On Friday, families of former prison workers received shocking letters from the Prison Service. An error led the organisation to send letters to the homes of deceased prison officers asking them to return to their former place of employment. The widow of a prison officer shared the trauma she had to relive due to the carelessness of the Prison Service.

The Prison Service has been struggling to run the facilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Both prison staff and prisoners have been afflicted by the novel coronavirus. The plan to release prisoners has been put on hold, yet more and more prison officers are having to quarantine themselves. Reaching out to former prison officers would help increase the workforce required for the proper operation of the prisons.

However, an error by the Prison System ended up causing more trauma for a number of former prison employees and their families. On Friday, it became apparent that some of the letters that had been sent reached the families of deceased prison officers. Dated 14 April and signed by the Director-General, the letters offered the dead employees full-time or part-time three, six, or nine-month contracts.

Speaking to The Sun, Kerry Jelfs stated that the letter brought back painful memories. The 40-year-old widow had lost her husband, Mike Jelfs, to cancer in 2018. Since Mike's death in December 2018, Kerry has been receiving a widow's pension, yet she got a letter meant for her dead husband.

Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Kerry had to relive the trauma of losing her husband. In the letter, Mike was asked to join the reserve of officers who would be working on a temporary basis. Mike had served as a prison officer at HMP Hewell, in Worcestershire before he was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2017.

Andy Baxter of The Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA) pointed out that the letters have also been sent to former prison officers who have had to retire after being assaulted in prisons. The insensitive letters are likely to trigger former prison officers who left on medical grounds.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice acknowledged the incident and extended an apology "for any distress caused."

Prison guard
A prison guard stands behind a locked cell gate Ian Waldie/Getty Images