I don’t think you’re ever going to get away from the stigma of prison. We are judgmental. Until I had a husband in prison, I was probably judgmental too.

Hosted by Kate Littler and Nina McNamara, Bird Podcast investigates a range of topics surrounding criminal justice and provides a platform for those within the prison system to challenge stereotypes. Now in its second season, the podcast has shed light on issues such as restorative justice, mental health in prison, and female incarceration. We were very pleased to be invited on for an episode to talk about the work we do supporting British people affected by overseas imprisonment.

The episode consists of interviews with Sonia, who we helped when she was in prison in the US, and Sue, whose husband was also in prison there. Kate and Nina also discuss challenges, successes and solutions with Prisoner and Family Support Service Manager Laura, and Head of Service Delivery Theresa.

Click here: LISTEN to the podcast.

Sonia who features in the podcast, was born in the UK and moved to the US as a child. Last year we supported 254 people serving a sentence in a US prison. Sonia recalls her arrest and subsequent prison sentence, and also speaks about being deported at the end of her sentence. She had to leave her family including her six children, behind to begin a new life in the UK, which was at the time in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It just didn’t feel real. I was in total shock. I was like a zombie. It was traumatising to be honest. Inside, I still don’t believe that I’m here. In my mind I’m still at home.

Kate and Nina spoke to Laura and Theresa about how we support prisoners and their families from arrest to deportation. They asked to know more about how people come to be in prison abroad and the types of conditions they might have to endure. Theresa highlights that in regions such as South America, the conditions experienced were often directly related to the amount of money a prisoner had.

You will sleep on the floor unless you can buy a mattress. You will have no access to healthcare unless you can buy it.  You may not get clean water, you may not get decent food to eat.

Laura talks about Prisoners Abroad’s grant programmes  - there to ensure prisoners in developing countries can access the basic things that they need to be able to survive.

Both Laura and Theresa expressed that justice systems and public services should recognise individuality more.

For authorities to take that into account that everybody is human and everybody deserves a second chance would be an absolutely life-changing thing for thousands of people around the world.

Sue, whose husband recently returned to the UK after serving a 12-year prison sentence in the US, talked about how we helped her and her family during this time. In 2020, we supported 1,471 family members and friends with loved ones in prison. Sue describes the shock and shame many of them experience when they find out that a relative has been imprisoned overseas.

For many family members, the logistics and cost associated with visiting a prison sometimes on the other side of the world mean they will go years without seeing their loved one.

While her husband was in prison Sue attended Family Support Groups, which offer a non-judgmental space for family members to open up about their situations.

Prisoners Abroad with Bird Podcast will be available to download on all podcast platforms from Sunday 12th September. You can also listen to the full episode here.