Created: Wednesday, 12 October 2016 11:03
Written by FRFI
Prisons Inspector Peter Clarke’s 2016 report regarding Swaleside Category B long-term prison in Kent described it as a ‘dangerous prison’ and one that had deteriorated significantly since his last highly critical report into Swaleside in 2014. In fact, the ghettoisation of Swaleside prison simply reflects the reality of existence in virtually all prisons in England, as mass overcrowding and neo-economic financial cutbacks to every dimension of public spending reduces prisons to little more than penal slums for the most brutalised and marginalised. JOHN BOWDEN, a long-term prisoner, now at Swaleside, reports.
Clarke focuses his main criticism of Swaleside on the level and seriousness of the violence that prevails there, including the high level of staff force on prisoners and the total inadequacy of documentation associated with its use and justification. However, he provides no context or explanation as to why the level of violence has dramatically increased at Swaleside over the last few years or who or what is ultimately responsible for it. Hints are maybe available in his criticisms of a prison infrastructure falling to bits and its replacement with a semi-lockdown regime, but nowhere in either of his two highly critical reports on Swaleside does he attribute any blame or responsibility to government (obviously very keen to keep his job) and he tries to suggest that the current governor of Swaleside (the fifth in five years) with his ‘visible and energetic leadership’ will turn the prison around. The reality is that Swaleside is a microcosm of what now prevails throughout the entire prison system in England and Wales: huge overcrowding in institutions that more and more resemble in conditions and regimes their US and third world counterparts.
Unfortunately, the rage, frustration and despair experienced by prisoners suffering such increasingly inhuman conditions and regimes is so far largely manifesting itself in US-like prison gang culture and the venting of that despair and rage on themselves; such division both sustains and reinforces their repression and the existing conditions of their existence. There must now be a common struggle, both inside and outside prisons, among the poorest and most dispossessed, against a system that tries increasingly to destroy them.