Letter to the Camden New Journal
Prisoners in 'solitary'
6 May 2021
We at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in KentishTown received several calls from prisoners kept in solitary confinement, restricted to their cells for 23 or more hours per day, cut off from family, friends and lawyers during the pandemic. Prisoners have a death rate three times the national average.
Calls for release of non-violent offenders and those eligible for parole, to allow prisoners to protect themselves from covid, fell on deaf ears. Instead, the government announced plans for new accommodation for an additional 500 women prisoners, despite the Corston Report which said most women should not receive custodial sentences, and despite the UK having the highest prison rates in Western Europe, even higher than China!
In UK Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) – prisons within prisons akin to US supermax prisons – inmates experience solitary confinement sometimes for years on end.
More than two weeks in solitary breaks the UN’s Nelson Mandela rules; has been called psychological torture by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; and CSCs themselves have been labelled “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by Amnesty International. 50% of CSC inmates are Muslim despite being only 5% of the population.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) have given cover to this form of torture in CSCs by labeling them “Enabling Environments”. Some 60 organisations and hundreds of individuals including mental healthcare providers, signed an open letter to the RCP demanding the withdrawal of awards to these racist institutions.
Kevan Thakrar, 11 years in CSCs, almost all of it in solitary, is both Muslim and of mixed race. He defended himself against a racist attack by guards, and was subsequently unanimously exonerated by a jury from a charge of attempted murder. Yet he continues to be punished as if found guilty. He is in prison after being convicted under the discredited doctrine of “Joint Enterprise”. He has now been put in a cell with no electricity, no toilet seat, none of his belongings, and no access to counsel. Is this British justice?
The international panel of our webinar at 7pm on 12 May entitled “Solitary Confinement is a Crime”, includes Kevan and another survivor of solitary confinement and torture, campaigners, healthcare professionals, prisoner family members and one of the most famous political prisoners in the world – Mumia Abu Jamal. Join us by going to RefusingToKill.net and registering.
Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women
Sam Weinstein, Payday Men’s Network
Crossroads Women’s Centre
25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, NW5 2DX