Overcrowded, violent and desperate – prisons erupt

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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