In the year to July 2021 we have:
- managed to maintain in-prison activities 5 days per week throughout the Covid period, albeit at reduced capacity (one volunteer rather than four).
- supported more than 1,200 individual prisoners, with over 3,000 separate interactions (many prisoners request multiple interactions to achieve the desired result).
- supported over 300 men with immigration issues and helped over 45 men make asylum claims, with bail being granted in at least 15 cases.
- supported prisoners at risk from suicide or self-harm (SASH). In a typical week at least 7 of the referrals made to BEST involve a prisoner under heightened staff observation due to SASH risk. We have been told by HMPW that our support, through reducing their anxiety, has significantly lowered the incidence of SASH among FNOs, although we have no precise statistics.
- enabled 55 prisoners to make calls to their loved ones by crediting their phone accounts using our hardship funds.
- started a BEST surgery on D Wing (in August 2020), typically attended by 20 men each week, dealing with issues such as deportation, extradition, inability to contact loved ones, health, housing and finances.
- received around 70 applications per month for BEST support directly from prisoners using the prison kiosk – and around 60 referrals per month from prison officers and partner organisations.
- enabled 23 BEST volunteers to see prisoners on social visits (prior to lockdown). In normal times, BEST volunteers conduct around 300 visits per year. This support has been significantly limited during lockdown.
- become an integral part of the prison system, with our swift response to emergencies and constant support freeing up prison staff to continue their day-to-day functions. We have also implemented various ideas within the prison to help staff deal with the challenges of multiple languages and cultures and other communication issues.
On suicide watch while awaiting extradition to the USA and swearing to kill himself if the extradition went ahead: BEST visited him regularly to discuss things: he was extremely anxious about the impoverishment and likely eviction of his wife and children in the North of England: BEST applied emergency funding to his family and connected them with a local charity who helped them to apply for benefits: he was eventually extradited and is facing a significantly shorter sentence than he anticipated: he remains in close touch his wife and two children who have managed to keep their home.
served with a Deportation Order without the prior Stage 1 papers notifying potential deportees and giving them a reasonable time in which to appeal if they so wish: the papers wrongly claimed he has “no family connections with the UK” whereas in fact he has a wife and children here: BEST helped him appeal the DO pointing out failure of due process and the factual error in the HO claim he had no family here: Deportation Order revoked and he remains in the UK.
Arrested for the first time in his life in transit at Heathrow airport and imprisoned aged 70: speaks no English: BEST helped him to connect with his family and arranged a visit for a family member to see him on a Social Visit: we saw him regularly and worked closely with Healthcare to ensure he remained well in custody and facilitated fluent communications with his lawyers: in June 2021 a Croatian court found him innocent of all war crime charges against him and he is now once again a free man.
Having applied for asylum Damian was told he would be tested for Covid and extradited the following day: when we learnt of this BEST immediately saw the Head of OMU and instructions were given to OMU, the NCA, and all involved in the extradition process halting the extradition pending due process on his asylum claim: he remains in HMPW.
Andrzej was referred to BEST by the Hospital Wing. Andrzej spoke no English. BEST visited him, helped him understand why he was in prison and started the process of recovering his ID papers (loss of which left him feeling, literally, a nobody). He became so ill he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Unable to get any information from Andrzej or anyone else about his background the hospital contacted BEST because all he could remember about prison was that an organisation called BEST tried to help him. After liaising with staff in the hospital and the Czech Consulate, he wasContinue reading “Andrzej”
Pawel was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant in 2020 relating to offences in Poland from the 1990s: on suicide watch for several weeks when first came to HMPW: BEST regularly visited Pawel and [with the help of a Polish lawyer] we wrote to the Polish President appealing for a pardon. The appeal was rejected, but this support and our one-to-one talks with Pawel were vital in restoring his morale: he is no longer suicidal and, with the help of BEST, his wife and children have visited him in prison and he remains in regular contact with them.
On the day of his release, Joseph was served papers saying the Home Office planned to deport him to a country where he does not speak the language, knows no one, and has never set foot: BEST applied for immigration bail and helped him prepare a Statement to the Home Office explaining his lifelong connections to the UK, that his family all have British citizenship, and fuller details of why he is appealing to the Home Office for leave to remain in the UK.