Monthly Archives: September 2007

Another woman’s death. Another demonstration. 20th September, HMP, Surrey

Lisa Doe, aged 25
died on Tuesday 11 September 2007, while in the care of HMP Send, Surrey
Demonstration will take place on Thursday 20 September 2007
at 1.30 pm, for the duration of the afternoon,
outside HMP Send, Ripley Road, Send, Surrey, GU23 7LJ
Banners will be displayed, and flowers laid in memory of Lisa
Reporters/photographers are welcome to attend
Lisa Doe, a mother, is the seventh woman to die in prison so far this year.
In 2006, three women died in the care of Her Majesty’s Prisons.
The demonstration will be led by Pauline Campbell, mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who collapsed, dying (while on ‘suicide watch’) at HMP Styal on 18 Jan 2003; Sarah died several hours later in hospital. See Guardian article.
The demonstration at HMP Send on 20 September 2007 will be the 26th demonstration to be held outside women’s prisons since protests began in 2004. To date, Pauline Campbell has been arrested 14 times.
Figures refer to apparently self-inflicted deaths, England and Wales (though there are no women’s prisons in Wales).
11 May 2004 – to protest against the death of Paige Tapp, 23, a severely depressed mother-of-two, who died in the care of Send Prison on 18 April 2004. Ms Tapp was on ‘suicide watch’ when she died. See: letter published in The Guardian, 15.10.04, from five grieving mothers (including Paige Tapp’s mum) – “Crisis in women’s prisons”.
9 May 2007 – to protest against the death of Emma Kelly, a 31-year-old mother, who died in the care of Send Prison on 19 April 2007. Ms Kelly was on ‘suicide watch’ when she died.
(1) BBC Online News report re Lisa Doe’s death, published 12.09.07.
(2) Labour has presided over a shameful increase in the number of women sent to jail. In 1997, when Labour took office, 2,629 women were imprisoned. Number of women and girls currently locked up: 4,390 (as at 07.09.07). Yet there has been no equivalent increase in the number of women committing offences, or of women committing more serious crimes.
(3) The Guardian, 13.03.07: “the number of women in prison has increased far more rapidly than the number of men: over the past decade there has been a 126% increase in the number of women in prison, compared with a 46% rise in men in jail”.
(4) The Corston Report (a report by Baroness Jean Corston of a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system): ISBN 978-1-84726-177-9; published March 2007 – report was handed to Government in March 2007; Ministers have promised to respond by Autumn 2007. The Home Office-commissioned report calls for existing women’s prisons to be closed down, and replaced with a local network of small custodial units reserved only for those who are a danger to the public:
(5) All prison inmates are owed a legal duty of care.
(6) When a death occurs in State custody, the burden is on the detaining authorities to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation for the death. In the absence of such explanation, Article 2 (right to life) is breached: European Convention on Human Rights [Human Rights Act 1998]. Information source: House of Lords, House of Commons, Joint Committee on Human Rights, “Deaths in Custody”, 3rd Report of Session 2004-05, Volume 1; ISBN 0 10 400573 4, published 14.12.04.
“The tragic death of the young mother Lisa Doe, so soon after the previous death at HMP Send, raises serious questions about the prison’s custodial care record.
“Thirty-nine women prisoners (including Lisa Doe) have died in the ‘care’ of the State since my daughter’s death in 2003. Lessons are not being learned. Who is responsible for this appalling death toll?
“In 2003, following my daughter’s death, I repeatedly called for an independent public inquiry: Two years later, I was informed that Government had rejected this in favour of conducting a review (by Baroness Corston).
“However, in the six months since the Corston Report was handed to Government, and while Ministers continue to deliberate, five women prisoners* have died. It is a shocking state of affairs.
“Instead of building 9,500 extra prison places, Government should increase provision for the mentally ill. Two out of three women in prison are mentally ill; prison exacerbates their difficulties. There is something cruel about sending sick people to a place of punishment.” [Pauline Campbell]
* 5 women prisoners:
Kerry Devereux (HMP Foston Hall; 18 April 2007)
Emma Kelly (HMP Send, 19 April 2007)
Helen Mary Cole (HMP Styal, 3 June 2007)
Marie Cox (HMP Holloway, 30 June 2007)
Lisa Doe (HMP Send, 11 September 2007)
INQUEST – advice, policy, research re deaths in custody
The Howard League for Penal Reform – the oldest penal reform charity in the UK
Pauline Campbell **
[Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the so-called care of HMP & YOI Styal, 2003]
Trustee of The Howard League for Penal Reform.
Awarded The 2005 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize.

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Going in deeper and deeper

The news that British troops have been deployed on the border with Iran at the behest of the U.S. looks like bad news. If we thought that we were on the verge of a change of direction following Blair’s demise then we need to review that idea. Others have different ideas that will draw us in deeper and deeper in never ending conflict. Looks like Brown now faces some difficult choices.
“The mission will include the King’s Royal Hussars battle group, 250 of whom were told at the weekend that they would be returning to the UK as part of a drawdown of forces in Iraq.” Source The Independent 11/9/2007.
How the Americans have painted a picture for home consumption that the surge has worked has to be seen. A climate of fear has been engendered designed to make the unwilling accept the necessity of the unacceptable. Clearly many senators have expressed deep concern, but this “lame duck” president still has lots of power. Lot of power through friends in organisations which are profiting hugely from America’s wars. So this is what Brown meant when he told Bush “we share the same values”.

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The flower growing industry in Kenya

Looks attractive. Jobs for thousands as Kenya develops a huge rose growing industry. The video shows the problem of carbon emission from flights carrying the produce round the world.
The producers say that this is offset by the fact there is no need to heat the greenhouses to bring on the flowers as in Europe. What the report doesn’t say is where all the water needed to grow the roses comes from. Other flower growing ventures have illegally diverted water from rivers giving people lower downstream problems. Presumably the industry is not owned by Africans whose labour is used extensively. While the fact that many have access to work, how sustainable is the venture and whose interests does it ultimately serve?

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Zimbabweans fight back

Al Jazeera features some interesting videos. Yesterday showed a cartoon which showed how deep the split is between Hamas and Fatah. I decided not to make the link since its depressing propaganda. However this clip shows displaced Zimbabweans fighting back. A group of elderly women have decided to build their own school for their children.
The dominating images of Africa presented at best show dependency whereas the struggles against the apartheid regime of South Africa had so many examples of people fighting back against seemingly overwhelming oppression. So often women were to the fore. They had to be since the men were either away working in dangerous jobs such as mines or were imprisoned for their political activity. LIke minded people, black and white, won through.

Why Mandela’s example should stand

Few deserve the high praise that was reserved for Nelson Mandela in London this week, but a story in the Independent (2/9/2007) reminds us of why his example is crucial in this world of brutality and corruption.
We are reminded of the Robben Island years when prisoners were regularly forced to dig deep trenches, lie in them and then have the guards pee on them. When he became President who should Mandela invite but these very same guards? While it’s possible to be sceptical about this the action chimes in with the acts of reconciliation which characterised the period of Mandela’s Presidency. What was the alternative – to continue bitter feuding and embark on civil war.
In his speech Mandela was typically modest and spoke of the achievement of having a black figure represented in Parliament Square alongside Churchill and Lincoln. Those who spoke in the video testified how it was significant for them. They made it clear as people who had become prominent as politicians and broadcasters that there was still a general feeling that black people couldn’t make an impact. It is the legacy of colonialism with the racism that underpinned it that has brought about this state of affairs. Both Mandela and Jesse Jackson have been in U.K. to remind us of the fact and to provide inspiration for us all, but black people in particular.
Is Mandela a one off? It would seem to me that he is a product of his African upbringing. There are many examples through history of wisdom in African cultures from Nubia and Egypt (Kemet) onwards. The tragedy of much that has happened has been in the context of the nineteenth century Treaty of Berlin where European states carved up the continent. Rather than draw on African traditions their modern leaders have continued the paternalism of their former colonial rulers. Simplistic? May be, but not half as simplistic as the view, of which Sarkozy is the latest exponent, that Africa has no history.
My expression of apology for slavery on behalf of Birmingham has fallen on deaf ears and has been ignored by the Birmingham press in general. But thanks to Adrian Goldberg for supporting this in his Stirrer column!

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