Pauline Campbell campaigned against the imprisonment of women and would turn up outside prisons to tell the van drivers to take the women to a place of safety. I don’t know whether even she encountered anything approaching what is alleged to have happened at HMP Peterborough, a privatised prison, after a pregnant woman was arrested in November. She had stolen food to the value of around £13.00 in desperation the court was told. When she miscarried the child she was carrying she was required to clear up while the foetus remained in the cell. It is said she had mental health problems. The company commissioned to run the prison is Sodexo, not one of the well known corporations that have their fingers in every pie possible. They say they run “ethical” services in a number of countries. They are involved in handful across the UK. They declioned to comment on this case.
There’s “No Health Without Mental Health” proclaimed this government trumpeting that they would be the first to ensure parity of treatment with physical illness. When we see the incidence of mental health issues in our jails alarm bells should be ringing in the highest places, with men 14 times more likely to have problems. With women it is THIRTY FIVE times. What are people like 37 year old Nadine Wright doing there in the first place?
Yesterday, 18th August 2012, saw the second march to protest at the non-action since the death in Birmingham of Kingsley Burrell. This happened at the Mary Seacole Centre. Kingsley had called the police when he and his young son were threatened by a group of youth on Icknield Port Road. The police decided to detain him and he was taken to the mental health hospital and sectioned. His family say he had no record of mental health. A few days later police were called to the centre. Kingsley ended up in hospital where he died. After a year the body is only now being released. The family and we are none the wiser how and why he died. He is one of a large number of statistics of deaths in custody, many of which involve mental health issues.
I met Jenny Cooper and her family at the march. She was beaten up by police in Wolverhampton two years ago and remains severely disabled. The police say they have held an enquiry, but they haven;t release their findings to Jenny. She and her family have been continually harassed over many years, and police have raided her house and the homes of her daughters on numerous occasions. On one occasion an officer told Jenny “she was mad” and he would have her sectioned. Another black Wolverhampton woman told me that she had been brutally treated by police and on occasions taken into cells and beaten or taken to a mental health institution. She complained but got no satisfaction. Both prisons (7 black people to one white person in UK) and mental health secure institutions show black over representation. This is how it happens. There needs to be a police watch, starting with Wolverhampton’s Bilston Street Station in the West Midlands.
If someone is thought to hav a mental health problem, then why are hey given a beating? It happened to Mikey Powell in Handsworth district of Birmingham in 2004. Aljazeera talks about people being caged or bound and badly treated in the third world. Not much progress here after the David Bennett report and the Lawrence enquiry.
I note that the last time I posted in memory of Pauline Campbell was in 2010, so has everything improved for vulnerable women who end up in our appalling institutions? Pauline died in 2008 still grieving for the daughter she lost in Styal Prison. Before that she would mount a campaign outside the prisons where another woman had died while in the “safe keeping” of HMP. In an article in the Observer a former governor of Styal Prison comments.
Why are so many women is prison? Pauline continually made that point as she stood outside prison gates. She would stop the privatised prison van from entering and ended up being assaulted by burly police and security officers.
Prisons? A euphemism for human dustbins and a convenience for the inhuman uncaring society we have become for avoiding dealing with need. Mental health, poverty, victims of abuse. The throw away society does not exclude the people that we expect it to protect.
The idea that Pauline Campbells‘ campaigning for vulnerable women, held in custody and at risk of harm, is under consideration for a documentary drama on Channel 4. Her work, some of which was highlighted on this blog, was given considerable coverage. Her untimely death stopped a powerful campaign developing. She hasn’t been replaced.
It is one year since Pauline was found dead on the grave of her beloved daughter who had died in the”care” of Styal Prison. Pauline never got over it but in the remaining years of her life she put everything in to showing how vulnerable people were at huge risk. She was arrested on numerous occasions usually because she would stop prison vans bringing women into jail and instruct the driver to take them to “a place of safety”.
There are still many families who are still seeking justice, an explanation even, of how their loved ones ended up dead while in custody. As with Pauline many never get over that trauma. The campaign against deaths in custody has now had a belated response from the Prime Minister but still awaits news of what will be done to prevent the continuaqtion of the appalling state of affairs.
Tuesday 28 April 2009
Custodydeaths – epetition response
We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that the Government does more to address the issue of people dying in the custody or care of police, prison and mental health institutions.”
Details of Petition:
“The United Families & Friends Campaign challenges the Prime Minister to intervene in what we believe to be a lack of justice for families following a death in custody. What We Demand -Deaths must be investigated by a body that is genuinely independent of the police. -Prison & Mental Health deaths must be subject to a system of properly funded investigation independent of the Prison Service and Health Service. -Officers involved in custody deaths are suspended until investigations are completed. -Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at inquests. -Police forces are made accountable to the communities that they serve. -Legal Aid and full disclosure of information be made to the relatives of the victims. -Officers and staff responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired. The following are statements from affected families: “The struggle for justice for all the others that have died at the hands of the state, goes on. We ask people to support us. “It is not in the public interest for the victims of deaths in custody to be denied justice”.
· Read the petition
· Petitions homepage
Read the Government’s response
Demonstrate Wednesday 28th January 1:00pm
Styal Prison, Styal Road
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 4HR
Prison campaigners and mothers Joan Meredith and Yvonne Bailey have called a demonstration to take place. The call for protest comes after the latest self-inflicted death of mother Alison Colk at HMP Styal on 8th January 2009.
The campaigning organisation INQUEST has referred to Styal as:
‘a prison with a disturbing history of deaths of vulnerable women’.
Joan Meredith and Yvonne Bailey have worked together with and supported prison justice movements such as INQUEST, No More Prisons, the late Pauline Campbell and The Howard League for Penal Reform for several years. They are both mothers and wish to help stop the devastating effects of such deaths.
Further information and interviews from:
1. Joan Meredith: 01948-860862 or mobile (available on mobile from
Wednesday at 12.00 noon): 0781-6928232
2. Yvonne Bailey: (on Wednesday at the demonstration)
Background links and articles:
Joan Meredith | Yvonne Bailey
News release by Frances Laing, freelance journalist and blogger.
Maybe if you’re born is a prison you might end up being saviour of the world. Maybe you won’t. A report says that now, under New Labour, around 4 children are born each week to women in our prisons. Recommendations were that this should only happen in “exceptional circumstances”.
I visited a young woman on remand in a young offenders’ institution. It was most certainly a prison. Sure they tried to ensure she developed her education and parenting skills, but the environment was extremely harsh. As a visitor you had to surrender the complete contents of your pockets before you were allowed in. And you were securely locked in. This young women had got in with the wrong crowd, but the reason for making her give birth in such a setting was certainly not “exceptional.” She did very well, except she refused to listen to those who insisted she should not take the child into her bed. This is something much frowned upon, but as far as I know is not uncommon. Anyway I knew the reason why she did this. She had a child before that was taken into care. The child died while in “care”. She found this out when she overheard someone speaking about it while in court. She quickly arranged to see the child’s body and noticed serious burn marks on the legs.
When she left prison she went to a hostel for mothers and children. Many of those there were people with learning difficulties and had difficulties just coping with their children. The young woman did not fit in. She stayed out continually, the placement was ended and the child was taken into care. Like her mother she was in care and now the third generation. When, I asked continually when representing her at meetings with professionals, would this cycle end? And where did she go to when she was out without permission? She was visiting the grave of her first born.
Pauline to be remembered at rally
NO MORE DEATHS IN CUSTODY
10th ANNUAL DEATH IN CUSTODY FAMILES IN MARCH ON DOWNING STREET
The United Families & Friends Campaign, the national coalition of families whose loved ones have died in police, prison and psychiatric custody will march to Downing Street to challenge the Prime Minister to intervene in the lack of justice for families following a death in custody.
Families attending include those of Jean Charles De Menezes, Roger Sylvester, Brian Douglas, Mikey Powell, Christopher Alder, Paul Coker, Jason Mcpherson and many others.
1. Since 1969 we have had 2,533 deaths for which the names of the individuals are known. Hundreds of others are unknown. Between 27 October 2007 – 17 October 2008 we have had 182 deaths where the identity of the individual is known. Details: www.inquest.org.uk
2 This is the 10th such march and coincides with an online petition on Downing Street to which the Prime Minister must respond. Details: visit 4WardEver page
3. Since last years march there has been the tragic death of Pauline Campbell who was in the midst of a campaign for justice for her daughter Sarah. Her passing will be marked during the day.
Procession details: Saturday 25th October 2008
Assemble at 1.00pm at Nelsons Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Procession along Whitehall followed by protest at Downing Street
Press information: UFFC 07770 432 439
Pauline had been a tireless campaigner against the deaths of women in prison and psychiatric custody ever since the tragic death of her own daughter, Sarah, in 2003.
I have received a message that Pauline Campbell’s will has disappeared and her wishes to benefit charity are being ignored. Her legacy deserves better than that.
The news of Pauline’s death came as a shock to her friends and many who didn’t know her but were affected by her dedicated work. Pauline was fearless and at each demonstration would request that women arriving at the prison in a van should be taken to a place of safety. The police response was violent and she and her supporters were thrown to the ground on more than one occasion.
Her actions were followed by court appearances. Not only were they costly, they proved to be of no value, a complete waste of time. Pauline was honoured and took part in a number of broadcasts, in fact she was the regular speaker every time the subject of deaths in prison came up. She was invited as a speaker at a international conference on penal abolition.