By Anonymous

Prisoners Abroad’s Online Family Network is a supportive and confidential forum that enables the family members of British prisoners to communicate and share advice with others in the same situation.

A family member uploaded this post on the network recently and having received their permission, we would like to share it.

I’m a bit late coming to this ‘In prison in the USA’ thread as my brother has been in prison for 7 years now. Reading back through the thread I can empathise with much of the confusion, frustration and pain that can arise from having a relative incarcerated thousands of miles away.

After initial disbelief, the reality gradually began to hit home. I never really knew my brother until his adulthood, but the news was such a massive shock for our elderly mother, who unfortunately never really fully recovered from that initial blow and its lasting consequences.

The bewildering journey through the US justice system and prison setup was exhausting at first, whilst we tried to find a way to communicate with and supply funds to my brother. Extended family in the UK were divided in their reactions, some disowning him, others much more supportive.

Mum was eventually able to secure payments to the jail via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)* so a monthly commissary account was established. Luckily my brother made friends with a cell-mate who was released shortly after and who has proved invaluable as a means of transferring funds after this became more difficult via the FCO. I seem to remember it may also have been the FCO who gave us details of Prisoners Abroad who have been a tremendous asset, initially for information then also for the local Family Support Groups and Family Days.

With current covid restrictions the Courts have all but closed and my brother now feels it may yet be a further couple of years before a trial is scheduled.  However, one silver lining from the current pandemic has been that after visits were banned to the jail, they were introduced on Skype instead. The FCO, via their Consulate staff local to the jail, were very helpful in getting us access to this facility, which has meant my wife and I have been able to physically see him and chat face to face weekly for the first time in a few years.

One great sadness has been that our mother became seriously ill and died last year without ever seeing a resolution to his case.

She travelled to the US with me in the first year of my brother’s detention, where we arranged to attend a hearing in his case. Although he entered the court shackled to all the other prisoners having hearings that day, the judge did allow us an almost unprecedented one on one meeting with him in a side room.

Hopefully some of this may have been of interest or use to those of you in a similar position. I do have to own some feelings of ambivalence myself towards my brother, or at least in respect of his alleged offences, but I did promise our Mum in her final months that I wouldn’t abandon him and I also try and separate out his alleged actions from the kindly, fun person I had grown to know before all this nightmare arrived.”


*Now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

*Cover artwork by a prisoner

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