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Howard League blog · 25 Nov 2016

A young person prevented from saying goodbye to his dying mother

Yesterday I tweeted about the work one of our lawyers was doing to try and get a prison to escort a young person to see his dying mother. The prison refused. It appears it is so short-staffed it could not escort him.

We did everything we could to try and persuade the prison that this was an emergency and we even got his local MP’s office involved. He was allowed a phone call but that was too late. His mother’s life support machine had been turned off earlier that day and she had passed away. He did not get to visit her before she died. The young man had been told a week before that he would be allowed to go but when it came to it, he was told that he could not go because of staff shortages.

We were inundated by media requests for more information. But, for obvious reasons of confidentiality and to protect a grieving young person, we could give no further details.

I made the stark details public because I want people to know the consequences of policy decisions. When politicians cut prison staff, when they pay people a pittance and barely train them so that new recruits don’t stay, when they allow prisons to deteriorate so they are not safe, this is the sort of thing that happens – every day.

Our lawyer will now be working to make sure he can get to the funeral. Even this has not yet been guaranteed to him. In the meantime, we are supporting him by asking the prison that his many requests to be allowed a job are urgently considered, so he can at least keep himself busy to manage his grief. All this while our lawyer works towards his release, which we hope will be in the new year at the latest, once his accommodation is sorted out – another gargantuan task.

The Howard League legal team runs a legal advice line for children and young adults in prison. We get around 100 new people calling every month and almost all have distressing stories to tell. We help as best we can, battling a system that is so threadbare it can’t even keep people alive.


  • Frances Crook says:

    Dear Jeannie, that is such a kind offer. Our lawyers are supporting the young man and are trying to get arrangements in place for him to go to the the funeral. If you want to make a gift (do it on our website), we will ensure that the flowers get to his mum’s funeral.


    • Trevor says:

      Dear Frances.
      I just want to say thank you for being thoughtful towards the young man in question.
      I’m sure he would appreciate your kindness of heart.
      I live in hope that your call for penal reform will bear fruit soon.
      I believe it would make a much needed change to what is currently a broken system.
      God bless you.

  • Trevor says:

    This is such a sad story.
    To refuse to allow a son to see his mother before she died is inhumane
    and is a shameful and very depressing reflection of 21st century prisons.
    I can’t begin to imagine how the son must be feeling now?

  • Elizabeth Humphreys says:

    We had a similar situation 18 months ago, when my son’s dad died. The prison weren’t sure if he could attend the funeral, due to staffing levels. He, of course, was devastated. The prison however, came up trumps, and asked for off duty volunteer staff to bring him for the day. This was arranged satisfactorily, so my son was able to attend. I think, had they not been able to do so, my son could well have attempted suicide, as he’d been on watch when he first went in, for attempted suicide whilst in police custody.

  • Jeannie Mackie says:

    Will willingly donate a tenner to put towards some flowers we can at least give her at funeral. Possible to organize this?

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