by Mary Foxall, April 2018

Twitter: @foxall_maryann

At 11pm on 7th November 2015, I got the phone call that every mum and dad dreads. The governor from the now closed prison, Glen Parva, phoned to say that my child Jake had tried to take his own life. You know she didn't even ask if I was with any one, just came right out with it.

Jake later died on the 12 Nov 2015 at 15.55, me and his brother were there by his side. It was a shock for me as that morning I was speaking with Jake’s little brother and we didn’t think he sounded any different from any other day. His last words to us were I love you and see you soon. 

Jake had been placed in Bullingdon for 4 months before being transferred to Glen Parva.  It was a struggle for Jake as he didn't want to be transferred to a prison which would put more miles between him and his family.

At the time I didn’t know anything about Glen Parva.  But that was about to change. Before it was shut down, Glen Parva was  a notorious prison, known for a high number of self-inflicted deaths of young men. Prison inspections and reports from charities like INQUEST showed how the prison was rife with bullying and violence. Examples of abuses included detainees charging ‘rent’ for cells and prison dealers making debt threats to those who bought legal highs from them.  

My son Jake had mental health issues, so you would think he would have got the help he needed. Instead he was bullied by other prisoners who would spray air freshener and other things over him. I know that would have been hard for him to take.

Jake was placed on an ACCT, which is a suicide and self-harm prevention plan that is meant to support prisoners. The prison staff were supposed to keep an eye on him and have some sort contact to make sure he was ok. But they classed him has low-risk.

Low risk, wow really! Jack had been found with a ligature around his neck in Bullingdon and had seriously self-harmed at other points, including swallowing a sharp object. But they still classed him as low risk.

My son was about to become just another young boy who died in a dangerous prison unable to protect prisoners that couldn’t cope with a brutal regime.

Jake must have been in a really dark place to do what he done. He left a note for me and his friends but to this day I haven't read it and I don't want to.

I lost Jake nearly 3 years ago and it makes me sick when I go on Twitter to see that there are still so many deaths amongst young men and women in prisons today. 

I want to scream to those in power, come on get out from behind your desk in your ivory tower and do something. This should not be happening. You cannot keep making the mistakes and causing more grief to other families who have to say goodbye to their loved ones too soon. People this is just a bloody joke now.  I know what they will say, we don't have the funds to sort things. 

That's why organisations like INQUEST are important. They fight for bereaved families’ rights when others don’t seem to care. They fought for me and my rights and I thank them for this.

With little change to the failing prisons system, it is hard to stay strong and positive. In these moments, one quote stays with me: somehow darkness shows you the light.

It really does; I'm a stronger mum now and I will never forget. I will keep fighting for others’ justice as part of his legacy.

On Jake’s first anniversary we had some of his friends come to the house to light lanterns and fireworks. We wanted to honour Jake’s memory and the many others’ who have tragically died in prison.

May all of those who have died rest in peace.


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