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(en) DA #29 - Social Democracy & Other Myths - Justice: Inside English supermax

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 25 Feb 2004 07:32:14 +0100 (CET)

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Robbie Stewart points out that the Close Supervision Centres have
never been a success and never will.
The use of control units in England has changed from one failed
thing to another. The CSC (Close Supervision Centres) were
introduced in 1998, replacing the old CRC (Control Review
Committee) and CAS (Continuous Assessment Scheme). This
change followed what is known as the Spurr Report, which
provided a blueprint copy of the US-style ‘supermax’ units,
right down to every last detail, including the pink rooms.

The CSC consists of GA and GB at Woodhill, G and I Wings at
Durham, F Wing at Wakefield, and designated cells at segregation
units at Full Sutton, Whitemoor, Frankland and Belmarsh. The
Spurr report remains unpublished – only the bureaucrats see it.
In its first 30 months of operation, there were no less than 8
prisoners refusing to co-operate with the new system at any one
time. They actively and repeatedly protested and resisted their
selection for the CSC. They won. They were too disruptive for a
unit designed for disruptive prisoners, and most were returned to
the mainstream prison system.

The CSC attempted a ‘nice’ approach – calling
prisoners by their first names, etc., with the idea of breaking the
most hardcore anti-authoritarians into believing something like
“I’ve misunderstood screws for a while; they really are
nice guys”. It failed miserably. So, what next?

A Home Office research study conducted by Emma Clare and
Keith Bottomly states that “if an inmate’s attitude upon
reception suggests he is unlikely to co-operate, and subsequent
attempts to make him co-operate fail, he should be returned to the
dispersal system.” So, the CSC supposedly hides the most
disruptive and dangerous men in the country, but if you do not want
to co-operate, you go back to dispersal. It is the equivalent of being
too disruptive for the prison and refusing to do courses, so they let
you go free.

In May 2002, the then head of CSC, Richard Vince, was awarded a
Turnaround Manager of the Year award. In the prison Service
Annual Report and Accounts 2002-3, the Director of high security
prisons, Peter Atherton, states: “I am delighted to report that
(Richard) was also runner-up for the overall Public Servant of the
Year award. The award publicly recognises the personal leadership
Richard has provided to the CSC unit at Woodhill over the past 2
years. It has been transformed into a model for the effective
management and treatment of the most dangerous men in our
custody.” And later: “The rate of assaults on staff has
reduced from 5-6 a day to 3 this year (2002). To achieve this
positive outcome and to sustain a level of professionalism,
humanity and care towards extremely dangerous prisoners is
extraordinary work done extraordinarily well, for which society
owes a huge debt.”

This is laughable when you check reality. In the pre-Dick Vince era
(‘98-2000), there was an average 25-30 men at Woodhill CSC.
It is now less than half that. Also, there is a large number of
mentally ill men now in the unit, where control is maintained by
large dose of drugs such as Cargactyl. Who cares about their
needs as long as they are not assaulting staff? ‘If he cuts
himself, well, it is better than him slashing an officer’, is the
clear philosophy. This is how Dick made his marvellous
achievement. Put people who resist it outside the CSC and fill it
with people who can no longer resist it because they are drugged.
Simple, really.

There are now 12 at Woodhill, at the time of writing; only 4 are on
no medication. Thos on medication - that is all they get, nothing
else. On a brief inspection, the Chief Inspector of prisons’
report states that “control still dominated proceedings and
personal development opportunities are relegated to the
margins”. There is a Governor who replaced Dick Vince, but
we never see her. One inmate arrived at the CSC 3 months ago and
has yet to meet her. The only way to see her is by doing something
wrong, and ending up on an adjudication. The men in the CSC have
no hope and no future. Let’s see if anyone can do a real
turnaround. The current governor has shown so little interest
(unless it involves punishment)...

There are too many prisoners who should be handled elsewhere. It
is ironic that I Wing at Durham’s function is to provide therapy
and treatment for prisoners with a history of disturbed psychiatric
needs. Woodhill CSC doesn’t and never has provided therapy
or treatment for mentally ill men, yet it has plenty of mentally
disturbed men. The fact that 3 have been to special hospitals, one
for 8½ years, is a bit of a give-away. Yet, in the whole of 2002-3,
only two have gone to I Wing.

That is how you win Turnaround of the Year award.
Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British section
of the International Workers’ Association
DA is the Solidarity Federation magazine which is about getting
real change with anarcho-syndicalism.

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