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(en) Freedom 6321 Nov 2nd 2002 - 'Hellhole' jails rebels

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 21 Nov 2002 08:16:45 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

According to the Prison Service, last week's revolt at Lincoln
jail was the worst outbreak of violence to hit Britain's prisons
since the Strangeways uprising of 1991. More than two
hundred places were destroyed in the rebellion, which raged
through the night of 24th-25th October. Over 550 screws and
police took more than eight hours to regain control. Hundreds
of thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused. Police
from five counties surrounded the prison to prevent a
breakout, and a no-fly zone was declared overhead.
Doubtless there will now follow a series of show trials of
'ringleaders', just as there was after Strangeways. Martin
Narey, the director of the Prison Service, is treated as a 'good
liberal' by the soft left and the prison reform movement alike.
But he's already said as much. At a hastily convened press
conference outside the jail, Narey crowed about the speed
with which the 'control and restraint teams' regained control.
"The message to anyone else is we will deal very, very swiftly
with those causing trouble", he said. "Those involved can
expect long prison sentences."
Narey the 'reformer' presides over a prison system which is
bursting at the seams. Lincoln was described as a 'hellhole'
when Jeffrey Archer was briefly shipped there recently. It was
two hundred inmates over its capacity when it went up in
flames. According to the Prison Reform Trust, nine jails in
the UK are 60% over their capacity. A representative of the
Trust said on 25th October that "England is now the prison
capital of western Europe, and the state of many prisons is an
absolute disgrace."
The prison system has seen 77 suicides already this year.
Overcrowding clearly poses a threat to prisoners' well-being.
Narey's response, in collusion with his Home Office
paymasters, has been to make sure that contingency plans are
in place for moving MUFTI (Minimum Use of Force Tactical
Intervention) squads from other prisons to whichever jail
needs them, as quickly as possible. His only plan is to batter
inmates back into line.
Predictably, we're now hearing the usual cries from the Prison
Officers Association (POA) that, "as long as the judiciary and
politicians continue to expect more and more prisoners to be
held in less and less secure accommodation, with less and
less staff, we will get more of these incidents."
The screws are using the overcrowding crisis to bid for a
recruitment drive, and to argue for prisoner conditions to be
worsened. The solution, according to the POA, is to bang
prisoners up for longer, with fewer privileges and more
security. But for us there's only one real issue. This is that
prison serves to degrade and demoralise those it holds.
There's a proud tradition of revolt against the inhumanity of
the system in the UK, from the 1969 Parkhurst revolt,
through to the riots and sit-downs which swept Gartree,
Albany and Parkhurst in 1984-85, to Strangeways a decade
ago. Already this year has seen protests at Belmarsh,
Parkhurst, Frankland and Rochester. We should support all
those who, in the weeks and months ahead, will be railroaded
through the courts for their part in the Lincoln revolt.
As John Cluchette, a comrade of George Jackson, put it in
1971, "our only hope lies in the people's endeavour to hear
our protest and support our cause. Building more and better
prisons is not the solution. Build a thousand prisons, arrest
and lock up tens of thousands of people Ğ all will be to no
avail. This will not arrest poverty, oppression and the other ills
of this unjust social order."
Paul Maguire

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