I first entered Holloway prison as a visitor, to see my sister who was incarcerated there in 1977. I found it frightening, cold, intimidating and strangely fascinating. My sister was a heroin addict and ended up in Holloway on a many occasions. Back in those days, addicts were still widely regarded as the dregs of society, with little known about addiction and, as a consequence, little help was offered to the addict.
On my sisters last stay at Holloway she had written that, when she got out this time, she was adamant that she was not going to go back to using again. She was very remorseful at the pain that she had caused her family and how she had destroyed her life. She was 23 when she was released and, within days, my beautiful sister was found dead in a B&B having overdosed, found with a syringe still hanging from her arm.
My next visit to H.M.P Holloway was in 1999 when I myself was 18 months clean from drugs. I had the privilege, as a member of Narcotics Anonymous, to carry a message of hope to the still-suffering addict.
During my many years of being clean, I have had the honour of being a secretary numerous times over in this prison. Carrying the message that it is possible to get clean and that no one is alone, no matter how far down the line they have gone, was privilege that was not afforded to my sister nor to many others.
Being of service in this way has been heartfelt for me and, in some way, it has been quite healing to give back to others what I was unable to give to my own sister. I feel blessed to have been privy to watch some of these amazing women change their lives around.
I am saddened that Holloway is being closed down, as I think it is vitally important for the woman to have access to other recovering addicts in their own community, who are now clean and sober. I also believe in the support and the building of bridges with their own families is equally important to their future recovery. I cannot help but wonder how many may struggle to go and visit their relatives in prisons so far afield, both financially and logistically. I am sad but also grateful for the opportunity to be of service and to the many women who have been through here, received help, and will go on to live rich and fruitful lives.
In gratitude, Tracey W.
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