Read Time:10 Minute, 56 Second

My name is Katherine. I’m 59 and live in North Manchester.  I’m a full time working mum with two grown up daughters. I own a small hospitality business.

My situation

I wanted to participate in the Props archive to share how the incarceration of my former partner has affected him/me/our children during lockdown. He was imprisoned in 2018 after 4 years on bail.  He suffered two strokes on the day he was called to give evidence at trial, which meant he wasn’t able to address the jury directly.  He and 4 of his business advisors were all jailed.  One was found not guilty.  He was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for conspiracy to defraud.

Three things on my window sill

The things people say about my situation

Old friends say I am amazing and I have relied on them heavily for moral support. They make me feel strong and loved.  New friends and acquaintances are curious (I am interesting at last! My ex is in prison!)  and, if they don’t know him, I sense they think I am a bit of a saddo for continuing to see the good in him. 

What I would change if I was running the country

I would make reform of the criminal justice system a priority.  Give it similar levels of attention as the NHS.  We are throwing people back into crime, people who have been let down all their lives.

Three things in my messy drawer

The address book of friends that holds all the phone numbers and addresses of old friends who have remained stalwart.

A woolly hat for my daily walk to the park

A disposable mask, which is always there if I lose my re-usable ones.  I like these because they cover up more of my face, so I can seriously leave the house incognito and without any make up!

Something that marks a threshold in your life

The journal I started when my ex-husband went to prison, writing events down as they occurred helped me to process and review a situation that I never ever expected our family to find itself in.  I had meant to start a diary at school, but never felt the need till now.

Something I’m waiting for

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am still waiting for my ex to come back home. 

But as the days pass, I am becoming reconciled to the fact that my life is actually slightly better without him right now.  

He is in a dark place, shielding because of his underlying health conditions caused by depression and strokes, and he is penniless.  He is living with a friend – so I know he is safe and warm, so really, apart from the companionship at home, I suppose there is one less thing to deal with as I try and keep my tiny company afloat and the rest of the family together.  

I have great relationships with my girls and have good friends. I make enough money.  I have a beautiful grandson.  These are all the things that really matter. Sadly my ex didn’t consider that at the time he made his bad business decisions.

Since our divorce and his arrest 7 years ago, I have been waiting for things to go back to ‘normal’.  Nights in front of the telly, getting a take away, having someone to share my thoughts with, someone who just likes being with me.  My ex is still “the one”.

What I would change if I was running the country

I would make reform of the criminal justice system a priority.  Give it similar levels of attention as the NHS.  We are throwing people back into crime, people who have been let down all their lives. Prison is preferable as an escape from chaotic lives to some, and unnecessary for others who would be better doing community service or getting medical help.  My ex-husband is not stupid, and estimates that 80% of the prisoners in jail shouldn’t be there. They should be getting mental health treatment, better advice on housing, drug counselling and working in the community.  Only about 20% of inmates are a danger to society. 

Prison and the justice system have done nothing but physical and mental harm to my ex. The establishment is now his enemy.

Three objects I’d rescue in a fire

Boring, boring boring, I’m afraid: mobile phone, wedding albums, laptop

Three random comments I’ve overheard

‘I never realized how bad it was out here, I have basically left prison and entered another kind of prison’ 

‘Dad, we are your family.  I have done everything for you, come with us now, I am begging you’  (My daughter at the prison gates).

‘All I wanted was a Dad who worshipped his family.  Why is mine so rubbish?  He just lies’

Three things I can see out of my window

1.The Front Garden with the laurel hedge we planted 10 years ago.  It has thrived and is really healthy and it provides a screen from the street (which is a busy one).  Sometimes I look out of the window and can see people taking their lockdown walks and talking with each other and I feel a bit bereft.  Other times I watch from behind the blind in the living room where they can’t see me and make up stories in my head about who they are.   Sometimes I get a cheerful smile and a wave from a stranger, reminiscent of when the girls would wave to the bin men and I’m sure it feels just as good.

2. A little brown wren in the back garden, on the fence.  She is so busy and so feisty in her call, she is only small and brown, but she is always there in the foreground.  I love her.

3. The drainpipe I cut off and disconnected, and then filled with wire wool and expanding filler by myself.  Early on in lockdown, when I was alone in my kitchen at night and the telly was off, I realized the scratching and scuffling behind the bookshelves should be taken seriously.  Then I saw a rat running up the drainpipe (really!)  and called the council.  The rats seem to have gone now, but I had to be a strong independent woman to block up the rat runs and eyeball a rat on my patio, and get rid of a half dead one from the garden,  without screeching for help.

Three pieces of music that get me through