In honour of National Volunteers' Week 2023, Bethane has kindly shared her thoughts on leading our Brighton Family Support Group.

I feel privileged to contribute to Prisoners Abroad as a Family Support Group Volunteer. I currently work as a trainee solicitor, and throughout my legal education and journey to becoming a lawyer I have been constantly drawn to and involved in voluntary and pro bono work.

I ventured into the world of law as a first-generation law student, interested in understanding how the legal system’s rigid rules interact with the complexities of everyday lives. And this interest has stuck with me. I volunteered for the University of Bristol Law Clinic, providing free legal advice to members of the public with no recourse to legal funding, and eventually led as Student Director in my final year. I founded a partnership with Bristol Mind, as I recognised the impact difficult legal dilemmas have on mental health.

After completing my degree, I volunteered for Citizens Advice, and voluntarily assisted a UK law firm in their plight to abolish the legal requirement that defendants in criminal proceedings must confirm their nationality in court before conviction. I then began volunteering for Prisoners Abroad in 2019.

My role as Family Support Group Volunteer combines my interests in the jurisprudential conflict between law and morality, with the real visceral, psychological impact of the system on those at its mercy. However, Prisoners Abroad has also introduced me to the additional complexities inherent in navigating international imprisonment.

I feel so honoured to be able to facilitate a safe space for the family members of those imprisoned abroad – in many respects the forgotten voices who are serving sentences alongside their loved ones.

Hearing “I feel so much better now” at the end of a group reinforces the reason I volunteer.

In addition, listening to the psychological, emotional, legal struggles of attendees has highlighted some small yet important gaps in the legal matrix which I hope to delve into as my career progresses.

Ultimately, I feel as though I play a small part in the fantastic organisation that is Prisoners Abroad, but seeing the positive impacts of my role on those who trust me to hear them make it all worth it.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.

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