Inquest exposes brutal regime in Frankland seg unit

FRFI 184 April / May 2005

On 2 October 2002, 31-year-old Paul Day was found hanged in the segregation unit of Frankland prison. His death occurred on the very night that he came off a dirty protest in the unit. The protest, the last in a series described by the coroner as the biggest in the UK’s prison system outside of Northern Ireland, was the prisoners’ response to a brutal and callous regime that had been operating, unchecked, in Frankland segregation unit for years. ERIC ALLISON reports on the inquest into Paul Day’s death.

The inquest lasted four and a half weeks, and heard from prisoners and ex-prisoners, from members of prison staff, Paul’s former solicitor and his parents. The jury heard graphic details about the dirty protests and the treatment of the men on them, as well as the harrowing details of Paul Day’s own odyssey through the prison system to Frankland. They were even taken to see the segregation unit, a place where outsiders seldom venture. No doubt spotlessly clean on the day of their visit, they would nonetheless have been able to picture the seg two and a half years earlier as a Dante-esque arena of torment, where men daubed their bodies and cells with their own excrement for weeks on end. They heard that, far from persuading the men to end their protest, staff subjected the prisoners to constant verbal abuse and did everything in their power to make the dreadful conditions worse. Prisoner after prisoner gave evidence of abuse from screws.

The jury must have wondered what drives men to eat, drink and live in such an environment. Dirty protests are not entered into lightly; they are undertaken by men in desperate circumstances, who feel there is little else they can do to protect themselves. As former prisoner Jimmy Boyle once put it: ‘The screws liked the taste of my blood, they did not like the taste of my shit.’

Paul Day was serving eight years for robbery. He was a self-confessed, registered police informer. In that capacity, he had, without doubt, helped to imprison a large number of people over a long period, and would always have been in danger as a result. However, he was moved to Frankland at the point he told the police he was no longer prepared to play this role. He was told he was going to a safe unit where he would be protected. No such unit existed. Instead he was put in the segregation unit, where he suffered abuse, firstly from other prisoners who knew who and what he was; then when, despite all this, he vociferously took the side of the men then on dirty protest, and went on to join the protest himself, directly from the screws.

The verdict was more than a decision on a death in custody; it was an indictment of the whole stinking segregation system. Furthermore, some parts of the verdict clearly exposed prison officers who gave evidence at the inquest to have lied under oath. Inquest juries now give their verdict in the form of a narrative. The narrative into Paul Day’s death included the findings that:

• inadequate information about Paul was provided to HMP Frankland prior to his transfer and he himself was misled about the nature of this transfer, with the result ‘that he felt abandoned, frustrated, depressed, helpless and defeated. He also lost trust in the system and his carers’.
• Paul suffered verbal abuse from fellow prisoners in the segregation unit at HMP Frankland and the staff did not act reasonably to deal with this.
• The systems in place to effectively manage and care for Paul were inadequate. There was a lack of staff on night shifts. The 2052 system (suicide prevention) failed, the observations on Paul were not effective...checks were insufficient and the entries of poor quality; checks by management were not done on the entries; the complaints procedure was too slow. Suicide awareness training was not frequent enough.
• The dirty protest protocol was not adhered to. No attempt was made to find out why Paul went on to the dirty protest. There was no encouragement to come off the dirty protest. Paul was moved back onto the same spur as the dirty protest after his shower on the day he died.
• Delay in seeing the doctor was inappropriate.
• Paul was intimidated and mentally abused.

By the end of the inquest, I found myself having massive sympathy for Paul Day and my overriding emotions were rage at a prison system that could allow such treatment to any individual and disgust at those whose task it is to monitor the welfare of prisoners on behalf of the public. Not least of the factors that influenced me was hearing the testimony of, ‘ordinary’ prisoners who had been driven to protest in this awful manner. Like me, as criminal and prisoner, they must have considered grasses to be of the lowest order. Yet, when Paul Day showed solidarity by joining their protest, and after witnessing the appalling treatment at the hands of staff, they came to this inquest to tell the truth. In doing so, they were able to help his family, who are fine, courageous people, to take on the might of the Home Office and ensure that this window of degradation was exposed to public view.

Anthony Wood, one of the protesters was brought from the cages at Wakefield to give evidence to the inquest. He described how he’d been given a jacket potato that had dead flies carefully inserted into its centre. Another former protester, Gordon Foley, now in Barlinnie, told how he’d been driven on to the protest because, ‘In 31 years in gaol, I’d never experienced anything like the seg unit at Frankland.’

He said that, after Paul Day’s death, he (Foley) had been stripped naked by screws and thrown into a freezing cell. He was then moved to the cages at Wakefield and when he arrived there, his body was black and blue from the beatings he’d received.

In what was, at least in my experience, an unprecedented show of prisoner solidarity; a large number of cons and former cons who had not been involved in the protest gave evidence to the inquest. All except one testified to the abuse that had taken place. (And that one’s evidence was so transparently toadying as to cause jury members to shake their heads in disbelief. Surprise, surprise, he was still at Frankland and thought all screws were wonderful!). To their credit, many were vulnerable prisoners, still in the system. Yet they named incidents of abuse they had witnessed and did not hesitate to name the screws involved. Serving prisoners who are still ‘listeners’ (prisoners trained by the Samaritans to support distressed fellow prisoners), and therefore in a somewhat privileged position, came forward to damn the regime at Frankland. Prisoners everywhere owe a debt to these men.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons Ann Owers has written to Mr and Mrs Day promising that her office will carry out a ‘thematic review into the way prisoners are treated in segregation units in the dispersal estate’. This is a very positive step towards exposing the hideous brutality that has gone on unchecked in these places and I encourage all prisoners who read this paper and have done recent time in the blocks to write to the Inspectorate describing your experiences, naming names and giving details. The more evidence that is presented of what we all know to be the rotten regime in these stinking places, the harder it will be for the abusers, and those at every level in the system who allow the abuse to carry on, to wriggle away.
Appeal to prisoners from Paul Day’s mother
I am the mother of Paul Stuart Day who was found hanged at Frankland Prison in the segregation unit on 2 October 2002. His inquest, for me and my husband, was the most harrowing experience of our lives. We loved Paul dearly and are determined to make sure that we play our part in making the Home Office and the public aware of how badly treated he was, not just in Frankland seg but in numerous segregation units which he was held in for over two years. If there is anyone who can offer information about Paul, and the way he was treated elsewhere (Wandsworth, Cardiff, Highdown, Pentonville), just to name a few of the prisons he was in, I would be eternally grateful for information. If you yourselves have horror stories to tell about your time in segregation and you write to me via FRFI regarding your experiences I will forward all mail to the Chief Inspector of Prisons, and will write back to you confirming that I have done that. I would like to personally thank all of the prisoners who were courageous enough to attend Paul’s inquest and tell the truth on his behalf. I will be forever grateful to you all.
Pauline Day

 

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