Detainees victimised for speaking out

On 11 March Nottingham RCG attended a demonstration outside Morton Hall immigration detention centre in Lincolnshire. After the demo, two detainees Nariman Jalal Karim and Raffael Ebison, who spoke out on the day against their treatment, were seized by the guards and moved nearly 200 miles away.

When we arrived, the prison authorities put on loud music and gave the men cola and ice cream and told them that any noise they might hear outside was because of a football team. The men were not fooled. Raffael turned off the music and Nariman, who is from Iranian Kurdistan and is being threatened with deportation to Iraq, climbed the interior fence to speak to us. He shouted to us about how he would continue to fight for freedom and thanked us for not forgetting about the people in Morton Hall.

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One of a long line of barbarians

Sir Kenneth Newman
15 August 1926–4 February 2017

A few national newspapers carried bland, uncritical obituaries for Kenneth Newman, former Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and former Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, making out that, despite a few ‘issues’, on the whole, here was an honest cop interested in management and reform of Britain’s police ‘service’ and opposed to freemasonry. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Newman was instrumental in the transformation of British policing – from ‘policing by consent’ to paramilitary policing. He was one of a cohort of leading figures in the British state – in political circles, the Army and the police – who form an unbroken line of experts and promoters of brutality, torture and coercion in the interests of British imperialism.

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Strangeways protester sentenced

strangeways

On 9 March Stuart Horner was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment as a punishment for the rooftop protest he staged in 2015 in protest at conditions in Strangeways prison, Manchester. Stuart is already serving a life sentence to which the new sentence will run concurrently, but the length of the term was clearly intended to send out a signal to any other prisoners who decide to take action to highlight degrading prison conditions.

The prison system which Stuart described to the jury in his trial is in some ways very different to the one in place at the time of the more famous Strangeways protest, but in others is almost identical. The prevalence of synthetic drugs and the violence surrounding them did not exist in 1990, but the description read to the court of physical conditions in Strangeways could have been taken verbatim from accounts written back then: ‘We are just fed up with the way we are treated, isolated in our cells sometimes 24 hours a day. It’s escalating into a major situation… You’re sat in a cell, two people in a one man cell, with a bucket… because the toilets are all broken, having to eat in that cell...you can’t live like that, it’s disgusting.’

Overcrowded, violent and desperate – prisons erupt

breack the chains rcg

The final months of 2016 saw prisons across England grip­ped with an outpouring of frustration and rage against a brutal and overcrowded system in which prisoners are becoming increasingly desperate.

• 29 October – Lewes prison, Sussex; a six-hour ‘rampage’ took place on one wing of the prison: three prisoners face charges of criminal damage, violent disorder and prison mutiny.

• 6 November – Bedford prison: 200 prisoners took over two wings, one of which was heavily damaged; 50-60 prisoners were moved to other prisons and three face charges.

• 20 November – Moorland prison, Doncaster: 40 prisoners smashed up a wing of the prison; 30 of them were moved out to other prisons.

• 16 December – Birmingham prison (formerly known as Winson Green, and now run by notorious private security company G4S): 100 prisoners were involved in a disturbance des­cribed by the POA as ‘the worst since Strangeways’; 240 prisoners were moved out to prisons across the country, as far apart as Hull, Cardiff and Thame­side in south London. The POA warned of further riots at the receiving prisons but this did not transpire. Eight prisoners have so far been charged with criminal offences.

• 22 December – Swaleside, Kent: 60 prisoners took over a wing of the prison (see article).

While the government talks of ‘reform’ (by which it means decentralisation and yet greater involvement of private profiteers) and the Prison Officers Association (POA) repeats its endless mantra that all problems will be solved by a combination of increasing staffing levels and locking up prisoners for even longer, those at the sharp end are making their own comment on the prison system heard by the only means at their disposal.

On 18 December FRFI comrades in Birmingham attended a solidarity protest outside the prison and we send our support to all those who have been charged and who are being made scapegoats for the brutality of the prison system.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 255 February/March 2017

Swaleside – collective misery will become common purpose

On 22 December 2016 the fifth ‘serious disturbance’ in English prisons in two months broke out at Swaleside Category B prison in Kent. The unrest throughout the system now seems uncontainable as conditions within most prisons become increasingly inhuman. Long-term prisoner and FRFI contributor John Bowden, who was recently moved back into the English prison system from Scotland, comments from Swaleside.

Following each recent riot the Prison Officers Association (POA) offered its own well-publicised and opportunist explanation for the ‘crisis of control’ now afflicting most prisons: insufficient staff. Whilst it is certainly true that financial cutbacks in prison resources have caused a serious decaying of conditions and infrastructure, as well as reduced staffing levels, the actual cause of the current prisons crisis originates in the ‘get tough’ criminal justice policy of the Tony Blair government, and those that succeeded it.

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