The Collective Punishment Campaign exists to raise awareness of and tackle the impact of parental imprisonment on families, and particular children, in the UK.
We spoke to the Collective Punishment Campaign’s founder Jemmar Samuels about why she started the campaign, why change is needed and how she is building her campaign. The Collective Punishment Campaign is part of the Breakthrough Accelerator programme 2023.
What prompted you to form the Collective Punishment Campaign?
My frustration with a system that doesn’t work. I was raised to believe that the system worked. The public believes that the system works. Yet my own experience with parental imprisonment has shown me how badly equipped it is to deal with the effects of parental imprisonment on families and children. From having to deal with debt collectors on my parent’s behalf to my sister’s school not taking her trauma into account when it impacted her education. I found myself sharing my story over and over again – having to educate people who “should” know how to handle parental imprisonment but didn’t – and so I decided to do something about it.
Can you tell us about where you are in your campaign journey?
Very early on. We’re still very much in the early stages. This past September marked one year of the Collective Punishment Campaign’s existence and we’re just at the stage now where we’re building a team and a strategy for change with Breakthrough’s support.
“For me rejecting the shame, campaigning to normalise having experienced parental imprisonment is part of the work.”
Was there ever any hesitancy on your part to launch a public campaign on an issue you had direct experience with?
A lot of direct experience campaigning is informed by trauma and for many people, myself included, we are still unpacking and processing that trauma alongside campaigning. But with it comes a realisation that I’m not the only one who has experienced this and the knowledge that it has affected a lot of people makes me angry, and most of all, it makes me want to do something about it.
How do you think having direct experience of the issue helps your campaign efforts?
It keeps me going. On days when I feel depleted or tired or I feel like I want to give up, having direct experience of parental imprisonment keeps me going. There’s a lot of shame associated with having a parent in prison and some people in this space prefer to keep their identity to themselves, but for me rejecting the shame, campaigning to normalise having experienced parental imprisonment is part of the work.
What hurdles have you faced as a direct-experience campaigner?
Parental imprisonment is a live issue for me. It’s ongoing for me and my family. And like a lot of direct-experience campaigners, this isn’t my full-time job, so juggling work, trying to have a life, and addressing the impact of that can be difficult.
“Breakthrough’s support has been a game-changer for my campaign and the kind of change that I want to see.”
Since receiving Accelerator support from Breakthrough, what has improved?
I’ve always had an interest in politics and government but Breakthrough has helped to improve my understanding of politics. They’ve helped to make me a better strategist and supported me to create a campaign strategy that will ensure that change is enacted.
What would you say to other direct-experience campaigners worried there’s not support out there?
I hate to be dramatic but I’m quite a spiritual person and I literally prayed for the kind of support that Breakthrough has given me. Breakthrough’s support has been a game-changer for my campaign and the kind of change that I want to see. So for the everyday person out there that has direct experience of an issue and wants to create change, Breakthrough are the perfect people to come to for help.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of the Accelerator programme?
Having a strategy in place that enables me to move past talking about the problem and allows me to start talking about the solutions and how we can deliver them. A strategy which covers the next year, three years and hopefully a five-year strategy. A plan of action that I can take to potential funders and for transparency purposes, showing those who support our community. And I think it’s going to happen.
Read more about the Collective Punishment Campaign and support their efforts at: https://collectivepunishment.uk/
Campaigns we are currently supporting through our programmes cover a wide range of issues from discrimination and harassment in the workplace, social housing, workers rights in the gig economy, and supporting young people during challenging times.