Prisoner’s Year End

A poem, written at the end of 2018, dedicated to all those with loved ones in prison over the so-called festive period – especially women doing their best to keep what remains of their families together. I have struggled to get this poem finished because I am now fortunate enough to have a house full of my family. I have promised myself that I will not rest until we have changed the attitude of those foolish enough to believe, as the Dail Mail implies, that we are getting soft on prisoners. I would challenge anyone who thinks like that to discuss with me or, preferably, spend a week in Wandsworth or one of the other luxury hotels of Her Majesty’s prison estate. And if I were able to speak to that lady I would remind her that I, a simple citizen, would be ashamed to have my name associated with such filthy, dangerous and failing institutions.

The Prisoner’s Year End

This is not the end of just another year

It’s the first time in four that I’ve been free

Things familiar, family and friends are near

And, here, what I get is really what I see

Despite years alone amidst the many yet the few

Who were never close to knowing me

Strangers in such serious and subtle ways

Though helpful and kind through darkest days

For me, as for many, there was little they could do


From mid-December, locked out of public sight

We all feigned a sort of year-end joy

But when that cell door closed at night

There was not an inmate, man or boy

Who did not think of another place

Who did not suffer the temptation to destroy

To kick a wall or bang on a door

Who wondered not what his sentence was for

Nor cherished memories of a loved one’s face


So, as you listen to those carol choirs sing

Be mindful of those forced to bear the noise

That troubled souls to all prisons bring

Those who outside are proud to be the “boys¨

Who, once inside, call out in the darkness

While your children unwrap their wished-for toys

And fill your room with shrieks of delight

There are those who suffer shrieks of fright

And face the stress of prison starkness


And, when you sit down at your food-filled table

As the shortest days come to an end

Remember those families sincerely unable

To celebrate or, at least, obliged to pretend

Because an absentee is so sorely missed

Who eats in a cell which he’s forced to defend

By an open toilet that’s shared with another

Who also misses his wife or mother

Who by night, by loved one, will not be kissed