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Biba Sarkaria fights

From AsiaWomenPrisonersGroup@ncadc.demon.co.uk
Date Sat, 21 Aug 1999 10:17:49 -0400


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Biba Sarkaria  fights for parole and equal rights for Asian women
prisoners

     Biba Sarkaria, who has for years fought for the rights of women 
prisoners has been waiting over 19 weeks now to hear the outcome of 
her own parole application which she made in April 1999. Prison 
policy states that every prisoner will hear the result of their 
parole application within six weeks. So why asks Biba am I still 
waiting.

     Biba says that in all the time she has spent in prison (over ten 
years) she has only ever seen one or two Asian women ever get parole, 
home leave, town visits, tagging, no matter what their circumstances. 
She herself has tried on many occasions to fight for home leave for 
Asian women whos fathers were dying or whos chidren were seriously 
injured but the authorities showed no compassion. However the same 
prison authorities (Cookhamwood) give white prisoners home leave, 
tagging, parole and all the best jobs in prison. While `we (Asian 
women) are even taken to the local hospital with handcuffs and three 
prison officers. Last time they did that to me I refused to go.  She 
goes on to say that Since April 1996 only one Asian woman at 
Cookhamwood has ever been given Home leave, and yet so many others 
have been refused and given flimsy reasons. One governor even said: 
`He was worried about his job if he allowed an Asian Woman Home leave.

     While Biba awaits the outcome of her parole application, while 
suffering from acute backpain (the result of a protest she made 
against the racism at Cookhamwood), and a serious heart conditions 
(among other things), she is now also faced daily with the brutal 
decision of the prison authorities not to meet her request for 
specially prepared food. Biba who is a practising / baptised sikh 
needs to eat food prepared in conditions which are `hygenic and not 
mixed with foods forbidden by her religion (certain meat). Up to now 
Biba was able to prepare this food herself or get fellow prisoners to 
prepare it and it as she is one of the (83 out of 150) enhanced 
prisoners who is given privelege preparing her own food. However 
recently (May 1999), the kitchen in which she used to cook (often for 
many others), clean (and after many others) has been now allocated to 
seventeen additional inmates. For Biba this has meant that she can no 
longer cook there. The fridge is full of food which has been there 
for days, the floor has not been cleaned in weeks and every health 
and safety regulation is broken. When asked about the prison 
providing cleaners and health inspectors  Biba replied: `theres only 
one cleaner and she only comes once a week and theres only so much 
she can do. As for inspectors, the only inspectors we see are the 
ones who come here, talk, smile, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes 
and then go away.

Asian women prisoners group is demanding that:

Prison authorities meet their legal responsibility with providing 
Biba Sarkaria (and others in a similar situation) with the food she 
needs.

A response from the parole board Biba Sarkarias application (fourth) 
for parole.
.
A response from all the authorities she has written to demanding an 
investigation into the racism at Cookhamwood prison.

Letters and faxes of  protest should be sent to:
Parole and Lifer group
Terry McCarthy (Head of Parole Board)
Abell House
John Islip St
SW1 4LH London

or fax to: Jon Irving,
Parole Unit, Rm 126
Abell House, John Islip St, SW1 4LH London, Tel: 0171-217-5124 /
5216/3000

Lord Williams of Mostyn QC
Minister Responsible for Oversight of Prisons and Probation
Fax 0171 273 2936

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State George Howarth
Minister Responsible for Prisons and Probation
Fax 0171 273 2565

The Home Secretary: Jack Straw
Fax: 0171-273-3965


Asia Women Prisoners Group
c/o Londec, Instrument House
205-217 Kings Cross Rd
London WC1X 9DB
Tel: 0171-713-7907
E-mail londec@hotmail.com

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