Morning Star: Campaigners demand end to ‘cruel and inhumane’ prison segregation units


CIVIL rights icon Angela Davis demanded that the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) stop endorsing “cruel and inhumane” prison segregation units in a letter today.

The letter from over 60 organisations and 200 campaigners was signed by Davis, journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, author Selma James, former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham, miscarriage of justice victim Winston Silcott, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and a number of practising psychiatrists, co-ordinated by Legal Action for Women and Payday men’s network.

The campaigners say that they are “outraged” that the RCP endorses close supervision centres (CSCs), prisons within prisons, by accrediting them with its “enabling environments” award.

Prisoners say that they are locked in their cells for up to 24 hours a day, fed through a hatch and isolated from family and outside support, according to campaigners.

They have also reported attacks from guards who have then faced no punishment and complain that there is no transparent process to decide who is placed in the CSC, and therefore there is “no way out.”

Campaigners have also warned that there could be institutional racism involved as 50 per cent of prisoners held in CSCs are Muslim, while the Muslim population of Britain is under 5 per cent.

Kevan Thakrar, who has been held in a CSC for over 10 years, said: “The brutality inflicted upon the prisoners within [CSCs] exceeds all other prison environments in the UK, and they cause the majority of its residents to develop major mental illness requiring treatment within the secure hospitals.”

Campaigners have compared such levels of confinement and deprivation of contact with other people in CSCs to “solitary confinement,” which the UN has said should be banned in most cases.

Khalfan al-Badwawi, a survivor of solitary confinement in Payday men’s network, said: “Solitary confinement works to destroy your sense of existence, of belonging and of the meaning of life.

“The scar is left so deep in the mind that the consequences will be carried with me for the rest of my life.”

Amnesty International has also said that those in CSCs experience “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The RCP’s centre for quality improvement said: “The Enabling Environments award seeks to improve prisons by changing culture and improving environments for both staff and prisoners.

“It is not an endorsement of closed supervision centres, nor is it an accreditation scheme so it doesn’t hold the power to enable these prisons or any other service we work with to keep operating.”