Since 1978 we have been working hard to maintain the human rights and ensure the basic needs of British people in prison overseas. In our 40th year, thank you to everyone who has supported us. Whether it’s a week, a decade, or even four, your support means you are a part of saving lives.   

Resettlement

Our Work Preparation Programme (WPP) continued in full swing this year, with an additional day being added to the weekly programme, meaning we now operate the programme two days a week. In 2017, it provided 57 people with information on how to navigate the UK job market, CV writing skills and confidence building. Of those, eleven are now in full or part-time employment, which is a fantastic success.

As well as part-funding the Prisoners Abroad WPP, Clifford Chance have played a unique role in helping service users practice the skills they have learnt during the WPP course, by way of mock interviews, helping to prepare them for work. These will continue this year.

Our job coach, Adrian, a former service user, won Advisor of the Year at the ERSA Employability Awards 2017, for his outstanding effort supporting people on their return to the UK, through the WPP programme.

We came second in the London Homelessness Awards 2017, and were awarded a prize of £20,000. In receipt of the award, Theresa, head of service delivery said “the prize money will help support those who would be facing homelessness and destitution without our service, and the recognition will be a huge help in highlighting the work we do overseas as well. Finally a huge thank you to our service users who appeared in the film, attended the event and spoke so movingly and frankly about their experiences.”

Overseas

Sarah Lees, who is a member of the casework team, attended the Prison Fellowship Europe and Central Asia Forum conference in Portugal and was invited to speak. It was hosted by Prison Fellowship Portugal. We were invited to give a presentation on the second day which focused on foreigners in prison, and to give our perspective on how we support British Citizens in this situation. It was a really positive conference and it was an excellent opportunity to meet and develop links with others who are working to support prisoners around the world.

We have a new Human Rights Advisor, Melina Fernandes-Padron, after Vicki Prais finished her three year term with us. It is a vital to have this informed input from a human rights specialist. The role helps us to ensure we are addressing human rights abuses at a higher level, while continuing to promote the work we do to maintain the basic human rights of British people we are supporting overseas.

Our statistics are always a great snapshot of the work that we are doing, with trends emerging which we identify and address from year to year.

Family

We have added a new location to our Family Information Days and Support Groups in Manchester, which means we are able to better support people in the North of England with our family support services.

Fundraising and Communications

This year we launched our new website, which encompasses our refreshed branding. Our website is a major source of information for our service users. It is also a focus point for our donors, supporters, volunteers and staff. The new website will encourage people to engage and interact with it as it is more visually engaging than the previous website and displays information in a clear and digestible way. We made the decision to take on this project as we recognised a need to increase the visibility of Prisoners Abroad in the sector and encourage more people to recognise and support our work. We are the only organisation who help British people affected by overseas imprisonment, which means it is crucial that information about our work is accessible.

Three staff members ran the Budapest Marathon for Prisoners Abroad, raising a total of £4,200 including gift aid – which was a great success. The team at Prisoners Abroad also completed the London Legal Walk which raised £4,000. Thank you to everyone who donated!

Lord Neuberger joined the organisation as a trustee at the end of the year, bringing his expertise of the criminal justice system and influence in the sector to oversee and govern our work. We have also welcomed a service user to join the trustee board, further enhancing the diversity of our board.

Our volunteers sent a record number of Christmas cards to the office this year, containing messages for prisoners overseas. These were sent all around the world in December – reducing the isolation that many feel at a particularly difficult time of year.

Looking ahead

We have just launched our Resettlement Women’s Groups, which will support women in the UK after returning from prison overseas. Women can face different challenges to men, so having a safe space to talk about these issues is vital. Key issues include separation from children and complex emotional needs.

We are re-launching our Online Family Network this year which we have been redeveloping since the end of last year. The online forum allows you to chat online with others about having a relative or friend in prison abroad. It will enable family members to contact others going through similar difficulties, creating an online community of support and respect. You can join a forum, begin a topic, and ask questions or share knowledge and experience in a safe space. We hope that it will help and support many of the family members we are currently supporting, and others into the future. 

Our 40th year is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate what we have achieved since our creation in 1978, to think about the ongoing need of people affected by overseas imprisonment, and to ensure we can continue to support them throughout their incarceration and when they come back to the UK.