Marie Curtis was the ‘driving force’ behind HALOW (Birmingham) for 20 years from 1985 until her death in 2005. A mother of seven herself, she saw the plight of families thrown into turmoil by a jail sentence and decided to do something about it. She persuaded the City Council to let her use a small terraced house around the corner from Birmingham Prison in Winson Green that soon became a hub for support and information for prisoners’ families at a time when there was nowhere else to turn.
For 20 years she championed the cause of prisoners’ families, running a support centre and 24-hr help-line that became a Registered Charity in 1990. Five years later, in 1996, HALOW (Birmingham) took over the running of Birmingham Prison Visitors’ Centre where Marie became Coordinator and Director of the charity. She wrote a booklet ‘Serving The Second Sentence’ that helped hundreds of families cope with the trauma of separation. A forceful and passionate public speaker, Marie spoke at many conferences and national events to raise awareness of the needs of prisoners’ families. She spoke ‘from the heart;’ and from her own lived experience as a ‘lifer’s wife’.
Jane Bailey, HALOW’s current Chair said: “With Marie, the saying ‘once met, never forgotten’ would be a fitting epitaph. Not afraid to speak her mind – passionate, determined and with a huge sense of humour. She shared her personal story as a prisoner’s wife with honesty and dignity.”
HALOW (Birmingham) is the lasting legacy of Marie’s vision; she would be proud to see how the charity has grown to a major provider of services for prisoners’ families across the West Midlands.