Heartache of parents in jail : LETTERS

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From Ms Alison Kent Sir: Your article "When mummy or daddy goes to jail" did not display the utter anguish of young children separated from their mother by prison bars. Unfortunately, I speak from bitter experience, currently being on remand at HMP Holloway, a single parent separated from her four young children. I was arrested in March 1994, for a crime I did not commit, and remanded in custody to Holloway - over 100 miles away from my home.

My youngest child, Tiffany, was then aged 13 months - neither walking nor talking - totally dependent on her mother. All she knows is that mummy went out one day and never came back. She now without her mother or her siblings. She neither understands whyI left or that one day I will back.

My eldest two were teased mercilessly at school for "having a mum in Holloway", having been splashed all over the headlines of both local and national media. They are marginally luckier in that the eldest three are together and have each other for support, and are able to talk about the situation and express their feelings.

Besides writing to each of them at least once a week, we have all-day children's visits at Holloway every fortnight and I can get to hug and kiss and play with my children, sharing meaningful contact. But this happiness is tinged with heartbreak at going-home time, having to peel off a clinging child, resisting all attempts to be handed over to a waiting relative. I challenge any judge to watch these scenes and not be moved; it brings tears to the eyes of even the hardest hearted prison officer.

My future and that of my children is uncertain. Held in limbo for nearly 11 months, denied even a trial by our snail's-pace legal system, for every day I serve behind bars, my innocent young children serve too. They want their mummy back.

Yours faithfully, ALISON KENT HMP Holloway London, N7

18 January

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