Belmarsh search teams dedicated to assaulting prisoners

Belmarsh prison in south east London opened in 1991, and was one of the first of Britain’s ‘new generation’ prisons, built in response to the prison over-crowding of the late 1980s, which led to the Strangeways and other uprisings of 1990. It houses prisoners of every security category and combines operating as an ordinary ‘local’ prison with holding ‘high risk’ Category A and anti-terrorism prisoners in various secure units. In 2009 the Chief Inspector of Prisons described the prison’s ‘task’ as ‘to ensure that the regime and culture of the establishment supports both populations and that the necessary focus on security for the latter group does not undermine the support and rehabilitation of the former’. Prisoners in Belmarsh attest to the prison’s failure in this respect: not only is the emphasis always on security above all else, but prison officers take positive pleasure in enforcing the regime with extreme force. Below, Leanne MacMillan writes for FRFI about her father’s recent experience at Belmarsh:


‘On 17 March 2011, my dad arrived at HMP Belmarsh, shortly before his release after 17 years in prison. Eight days after his arrival, he awoke one morning to find seven extremely aggressive officers from the Dedicated Search Team (DST) in his cell. They proceeded to give him a strip-search, which was so intrusive it was virtually a sexual assault. This left my father feeling very humiliated and violated. The officers then placed him in a sterile cell. When a fellow inmate walked past and asked my dad if he had had any breakfast, the lead officer in charge barked to the inmate in a nasty and aggressive manner that my father had refused breakfast. Upon hearing this, my dad explained that he had not refused breakfast, and was told by the officer to “wind your fucking neck in”. My father then tried to point out that this was a violation of his human rights. For that explanation he was violently assaulted by five of the prison officers. This resulted in a burst lip, swollen face and injuries to his ribs; he was then laid on the floor, put in handcuffs and repeatedly told “when we are about, wind your fucking neck in”.

‘This was a totally unprovoked attack and upon further investigation it has come to light that the DST officers are systematically assaulting, brutalising and violating any prisoners who do not submit totally to their twisted regime. These so-called prison officers are not adhering to the Prison Service’s guidelines, and have become a law unto themselves. This comes with the blessing of their security governor. This unlawful practice by one of the most brutal and inhuman regimes at HMP (Hell) Belmarsh needs to be stopped. Please complain to the governor, Phil Wragg, at HMP Belmarsh, Western Way, London SE28 0EB. If you or a family member has been a victim of the Belmarsh DST please contact the Prisoners Advice Service, PO Box 46199, London EC1M 4XA, who will forward your details to the solicitors representing the victims of this unlawful practice.’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011


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