Inside News / FRFI 194 Dec 2006 / Jan 2007

Irish POW protests continue
Irish Republican prisoners in Maghaberry gaol in the north of Ireland are continuing their protests, which began on 19 June, to win recognition as political prisoners. Prisoners have taken part in successive protests, including 72-hour hunger strikes, in order to highlight their case. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the gains of the historic 1981 hunger strike for political prisoners have been reversed, as part of Britain’s ‘normalisation process’ in the north of Ireland. The prisoners are campaigning on five demands: the right to free association, freedom of movement, the right to full-time education, separate visiting facilities and the right to organise their own landings.

In response to these protests, Republican Prisoners Action Groups (RPAG) have been formed in Ireland and around the world. In Glasgow the RCG has been active in support of this campaign, for further information on the campaign see the RPAG website http://www.freewebs.com/powstatusnow or contact FRFI.

Irish prisoners in British gaols
There are still three Irish political prisoners in gaol in England. The British government has been saying for the past two years that their transfers to Ireland are ‘imminent’, thus heading off any campaigning on the men’s behalf. FRFI readers are asked to show their solidarity by writing to the prisoners: Aidan Hulme and Noel Maguire HMP Full Sutton, York YO41 1PS Robert Hulme, HMP Long Lartin, South Littleton, Worcs WR11 5TZ

Woodhill prison censors FRFI
In the last issue of FRFI we carried an article by Eric Allison about the continued imprisonment of Ray Gilbert, who has served 25 years of a life sentence for a murder he is adamant he played no part in. Ray is currently in Woodhill prison, which, having invented its own versions of the Prison Rules, decided that Ray, and other prisoners on our mailing list, would be prevented from having the paper under a ‘14-day rule’. Letters of protest from Larkin Publications, Miscarriages of Justice UK and individual supporters resulted in the other prisoners obtaining the paper, but not Ray, who has also been refused copies of Statewatch, Freedom and Class War. Readers are asked to protest against this blatant censorship by writing to the governor, Luke Serjeant, at HMP Woodhill, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes, MK4 4DA, pointing out that his actions violate Ray’s rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Expression). If the prison does not back down, Larkin Publications and Ray will be taking legal action against the Prison Service.

Chris Tierney
In the last FRFI we also reported on the appalling treatment of Chris Tierney. Chris has written to us, saying: ‘The October/Nov–ember FRFI kindly and accurately included an article which described how I had been forcibly removed by police from a care home and returned to prison, even though I am a terminal cancer patient who does not have long to live. The article mentioned my understanding of the iniquities of the system. The most iniquitous thing is that prison is an attack on the working class. OK, the occasional middle class person or failed aristocrat ends up in gaol but that’s not the purpose of the prison system.’ Readers are encouraged to send solidarity letters and cards to Chris Tierney J28231, HMP Norwich, Knox Road, Nor–wich, NR1 4LU.

Overcrowding
On 24 November 2006 the prison population of England and Wales stood at 79,950 – 2,500 more than this time last year, and fast approaching the 80,000 mark. In rec–ent years, 80,000 has been cited as a ‘ceiling’ not to be passed; or at which the prison population should be ‘stabilised’, whatever that means; however there looks like no sign of this actually occurring.

In October the Prison Service introduced ‘Operation Safeguard’. In response to severe overcrowding, prisoners coming from court, for whom there is no prison place, may now once again be officially accommodated in police cells. By 24 November, 67 prisoners were being held in police cells, and another 140 places were apparently ready to receive prisoners.

Even the Prison Service’s own instruction explaining Operation Safeguard makes clear that this is a highly undesirable develop–ment, stating that ‘police stations are generally not equipped for visits, exercise or association and any regime will be very limited. Pris–oners will be given the option of one phone call to inform someone of their whereabouts as soon as practicable after their arrival at the police station’.

Pauline Campbell arrested at Eastwood Park prison
On 2 November Pauline Campbell appeared at North Avon Magistrates’ Court, following her arrest on a demonstration outside East–wood Park women’s prison in Glouces–ter–shire on 18 October 2006. The protest followed the death of 28-year-old Lisa Ann Woodhall. Lisa died in the ‘care’ of the prison on 8 October 2006. Pauline has been fighting a vigorous campaign to highlight deaths in women’s prisons. She told the court that ‘a total of 32 women have died in the so-called care of English gaols since my daughter’s death at Styal Prison three years ago, and action must be taken to end this appalling death toll – direct action if necessary – therefore I enter a plea of not guilty’. She was remanded on unconditional bail to return to court on 22 December 2006 for a pre-trial review.

FRFI 194 December 2006 / January 2007