From a comrade of ABC Brighton, via 325:
25th May 2016
Having just read George Jackson’s ‘Soledad brothers. Two things have struck me, this book was written in 1960’s America during the black rights movement detailed the racism found in their prisons then but could quite easily depict the current state of English prisons today. Cowardly white prisoners colluding with the prison officers in order to subject the minorities to a worse quality of life than they face, rather than seeing their fellow prisoner as an ally in attempting to improve life for all, is a growing problem in England although those with Islamic beliefs are the main targets rather than the Blacks. The expansion of Nazi gangs which is facilitated by prison service personnel at all levels, with random unprovoked attacks on minorities being the result is successfully dividing the prison population, causing a distraction from the serious deterioration in conditions within prisons which are creeping behind the racists.
The book covers much wider ground, looking at capitalism and imperialism as the route causes for the exploitation of humans by America but it is within prisons where these effects are magnified. The fact that this conservative government are oppressing the masses today, demonizing immigrants and Muslims whilst dropping bombs all over the middle east is no different to the American government in the 60’s implementing Jim Crow, warring with Vietcong and misleading the public with propaganda.
The only real difference I can see is an almost complete lack of resistance by those most affected, and lack of direction by the few who take on the burden but this may be due to the expertise developed by this country in dealing with previous dissidents like the IRA.
Back in 2010 during my brief stay in HMP Frankland which can be summed up as a continuous struggle against brutality, racism and oppression, I was driven to the position of attempting to defend against those responsible. At 23 years old, I was naïve in thinking the endemic problem at Frankland stopped there and could be resisted when in reality the issue goes beyond being systematic. It is not only those administering the oppression who are responsible or their masters who facilitate it at prison service HQ, but it is a direct consequence of this county operating a policy of exploitation which is inherent in the capitalist experiment and exacerbated by imperialism. The greater the level of geed of those in power, the higher levels and intensity of oppression and its population which is most easily seen by examining the treatment of its prisoners and so called justice systems, something which is all too evident through Jackson’s writing.
I saw a statistic recently that per head of 100,000 prisoners, suicides take place in the USA at 15, India at 18, Canada at 22 but in Britain at 17. If this figure is correct, there can be no confusion in just how bad things have become yet apart from a few workers strikes about matters which personally effect those on the pocket lines nobody is resisting. Capitalism has led to a culture of selfishness where the majority do not stand up unless they are to face the fire, happy to accept the lies that is so obvious – the government are to blame for everything. Why is it that the nations who do not follow the doomed capitalist path have the best education and healthcare in the world if they are not the ones in the wrong? While prisons remain disenfranchised we face the brunt of the decisions to elect fascist governments without the power to change it through accepted means, and are limited on the effects we can have beyond the prison walls without support from those outside.
As well as English prisons resembling Americans in Jackson’s time, my second realization is that this situation has been going on here for far too long and infected far too wide for a simple cure to work without a serious operation being completed. Until that day, the prisoners will suffer and those of a minority the worst, so please have some consideration for those of us stone on the front-line against our wishes and look at the prison system imposed upon us. Every hostage of the state is a political prisoner whether they know it or not, a quick look at the headlines which attack the detained demonstrate this fact, I advise everyone to read this book then ask themselves when will it be time to say enough is enough.
29th May 2016
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) have been made in many ways to be the only option for prisoners seeking redress to problems face, due in large part to the savage legal aid cuts as well as the statutory changes as to when prisoners can receive legal assistance or bring challenges. This makes the PPO as much more significant body with them playing a vital role in driving forward improvements and identifying failings which in turn lead to a more peaceful and smooth running prison system.
With all negative indicators evidencing that a serious crisis is in place within prisons including the massive numbers of suicides and assaults, clearly the PPO is not performing as required. When Nigel Newcomen, the current head of the PPO recently released another so-called ‘Learning Lessons Bulletin’ on the use of force stating ‘it should be a measure of last resort’, although I agree entirely, unfortunately it acts as a smoke-screen for the PPO’s own corruption and opportunity to disseminate propaganda which can not go without reply necessitating the writing o this.
Newcomen said, ‘in some ways it is reassuring that there are relatively few complaints to my office about alleged physical abuse of detainees by custodial staff. In 2014-15, of 2303 complaints eligible for investigation, only 50 involved such allegations’. That is quite simply not true as the PPO have been operating a system of rejecting all of the most serious complaints for investigation for several years, and since 2014-15 have been ignoring all correspondence attempting to make them change their policy so the 50 that have made it through are accidents or taken gestures. Indeed I have personally been the victim of assault during the time-frame referenced then been turned away by Helena Hanson of the PPO when I took my complaints to them evidenced by PPO case numbers: 667738 and 65617, which are about unprovoked pre-planned attacks by gangs of prison officers upon me including once whilst I was praying. Similar incidents which I referred to the PPO have received the Hanson treatment previously causing me to write to Newcomen begging for help, only to be ignored, showing this to not be a rouge element within the organization but deliberate policy.
Speaking further on complaints of assault by staff Newcomen said: ‘They are, however, among the most serious and important complaints that I receive as they go to the heart of the humanity and legitimacy of the prison system’. This statement may go some way to explain the refusal to process such complaints professionally; the result would display the total lack of humanity and legitimacy which is not politically convenient at this time to expose, and so the governmental body which is the PPO takes steps to avoid doing so.
Newcomen’s hypocrisy in the press release accompanying the bulleting did not end there: ‘Ensuring independent investigations into allegations of physical abuse is, therefore, essential to maintaining safety and giving assurance of the proper treatment of those in custody’. Why was I forced to appeal to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman about the outright cover-up by the PPO into the assault I sustained at Woodhill in 2008 (Case Number: 36928)? Why am I still waiting for an investigation into another assault on the PPO’s books since 2010 (Case Number: 42278)? Why has another investigation been buried in ‘final stages of quality review’ once I highlighted the lies in the draft report back in 2012 (Case Number: 43627)? Why have all my attempts to have another assault investigated been sabotaged by PPO personnel (Case Numbers: 58594 and 62895)? Why when investigations have been completed have they been so poor and lacking draft reports requiring my requests for the findings to be reviewed, has all my correspondence been ignored (Case Numbers, 61779, 63279 and another whose reference eludes me)? Why have I still not been furnished with the draft report I was told to complete a year ago and all my correspondence on a connected matter failed to result in any action (Case Numbers: 63383 and 67863)? Why did the PPO refuse to investigate a complaint of torture when exposed in a public article, then only look at the failure of the prisons to deal with a complaint and send it back to them to do so, then ignore all attempts to refer it back to the PPO (Case Number: 50759). And this list of questions are solely about the most serious complaints of physical abuse, it is beyond this article to mention the rest of the PPO’s failings…….
Newcomen claims: ‘My investigations also ensure that staff are held to account for misbehavior and I have had to recommend disciplinary action on a number of occasions’. Without the power to enforce these recommendations, this governmental body is toothless yet portrays itself as a fearless tiger, more reason why only the most basic and mild recommendations are ever made in the circumstances of each case if any at all. Were the PPO to want increased powers, its’ leader would not release such statements misleading people to believe they are currently all-mighty. But even if the PPO were endowed with the required powers to enable them to fulfill their role competently, bringing the desperately needed improvements to the prison system, this would not be sufficient to ensure they complete their job professionally.
Following the first round of governmental budget cuts to befall the PPO, the shared building of Ashley House, which was home to several prison observer organisations including the PPO, Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) was abandoned. Initially the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) was considered as the potential new HQ location for the PPO, relinquishing all pretence of their independence image, but negative publicity undermined their ability to function whilst sharing a building with those are the protagonist of all the PPO’s investigations. Office buddies writing reports criticizing each other is so obviously a sham that the PPO took to withholding their address and setting up a PO Box which all correspondence must pass through. Although they then found alternative residence, the PPO has continued to maintain secrecy over their whereabouts insisting upon the PO Box. I telephoned the PPO to question this, only to be told that ‘due to the nature of the work we do, the ombudsman do not reveal our location’, and further probing to clarify the difference between the days of Ashley House and now were awkward, slippery replies which placed the reason at the feet of Newcomen. Unwilling to give up, I recalled once receiving a letter from the PPO in an envelope with the frank ‘Rose Court’, so pursued enquiries with several evasive PPO employees until one slipped up leaving me able to secure confirmation that this is in-fact their residence. With some basic investigative work I was able to discover the truth behind the concealment, the PPO’s hideout again exposes their lack of independence, as it is shared with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the very people responsible for removing the liberty of prisoners. This is obviously entirely inappropriate which the PPO are aware of hence the PO Box, but the fact it has been supported by them I suggested is a more serious reflection upon their integrity.
To be clear, there are several excellent investigators of the PPO, however working within a corrupted structure with management who are so blatantly suffering with venality towards the government and MOJ results in the serious issues like use of force being covered-up as seen by the most recent press release from Nigel Newcomen. In order to force change a protest demonstration has therefore been organized … on Thursday 21st July 2016, between 12.30pm and 2.30pm, all those who support prisoners or are disgraced by this appalling situation please make your way at the time to: [TBA London, UK, awaiting clarification]. Serious assaults are criminal, not ‘misbehaviour’, and a recommendation for disciplinary action is wholly inadequate redress. It is time that the PPO were unable to avoid performing it’s much needed job and held to account for it’s outrageous failings, only through a big enough display of disapproval will this be possible.
Thanks to everyone in advance who makes it and promotes this event, we need your support and appreciate the efforts you go to.
Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
Close Supervision Centre
5 Love Lane