Inside News / FRFI 192 August / September 2006

Families demand justice for children murdered by prison system
Following the publication of the report into the death of Zahid Mubarek, the families of Joseph Scholes (16), Gareth Myatt (15), Sam Elphick (17), Adam Rickwood (14) and Gareth Price (16) who died in prisons or ‘secure training centres’ during the past five years, renewed their call for a public inquiry. Four of the boys took their own lives, while Gareth Myatt died ‘under restraint’ from prison staff – but all were murdered by the system as surely as Zahid was. The call for a generic inquiry into the deaths and into the imprisonment of children was supported by former Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham at a parliamentary briefing meeting organised by INQUEST on 4 July. Ramsbotham lambasted former head of the Prison Service Martin Narey, who four years ago opposed the call for such an inquiry but now opportunistically supports it in his new role as head of children’s charity Barnados.

Rye Hill screws on trial
Four prison custody officers are due to be tried in connection with the death of 23-year-old Michael Bailey, who was found dead in his cell at privately-run HMP Rye Hill on 24 March 2005. Dan Daymond is charged with manslaughter by gross negligence and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Paul Smith and Samantha Prime are charged with manslaughter by gross negligence. Ben King is charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Unlike most other people who face such serious charges, the defendants in this case have not been remanded in custody.

Discrimination against foreign national prisoners continues
Following the hysterical panic in May in the wake of the government announcement that in the past seven years 1,000 overseas prisoners had been released on completion of their sentence, rather than being considered for deportation (see FRFI 191), the media and government onslaught continued, as new Home Secretary John Reid vowed to get tough and the newspapers wallowed in a slough of anti-prisoner, anti-foreigner headlines.

On 26 May 300+ riot-clad prison officers carrying shields and armed with staves laid siege to Ford open prison in Sussex, in order to effect the high-profile transfer back to closed prisons of 135 non-British prisoners. Elsewhere, lawyers were forced to begin court proceedings to obtain the release of British citizens who had finished their sentences but had just happened to be born outside this country. And across the prison system anyone not British kissed goodbye to any previous prospect of moving to an open prison or being released on temporary licence for any purpose whatsoever.

While the official position remains that foreign national prisoners should be considered for transfers to open prison, temporary release etc in the same way as anyone else, with their immigration status just one factor among many in the prison’s risk assessment, the unofficial policy is different. It has become clear that a secret memorandum has been sent to prison governors stating that any non-British prisoner, whom the Immigration Service has not categorically stated it has no interest in, will remain in a closed prison and not be considered for any kind of temporary or early release.

 

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