Radio review: A jail sentence is not served by the prisoner alone

Nuala McCann

Prison Bag Podcast

Josie Bevan's husband is primarily concerned with getting out of prison; she spends her life trying to get in.

Prison Bag from the exceptional Falling Tree Productions is her story of what it's like to be a “prison wife” with two daughters – Tala and Okha - who need to see their dad.

Josie's husband, Rob, was convicted of tax fraud in 2016.

We first meet Josie on the phone struggling to get a weekend visit – her children haven't seen their dad for a month.

“Prison wife is not a good calling card in prison... no-one will speak to me,” she says.

Utter the magic words “prison wife” and the shutters come down.

The night of the conviction, she ended up being sick in the bathroom at home.

“I was puking up more than just bile and terror. I was vomiting up my old life and gagging on my new one,” she says.

The world of prison families is one that is hidden in plain sight.

We're supposed to be tough, uneducated, scraping money to keep families together – another prison wife, Lisa Selby, tells her.

The picture is a cocktail of stereotypes from a series of tv soaps.

When Rob went to prison, Josie expected a call from someone to ask how she was managing. None came.

There are tough moments – like watching children holding up their arms “like they're on some kind of crucifix” to be searched.

About 10,000 visits are made by children to prisoners every week says Josie.

We listen to her talking about packing Rob's things into plastic boxes ... it's like a bereavement.

“When he comes out, he comes out and that'll be the past, I'll be 14,” says the couple's youngest daughter Tala.

She has taken to wearing her dad's t-shirt for bed and his scarf because they smell of him.

It takes a year until Tala finally admits defeat and puts the scarf in the wash.

Watching it circling in the foam, says Josie, is like losing another layer of him.

There is beauty in a truth told unflinchingly. This is the truth of how a prison sentence is not served by the prisoner alone... it ripples out to partners and to children locked on the outside.

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