Close Supervision Centre prisoners in long-term segregation

From the 1970s until the 1990s, a small group of British prisoners labelled as trouble-makers or subversives were subject to procedures officially described as the ‘continuous assessment scheme’ but known by prisoners as ‘the ghost train’, as they involved repeated moves between prisons. No actual assessment took place and the prisoners were always located in segregation units in isolation. All this was supposed to have come to an end in 1998, with the introduction of the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system and the allocation, under Prison Rule 46, of a small group of prisoners to specially designated CSC units; however, according to Kevan Thakrar, who has been a CSC prisoner since 2010 and is currently held in the segregation unit at HMP Whitemoor, the use of long-term segregation to contain this group of prisoners is making a come-back.

While the prison system in general is overcrowded, CSC facilities are actually under-occupied. The various CSC units around the country have a total capacity of 54 places, while the total number of prisoners currently allocated to the CSC system is approximately 45. The CSC unit at Full Sutton prison is built to hold ten prisoners and holds just three. Kevan writes:

‘Although CSC units clearly should be closed down on humanitarian grounds, locking prisoners up in segregation units permanently is worse. The figures show that all Rule 46 prisoners could be located in a CSC unit, which would enable some stability in terms of location; however I am one of at least 12 prisoners kept within a segregation unit on an unofficial punishment regime.’

‘In 2006 Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMCIP) was rightly critical of the long term use of punishment blocks for housing prisoners. Since the recent legal aid cuts the Prison Service arrogantly thinks it can no longer be challenged. An end to long term solitary confinement is the only real solution, but unless HMCIP decides to look again at the situation, and bodies such as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture are notified of the current conditions of CSC prisoners, the situation will only get worse.’

‘CSC prisoners in segregation units do not have access to any of the safeguards in place for other segregated prisoners, such as segregation review boards, so have no means to progress. Although these safeguards are themselves entirely inadequate the fact that they do not exist for CSC prisoners exemplifies the severity of the situation. Being kept for no reason on an indefinite unofficial punishment is never going to have a beneficial effect on the victim, so it leaves us with a question to which there are only sinister answers – what is the purpose of it?’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014


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