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(en) Organise #61 - Prisoners: Human Rights Inside? Forget about It!

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 24 Oct 2003 08:33:45 +0200 (CEST)

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Prisoners live in the strange world of rules. Rules exist and are
designed to control, coerce, intimidate, humiliate and frustrate
prisoners. Paradoxically they can also be used to fight the system
of control, creating small areas of greater freedom from oppression.
But how can you fight back if you don’t know the rules? Ray
Gilbert and Glen Wright are two long-term victims of this
kafkaesque situation. Their statement of protest follows:

Standing Order 3A(a) of the Home Office prison regulations gives
the governor responsibility to ensure that information affecting
prisoners - Standing Orders and Circular instructions - are brought
to the attention of those they concern. No other guidance is
provided and governors interpret the guidance their own way;
procedures followed in each establishment vary, but generally the
methods are as follows:

The governor of a jail, sometimes with the assistance of the Senior
Managers, reviews new regulations and decides who should be
informed. Department heads are delegated to inform those who
need to know about any changes to policy. This system should
include prisoners held in Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) under
Rule 46 (segregation as a form of punishment) but doesn’t.
Despite it being law, why are particular prisoners consistently
denied access to Standing Orders, Circular instructions and the
Privileges Incentive list? It can only be seen as an abuse of the
system by vindictive screws. Who in authority states Rule 46 CSC
prisoners can or cannot have this information? We’d like the
CSC committee to explain in writing who implements these unfair
decisions as we are fed up being exploited Rule 46 inmates.

Penal reform groups have always been concerned about large
sections of administrative regulations that apply to people in
custody. Some of the material denied to us, for example about
specific rights and privileges allowed by the prison rules, are so
complex that even specialists in legal analysis cannot interpret
their precise meaning. How much more difficult is it for working
class prisoners subject to Rule 46 isolation? When rules govern our
entire lives behind bars, it is fundamentally important that we know
what they are.

In its report on ‘Justice in Prison’, the organisation Justice
made important recommendations that should have been acted on
but weren’t. Prison rules should:

1. Specify the rights that the imprisoned must forfeit.
2. State precisely the restrictions that are, or may be imposed on
the exercise of rights that the prisoner retains.
3. Prescribe in detail the duties of the authorities in the matter of
housing the prisoner and providing them with the necessities for a
tolerable life, alongside facilities for work, education and
4. Provide adequate means by which prisoners can seek redress
if their rights are ever contravened, giving them access to an
independent tribunal.
5. Define with the precision of a criminal statute, the offences for
which a prisoner can be punished, the procedures for enquiring into
his guilt if charged, and the subsequent punishment(s) that can be
lawfully imposed.
6. Provide for his being properly informed of all rights, privileges,
duties and liabilities under the prison rules.

Prison rules as we experience them fall far short of these
requirements. The standards of open and impartial justice deemed
necessary by the rule of law are especially important to Rule 46
CSC inmates because of their vulnerability to abuses of power,
humiliation and degradation. The system manifestly fails to ensure
satisfactory procedures and this failure increases the tensions of
prison life for Rule 46 'Superseg’ (enhanced segregation)
inmates, for whom conditions are practically inhuman. It creates an
atmosphere of uncertainty, arbitrariness, unfairness and
resentment: a recipe for volatility, leading to inmate unrest. This
has to be unacceptable, beyond reasonable expectations of

Article 3, the Human Rights Act of I998 states: No one shall be
subject to torture or to inhuman or to degrading treatment or
punishment. In particular we draw attention to the "inhuman and
degrading treatment" aspects of Article 3, which is what we feel
we are being put through. The treatment of prisoners, which
creates fear, anguish and inferiority, results in mental scars which
many prisoners, especially poorly educated ones, never overcome.

It is for those prisoners especially that we speak out, risking
further victimization. The emotions punishment provokes debase
us, and often lead to physical and mental breakdown,
self-mutilation, and the demolishing of resistance, which is, after
all, their point. We’re in prison, yes, and some of us have
broken society’s rules. But we too are human and have rights
and entitlements as well as a duty to pay our debt. We argue, on
behalf of all parties within the prison system, especially the
working class, for independence and openness in the formal
procedures employed for the resolution of disputes. In doing so we
urge people on the outside to put pen to paper to protest the
treatment of prisoners currently as ill-defined and arbitrary. Before
a new society is brought into being there will be many more
working class victims of state oppression. It is essential to
challenge the oppressors before things get infinitely worse for
those already there.

Ray Gilbert and Glen Wright,



Ray’s struggle against wrongful imprisonment continues after
22 years (eight years beyond the mandatory term for his alleged
offence). Write to him at the above address. The prison governor
can be reached at the same address, though in somewhat better

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