By Sam

Sam was detained for 9 months in Portugal before being acquitted of all charges. Sam describes the conditions endured during his sentence and the support he received from Prisoners Abroad.

The prison where I was held in Portugal was not fit for purpose, being some 145 years old and lacking the most basic maintenance.  There were broken windows, glass panes missing in skylights, cells designed for one person being used to house two prisoners in approximately 7 square metres with an open toilet and no privacy. The landings were originally built with metal plates and then coated with concrete.  After 145 years the concrete is now heavily damaged or missing and just the metal plates remain to walk on.

In British prisons there is netting to stop people falling, jumping, or being thrown from a landing.  There was no such netting in my prison and consequently, on the occasions when someone jumped or was thrown from a landing, death or serious injury was the result.

Every day our cells would be unlocked at 8am, breakfast would be at 8:10-8:30am and I would get my medication at 8:45am. From 9:00am the prison library would be open which I looked forward to; I did a lot of reading during my incarceration.  During my time there, Prisoners Abroad sent me newsletters and various magazines to read, which I was very grateful to receive. I would then pass these on to the two other English speakers I knew in the prison. At 12.00pm was the rollcall, followed by lunch, then back to our cells for an hour and a half. At 5:30pm we would have another rollcall, dinner, and then we would be locked back in our cells at 7:00pm.

Every day was the same.

Most prisoners there were Portuguese speakers, although some had a basic knowledge of English. I enrolled in a Portuguese language class which was due to start four months after my arrest. However, despite having arranged a room, stationery, and a time, it never happened as the prison forgot to organise a teacher.

With a few exceptions the prisoners I was detained with were reasonable, however I did have to share a cell with a man who smoked constantly, which caused me problems as I have a long-standing lung condition. On that note, getting medication and adequate food was a problem when I was first imprisoned. The food we were given was completely inedible so I asked if I could have vegetarian food instead. Before too long this request was approved and food became less of an issue. On the other hand, when I asked for a doctor’s appointment it took two and a half months before I was seen.

I’m glad that this experience has now ended and that I didn’t need Prisoners Abroad’s support for longer, but it is so important that the charity exists. Prisoners Abroad provides an invaluable service to Britons imprisoned in foreign countries – I was glad to know there were people looking out for me during my 9 months in prison.”

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?