In honour of 2023's National Storytelling Week, which runs from 30th Jan to 5th Feb, we wanted to share Emma's story. Emma is one of our caseworkers and has supported thousands of British prisoners and their families through overseas sentences. She describes what it is like to work for Prisoners Abroad, what her role involves, and some of the things that have stuck with her...

"I’ve been working as a caseworker at Prisoners Abroad for over ten years and have worked on thousands of cases in that time. What I like about the role is that you never know what each day will bring, as the support that people need will vary enormously depending on where they are in the world, and what their needs and vulnerabilities might be.  

Some days are spent responding to urgent enquiries – taking calls from frantic family members who have just learned of the arrest of their loved one abroad, and don’t know where to turn, or processing life-saving grants so that people can obtain emergency medical treatment in prison. On other days, the calls might be from people who are past that initial period of distress, but need guidance on what the next steps might be – how to arrange a visit, how their loved one can apply to transfer to the UK to serve their sentence, whether they might be able to apply for early release.  

Caseworkers have to deal with a range of enquiries from prisoners and family members, and sometimes the caller doesn’t always need information or practical assistance, but might just be finding things difficult and need someone to talk to.

Dealing with overseas imprisonment can be an isolating experience.  

Some of the most memorable cases I’ve worked on have actually been people with shorter sentences of under a year in prison. In these cases, the need for our support is constant throughout, as the family learns of the imprisonment, has to navigate the system and understand how they can communicate with, send money to and visit the prisoner, and then start preparing for release – all in the space of a few months. These cases require intensive support, and the caseworkers will be in touch with prisoners and their families multiple times a week.

Often, Prisoners Abroad will keep in touch on someone’s return if they then need help from our resettlement team. After all, even a short period of imprisonment can result in the loss of work, home or a supportive family."

We receive lots of positive feedback from the people we support, and this quote from the mother of a prisoner in Thailand sums up the fantastic support that our casework team provide day in, day out:

I just want to say a massive thank you to you guys. My son has been detained since the beginning of September and thankfully he has a flight back this coming Wednesday. [...] It’s been a massive long journey, and no doubt a huge learning curve for him. But with the help of your brilliant service and the UK Consulate I will be forever in your debt. You have no idea how truly grateful I am for the help and support you’ve given my son. Makes me believe more that there are good people still in this world! [...] Thank you and keep up the fabulous organization you have established.

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.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?