- Created: Wednesday, 08 June 2016 10:19
- Written by Nicki Jameson
For several weeks in summer 2015 long-term prisoners on one wing at HMP Whitemoor complained about lack of basic toiletries, including toilet roll and washing-up liquid, lack of access to new clothes and a range of other complaints about their living conditions. Things came to a head at the end of September when the prison closed the wing kitchen, meaning prisoners were unable to cook their own food.
After failing to get staff to address their complaints and having repeatedly requested to see a senior manager to no avail, prisoners staged a peaceful protest by refusing to return to their cells. A manager did then arrive and negotiate, offering the prisoner wing reps a meeting with a governor the following day. The prisoners then returned to their cells.
The day after the meeting, and two days after the protest, 19 prisoners were placed on report for failing to obey the ‘lawful order’ to return to their cells. A disciplinary hearing then found them guilty on this charge, ignoring their solicitor’s submissions that procedural flaws and breaches of Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights rendered the charges unlawful. Prison Service headquarters has recently reviewed the charges and, presumably fearful of the case ending up in court, overturned the guilty findings (inexplicably all except one which is now being further appealed).
Queen’s speech – full of sound and fury
Huge media hype surrounded the ‘prison reform’ announcement in the Queen’s speech on 18 May; however the actual content of the changes is relatively small and their significance remains to be seen, although the indication is that, as usual, the ‘reform’ is nothing of the sort.
The ‘biggest shake-up of the prison system since the Victorian era’, as the government terms it, consists of handing a far greater degree of autonomy than hitherto to the governors of six prisons, with more to follow. Some of the spin is geared to impress liberal commentators with the possibility that such prisons will be able to implement better education, training and rehabilitation, grant more temporary releases etc, but the plan clearly also relies on such autonomously-run establishments being far freer to sell the labour power of their inmates and make a profit from their incarceration.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 251 June/July 2016