Posts Tagged ‘HMP Shotts’
‘Woolf Report: 25 Years On & Nothing Has Changed’ – An article by John Bowden about the prison system’s latest attempt to obstruct his move to an open prison (UK)
Friday, May 1st, 2015
In April this year, the 25th anniversary of the Strangeways prison uprising, Lord Justice Woolf, who led the inquiry into the uprising, claimed that conditions in most British jails were now even worse than they had been before Strangeways erupted in 1990.
The treatment of those prisoners confined to usually overcrowded local remand and post-sentence jails (of which Strangeways was and is one), where the great bulk of the prison population are held, has always been significantly worse than the treatment of prisoners in more long-term establishments where the potential for collective unrest has always been traditionally greater.
Prison staff employed in over crowded local jails argue that the transient and difficult to control and manage population of such institutions, coupled with severe cut-backs in staffing levels, make all but the most basic functions of control and containment extremely difficult if not impossible. The operational reality of such an argument finds expression in virtual lock-down regimes and a wholesale warehousing of prisoners, as well as an overtly repressive response to any perceived potential loss or compromise of total control, all ingredients of what caused the Strangeways prison uprising in 1990.
Greenock prison near Glasgow is an archetypal local jail; antiquated Victorian architecture and conditions, and an attitude and behaviour amongst some staff that is often openly contemptuous of prisoners, underpinned by a relationship of power that renders prisoners always vulnerable to abuse. (more…)
Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
From a comrade of ABC Brighton:
The growth of what some have described as the “prison industrial complex” and the unleashing of economic free market forces upon the prison system by a government ideologically-driven to sell off or “out source” virtually every state function has created the spectre of a prison population utilised as essentially a source of cheap, forced labour for an increasingly avaricious neo-liberal capitalism. There is no starker example of organised modern slavery.
In the US, the epicentre of the prison industrial complex, the exploitation of cheap convict labour takes place on an industrial scale and in poor urban areas, especially districts with a majority poor Afro-American population, prisons are increasingly replacing factories as places where the criminalised poor are confined and exploited by multi-national security corporations.
In Britain, whose criminal justice system is becoming almost a mirror-image of it’s American counterpart, the exploitation of cheap convict labour by private companies is increasingly as is the ownership of entire chunks of the prison system. More and more prisoners are dealt with and treated not as offenders to be rehabilitated but as a source of considerable profit for an economic elite not hamstrung by wishy-washy concepts such as public service or moral conscience in the treatment of prisoners. (more…)
Letter appeal on behalf of John Bowden, long-term radical social prisoner, about the criminalisation of the Anarchist Black Cross (UK)
Friday, July 11th, 2014
via a comrade of Anarchist Black Cross Brighton:
In 2007 my association with the Anarchist Black Cross was considered a compelling enough reason by the prison authorities to prevent my release, despite the subsequent exposure of the lies manufactured by a prison administration regarding the nature and activities of ABC.
In the summer of 2007 following my transfer to an open jail, Castle Huntley near Dundee, after almost three decades of imprisonment, a prison-hired social worker at the jail, Matthew Stillman, submitted a report to the Parole Board in which he claimed I was linked to what he described as a “terrorist group”, specifically naming ABC, and had received visits from “terrorists” also linked to ABC. As a consequence of Stillman’s allegation I was transferred back to a maximum-security prison. (more…)
Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Please sign the petition to the Parole Board for England and Wales and the Scottish Prison Service to release John Bowden
Imprisonment as a human experience probably has it’s closest parallel in slavery. People in prison are systematically stripped of basic human dignity and bodily integrity and reduced to the condition of caged animals. In terms of their relationship with the state and those who directly oversee and enforce their captivity prisoners are disempowered to the extent where even their most elemental of human rights are frequently treated with contempt and are in reality non-existent. By it’s very nature and intrinsic purpose imprisonment denies the imprisoned their very humanity. As a system and institution prison is incapable of being reformed and it most definitely doesn’t “rehabilitate” those held within it, and neither is it intended to; how can degrading and humiliating a human being improve the condition of their minds and characters. How can imprisoning and de-socialising someone make them more able and inclined to integrate back into “normal” society when they’ve emerged from such a brutalising and alienating experience? Prisons prime purpose is to punish and suppress and enforce social and political control – it is nothing more than a weapon of the state. (more…)
‘Americanisation of the British criminal justice system’ by long-term social prisoner John Bowden (UK)
Monday, February 17th, 2014
From a comrade of ABC Brighton:
A recent Government announcement that it was considering introducing U.S. style prison sentences like a hundred years custody for the most serious offences is on one level a straightforward attempt to undermine a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling that life sentence prisoners should be given some hope that their sentences will be reviewed before they die, and on another level evidence that the Americanisation of the British criminal justice system continues to increase and deepen.
Apart from the probable introduction of prison sentences that are in effect a slow form of capital punishment, an American penology has characterised the treatment of British prisoners for quite some time in the form of the treatment model with its psychology-based programmes and courses designed and inspired by Canadian and U.S. ideologies regarding “offending behaviour”, which is attributed not so much to social and environmental causes but more the individual pathology of the “offender”. So the fact that the prison population is drawn disproportionately from the poorest and most disadvantaged group in society is of absolutely no significance and instead a crude behaviourist notion prevails that providing prisoners can be re-socialised into behaving in a “normal” way then “offending behaviour” can be exorcised from their thinking before they’re released back into the same desperate economic and social circumstances. (more…)
Friday, January 10th, 2014
From a comrade of Brighton ABC:
Before Christmas the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman publicly criticised the prison system for failing to reform and rehabilitate repeat offenders.
The role of both government sponsored bodies is fairly questionable these days, when, for example, the existence of the barbaric “Close Supervision Centre” system raises nothing but a conspicuous silence from them, but are they so
completely out of touch with the reality of how the prison system is being re-shaped by Chris Grayling and his neo-liberal agenda that they believe that “rehabilitation” actually exists even as a vague concept any more?
Even in it’s heydays, first during the Victorian era when the concept of prisons as places of penance (penitentiary) and redemption fashioned regimes (often brutally), and the 1970s when a more politically fashionable idea of rehabilitation sort of influenced long-term regimes, the idea that “offenders” could be transformed in to “model citizens” by the experience of incarceration was a decidedly dubious one. And at a time when prisons and prisoners are increasingly seen as a source of financial profit and a sort of popularised retribution is characterising prison regimes the “rehabilitation revolution” has surely been put to bed permanently. (more…)
Friday, January 10th, 2014
From a comrade of Brighton ABC:
The statutory role and duty of the Parole Board in relation to reviewing the continued imprisonment of those prisoners serving indeterminate or life sentences and who remain in jail far beyond the length of time originally recommended by the courts in “the interest of retribution” is critically important if an abuse of executive power in the form of unlawful detention is to be prevented.
As a system of punishment indeterminate sentences, when not the courts but the prison system and what is in effect a hidden state decide when or if a prisoner is ever to be released, is inherently vulnerable to abuse, especially when right-wing politicians and an increasingly brutal prison system have a determining influence on how long such prisoners are detained. When the state itself assumes the power to decide how long someone should remain in jail then the concept of “public protection” is often used to justify what is in reality arbitrary and unlawful imprisonment. (more…)
Saturday, November 23rd, 2013
via a comrade of Brighton ABC:
On November 6th the Parole Board for England and Wales carried out it’s statutory obligation to review my continued detention after more than three decades in prison and many years beyond what the judiciary originally recommended I should serve in jail. Following an earlier parole hearing in May 2011 the board had recommended my transfer to an open prison in preparation for my release 12 months hence. Almost three years later I remain in a maximum-security prison because of what the prison system and a criminal justice system social worker claim is my politicised anti-authoritarian attitude and “rigid belief system” that is antipathetic to my being properly supervised outside a custodial setting. No one who gave evidence at the parole hearing, even representatives of the prison system, claimed that I represented any sort of threat or risk to the community, the usual reason or criterion for the continued detention of a life sentence prisoner beyond what the judiciary had originally recommended as the appropriate length of time they should serve in jail. (more…)
Sunday, October 27th, 2013
via a comrade of Brighton ABC:
Neo-liberalism, an ideology and concept usually associated with a particularly ruthless brand of free-market economics, has now reached into the very core services of the state and institutions that were once considered strictly off limits to financial speculators and entrepreneurs: the NHS, the prison system and the criminal justice system. Neo-liberalism doesn’t just involve a massive shift of economic power and wealth to an already extremely powerful and wealthy social group, but also a fundamental shift in the philosophy and policy of organisations like the welfare and criminal justice systems, both of whose ‘clients’ are now increasingly lumped together as an undifferentiated mass of the ‘undeserving poor’ or an always potentially criminal ‘underclass’ requiring an equal degree of punitive supervision, surveillance and ‘management’. For the poor the welfare state is becoming increasingly like a carceral state. (more…)
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
As modern monuments to naked and undisguised state power prisons, it would be reasonable to assume, are institutions where those confined are so completely disempowered and stripped of social distinctions that a kind of elemental human
solidarity must surely prevail amongst them. Surely power in such places would be concentrated solely in the hands of the guards or those who employ them, while the prisoners exist as a powerless uniform mass, voiceless and compliant and denied even bodily integrity and self-autonomy? “Ghosts of the civil dead” is probably the most apt description of the imprisoned.
In fact, as in any society or human group, power within prisons is a very dynamic phenomenon that shifts and changes and sometimes alters the balance and nature of control. It also manifests itself in crude hierarchies of power amongst
prisoners themselves, class systems almost that create another layer of oppression in prison. (more…)
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
The governments Legal Aid and Punishment Act 2012 which came into effect in April 2013 represents one of the Tories [Conservative Party - ruling right-wing political party in UK] most serious and vicious attacks on the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in terms of their relationship with an increasingly more repressive state, removing as it does the right to publicly funded legal redress for the already most powerless in society.
The Act also targets prison litigation, which right-wing Justice Minister Chris Grayling claims is “unnecessary and frivolous”. In fact, the Act attacks what were previously legally enforceable basic rights for people in prison and now creates a total legal vacuum as far as those rights are concerned whilst encouraging the prison authorities to do exactly as it pleases with those in it’s custody. Andrew Neilson of the Howard League for Penal Reform has warned that “without prisoners being able to access legal aid we may see a collapse in justice in the very place where it should be paramount – within prison walls”. (more…)
Monday, March 4th, 2013
Fyoder Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist and sometimes political dissident, once wisely observed that a good barometer of the level and quality of a society’s civilisation is the way it treats it’s prisoners, the most dis-empowered of all social groups.
There has of course always existed a sort of socially organic and dynamic relationship between prison society and the wider ordinary society beyond it’s walls, and the treatment of prisoners is usually an accurate reflection of the relationship of power that prevails between the state and ordinary working class people in the broader society. It is how political power is shaped and negotiated between the state and the poorer social groups on the outside that essentially determines the treatment of prisoners on the inside. (more…)
Friday, February 15th, 2013
The role of teachers and educational tutors employed by local colleges and contracted to work within the prison system can be a conflicting and potentially very hazardous one. Empowering prisoners with knowledge in an environment intrinsically organised to disempower them can sometimes be a dangerous activity.
Unlike the function and role of most other types of staff working within prisons (guards, probation officers, social workers and psychologists etc.) that revolve around the containment, control and disempowerment of prisoners, teaching within jails usually involves a relationship with prisoners that is often inimical to that custody and control dimension of prisons. The uniformed guards who basically control and maintain ‘discipline’ in prisons instinctively understand the empowering influence of education on prisoners, which is essentially why they view civilian teachers working within prisons with suspicion and as an always potentially weak link in the chain of security and ‘discipline’ (control), whose loyalty is always in question. There is a very strong and all-pervading occupational culture amongst prison guards that views any attempt to empower and humanise those over whom they exact an absolute degree of power as just another step to a liberalism that undermines and weakens the basic function of the prison – punishment and absolute control. It’s an attitude and culture that teachers working within prisons are confronted by every day, as well as a balance of institutional power firmly tipped in favour of the guards, who charged with maintaining the physical security of the prison will always inevitably label teachers who question their authority and power as a ‘security risk’, which is a sure way of getting them removed from the prison and recalled to a local college usually desperate to protect and continue it’s contract with the prison system. (more…)
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
From ABC Leeds:
John Bowden writes about his treatment at the hands of a megalomaniac social worker and an all too acquiescent Parole Board. Further articles by John, and others about his current situation and what you can do to help, can be found on the Leeds ABC website.
In June of 2011, the Parole Board for England and Wales finally carried out its statutory obligation to review my continued imprisonment after 32 years of captivity. Its official terms of reference were clear and straightforward; to be reassured that I represented no risk or danger to the public, (the main legal criteria determining whether a life sentence prisoner is safe to be released or not), and that I could be safely managed or supervised in the community beyond prison. (more…)
Sunday, June 3rd, 2012
From ABC LEEDS:
Day of Action in Support of John Bowden
Monday 11th June
John Bowden is a militant prisoner who has been inside since 1980 (and in fact for most of his life before then). He is serving time for a murder which happened 32 years ago, but John’s two co-defendants have been free for 20 years. John has been writing about, and fighting against, injustice throughout his time behind bars, building up a huge and impressive portfolio of articles about every aspect of the prison struggle. He has paid a heavy price for speaking out though, spending years in the most brutal segregation units, and being targeted for repression time and time again. We do not define John, a good comrade, by the crime he committed 32 years ago, and neither do the State. He is not in jail for what he did then, but for what he has done since. If he did not have anti-authoritarian politics, if he was not a man of integrity who always comes to the defence of his fellow cons, John Bowden would have been out years ago. (more…)
Monday, March 12th, 2012
It seems that the state and its loyal agents in HMP Shotts, Scotland, are currently manufacturing reasons to present to the parole board as to why John Bowden should be kept in jail. One of the entries in the ‘Parole Intelligence Summary’ says: “Intelligence provides that Bowden either posts blogs or has them posted on his behalf on the following website: http://breakallchains.blogspot.com/. Further intelligence provides that this website is pro-prisoner and anti-establishment. So it seems that even writing anything supporting prisoners’ rights is sufficient reason to keep John in jail – he’s not being kept in because they consider him a risk to the public. (more…)