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Families devastated by closure of prison

Plight of relatives who have to travel long distances

01 December, 2017 — By Emily Finch

A vigil was held outside Holloway Prison on Saturday to pay respect to the women who have passed through its gates

FAMILIES have been ripped apart by the closure of Holloway Prison while charities which support incarcerated women are struggling to cope with a loss of funding.

The closure of the prison, which housed around 600 women, was announced by former Chancellor George Osborne in his autumn statement two years ago.

He promised: “In future, women prisoners will serve their sentences in more humane conditions better designed to keep them away from crime.”

But Dr Kate Paradine, chief executive of charity Women in Prison, said moving prisoners away from their families in London has had a devastating effect on their lives and has hindered their return to normality once released.

“Their families have to travel long distances to visit them [the prisoners].

“It has lots of practical implications in terms of resettlement and children keeping in touch with their mothers,” she warned.

“The further you are from your community the harder to settle back into it.”

Members from three other organisations who support incarcerated women spoke of their frustration following the closure of Holloway, western Europe’s largest women’s prison, at a committee meeting in City Hall last month.

Speaking at the meeting, Niki Scordi, chief executive of women’s charity Advance, said: “We support women in the three prisons in Surrey. For us to support a woman through the gates, it means we have to pay for a taxi because no one else will and it will cost £50 to get her back to London, at which point you then need to go to housing with her, to the GP to get her prescriptions and so on and so forth.

“It takes two days to support that woman. The cost to us – and therefore to our funders – is huge.”

Women in Prison was forced to cut staff and move its offices from Islington to Lambeth, in south London, following the prison’s closure.

“We’ve had to stop delivering on projects. Holloway was big in terms of the services which were gathered around it,” Dr Paradine told the Tribune.

“In our view, when the prison was closed there was no planning before or after by central government to support local councils,” she added.

Dr Paradine said her charity was receiving far less funding overall following Holloway Prison’s closure.

London Councils, a cross-party organisation offering funding to various charities, pulled its grant to the charity earlier this year.

Dr Paradine said six of her workers were made redundant, adding an extra strain to what were already overstretched resources.

Vigil remembers the women in the cells

A CORNER of the now-empty Holloway Prison was the scene of a vigil, above, on Saturday paying respect to the women who have passed through its gates.

More than 50 people gathered to hear speeches from campaigners pressing for affordable housing to be built on the site of the former prison and more support for women fleeing domestic violence.

“We have a stance believing that a lot of people in prison shouldn’t be there,” said campaigner Hazel Blake, 23, from action group Sisters Uncut, which organised the event.

“There was a community feel, with people eating soup, chatting and listening to music. We had nice feedback. People learnt a lot and it was good to get people working on similar issues together.”

Speakers included Lucy McKay, from charity Inquest, who supported the family of Sarah Reed – one of the last women to have died in the prison before its closure in July last year.

“Lucy said it can be frustrating to have the same thing happen again and again to families and we definitely need a bigger change to prevent deaths in custody.

“We are grateful people came. It was freezing,” said Ms Blake.

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