Britain's racist prisons

Less than a week after the publication of the scathing official report into the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham, which condemned the prison system for its treatment of Zahid and held it significantly responsible for his murder, the shocking treatment of mixed-race prisoner Sean Higgins showed how absolutely nothing has changed.

Sean has been a consistent target of racism throughout his sentence and suffered flagrant abuse and serious assaults from prison officers because of his vocal objection to the sort of treatment highlighted in the Mubarek report. Always his protests and complaints have been met with violence and victimisation, and for years his enduring spirit of resistance has resulted in a vicious cycle of complaint and brutal repression with his captors that now threatens his life.

On 30 June whilst at Gloucester prison Sean became involved in an argument with a prison officer in the presence of other staff and prisoners. The officer, angered by Sean’s temerity and refusal to back down, called him a ‘black cunt; and threatened to take him to the punishment block and ‘squash him like a bug’. Sean was soon afterwards transferred to Bristol prison as a ‘problem’ and met there by a reception committee of the goon squad. Sean described to his lawyer Vicky King what happened, saying that on arrival at Bristol he was seriously assaulted by staff there, sustaining a broken arm and a broken ankle. Staff refused to arrange x-rays. Sean was left with 27 shards of glass in the bottom of his feet. He says that a senior member of staff tried to force a fire hose up his rectum and also wrapped it round his neck. Vicky King said: ‘He sounded absolutely dreadful. I have never heard him sound so awful. That’s including the time that I sat with him in cells in Hull Crown Court whilst he was almost naked, on dirty protest, and with a freshly broken arm. He was in a bad way then but he sounds a hundred times worse now.’

The truth is that Sean is being pitilessly driven beyond the limits of human endurance and systematically destroyed by the racism of the prison system. The same racism that drives a disproportionate number of young black men to self-harm and kill themselves in prison.
Despite what the official mouthpieces of the prison system say publicly about ‘tackling racism’, the reality is that prisoners of colour are being brutalised and sometimes murdered by racist prison staff who are allowed to get away with it.

Email Deborah.Marchington@ or write to Prison Service Headquarters, Cleland House, Page Street, London SW1P 4LN and the governor of Bristol prison complaining about Sean’s treatment and send cards and letters of support to Sean Higgins VA3977 HMP Bristol, Cambridge Road, Bristol BS7 8PS
John Bowden, HMP Saughton

FRFI 192 August / September 2006


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