this, but to say it doesn’t happen, is a lie.
For me and many other women and men serving a prison sentence, family support is the only thing that got us and gets us through, I am not undermining the importance of family contact and support, I am simply raising a concern of when this ‘support’ is counterproductive to rehabilitation and release and that also ends with drastic consequences.
I was a serving prisoner, my family were at one point, for two years, supporting a prisoner. They are now still, supporting a young woman with a criminal conviction. Their support for me, will never leave. They were my light in the dark, they were my voice when I couldn’t speak, my backbone when I couldn’t stand, my army when I was on R&R. They have shown me the definition of unconditional love. I would not be the woman I am today, had it not been for the family I have, the fight they gave, the commitment, strength, struggle and determination to see me through.
Hearing my mum cry, seeing the frustration on my sister’s faces when they were holding down full time jobs, harassing solicitors, probation, the prison, as well as maintaining contact with me, is something I will never forget. I know how hard it was, they told me, showed me and I saw it.
Their struggle on the outside, was worse than mine on the inside. I had nothing to do but write, read and moan about prison! They had my daughter, jobs, a life. They never gave up, they were never too busy to write, to answer my calls, to do things I asked them to do, to visit, send me clothes, stamps, they did everything for me that I was unable to do for myself. They didn’t have too, they did it because they are my family and they love me, and to think of me struggling was something that they would have never let happen.
My family, like many others prisoners family’s, are the sole reason, prisoners wake up and battle on with another day, the reason we smile and laugh, the reason we do things we don’t want to, in prison, to help us get out. For our family, who just want us home. I cried my self to sleep many nights, thinking about my daughter, who probably thought my mum, was her own mum for a period of time. Against all odds, prisoners battle on with their sentence, for their family, and prisoners families battle on with their fight and sentence, for their loved one. To get them home, safe, sound and ready for a life on the outside.