These are the opening lines of a poem on lockdown and relates the experience of a resident of HMP Edinburgh. It is one of many poems submitted after prisoners were invited to express their feelings through verse.

Freedom, in the sense of the unrestrained enjoyment of natural rights, is something we take for granted. I wish of course the pandemic had never invaded our lives causing the pain, loss and disruption it has, but there are many valuable lessons we can learn from our experience. One of these is how much we have taken for granted the freedom we’ve enjoyed in the past. However, instead of feeling frustrated and depressed, we could use our time to consider and identify with men and women in our prisons who have had even further restrictions imposed on them. Of course, these restrictions are necessary for their health and wellbeing. Nonetheless the removal of the freedom to practise their faith and see their loved ones during family visits, has been very hard to take. Imagine everyday only being allowed to shower, briefly exercise and make a single phone call.

One prisoner wrote the following poem,

Lying awake in the dark my thoughts are of my children and the wife

And now there’s no visits or bonding –

absolutely nothing at all.

All I can give them is a little jail phone call…

‘Daddy I drew you a picture and can we sing you a song?’

Obviously, I say yes and was overjoyed to sing along.

These are all the things that pick me up when I feel I could fall…

I don’t know what I’d do without a little jail phone call.

I’m starting to realise the wife is struggling just to try and cope.

I need to support her emotionally and mentally, I cannot drop the ball…

This is what I give my wife with a little jail phone call.

As I write I am conscious of people of varying circumstances throughout the world who feel cut off and isolated due to the pandemic restrictions and I’m not simply referring to the elderly, the sick and the housebound although they come readily to mind. Hopefully, we will all listen to the experience of other people and develop an empathy and understanding that perhaps wasn’t there before. Sometimes this can come from a person who truly knows the pain of long separation and isolation. A former prisoner expresses it very poignantly,

“There are many things we take for granted and it is only when we lose it, we realise the value it had. Due to Covid19 a lot of people are experiencing the loss of work and, at the same time, the loss of liberty. These two factors are bad enough but combined they risk diminishing the self-worth of the individuals concerned. A lot of people relate to where I have been. In the same way I can now relate to their fears and insecurity.”