An Appeal For Support of Investigating division and conflict amongst the poorest and most oppressed as a means of control has always been a favoured strategy of the ruling class and within it’s prisons (the laboratories of oppression) where the most disempowered experience naked repression the weapon of divide and conquer is sometimes used with murderous effect. Within the British prison system there exist prisons within prisons, places of concentrated repression where “troublemakers” and those who fight back are sent to be broken, and where those who inflict the repression encourage prisoners to take the rage created by that repression out on each other, thereby generating an unending cycle of violence, which is used to justify the use of even greater repression. In 1998 the first “Close Supervision Centre” (CSC), based on the American prison “Special Management Unit” concept, was opened in Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes to hold what the prison authorities claimed were the system’s most “disruptive and dangerous” prisoners, or those prisoners who fought back and encouraged others to do the same. Concentrating such prisoners in a single physical space or unit confronted those staffing it with an obvious dilemma: how to subdue and control such a group? Predictably, an unimaginatively brutal approach was adopted – a total lock-down regime blended with overt physical brutality. The response of the prisoners “selected” for such brutality was collective resistance in the form of dirty protests and total non-cooperation, to which the permanently riot-gear clad staff responded with greater brutality, resulting eventually in an atmosphere and environment of total warfare. In 2000 the chief inspectorate of prisons following an inspection of the Woodhill CSC described conditions there as a clear breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, forcing the prison authorities to implement at least superficial changes to it’s regime. Prison psychologists were now used to legitimate the CSC regime by pathologising the resistance of the prisoners and introducing a pavlovian behaviour-modification regime; compliant behaviour by prisoners would now be rewarded with “progression” to less austere and brutalising conditions within the CSC, including limited free-association periods outside their cells. Staff “supervising” the prisoners were now instructed to “engage” with them as opposed to overtly brutalising them, although the relationship of power remained dependent on physical force and the use of brutality when necessary. To guards long conditioned and accustomed to exerting control by straight-forward brutality the very slight relaxation of the CSC regime represented a threat to the ability to maintain absolute control, while having to now “engage” with as a group prisoners who they had formally brutalised as isolated individuals clearly unnerved them. Fearful of now becoming a target for angry and embittered prisoners they instigated and fermented animosity between and amongst those prisoners and then used the slightly relaxed regime to facilitate physical violence between some prisoners; placing sufficiently “wound-up” prisoners in the small outside exercise pen together ensured the channelling of rage and violence and it’s expend amongst prisoners themselves. On one occasion this resulted in the near death of a prisoner. Whilst the regime operating in the Woodhill CSC might have been slightly modified to allow prisoners to “progress” back to the prison mainstream providing they showed a sufficiently cooperative attitude, the CSC at Wakefield prison is reserved for those prisoners who will probably never leave it’s confines. The emphasis at the Wakefield CSC is one of straightforward containment and control, so prisoners there are simply entombed in their cells and allowed no human interaction whatsoever; it is a regime and form of treatment that defies and concept or convention of basic human rights. Kevan Thakrar, currently held in the Wakefield CSC, is a prisoner who has experienced and endured many years of brutal and inhumane treatment at the hands of prison staff who are determined to destroy him. Cleared by a jury in 2012 of allegedly assaulting prison staff and more recently by the CPS for a similar allegation, Kevan has become a target of victimization by the Prison Officers Association and it’s members who staff the CSC system. Whilst held in the Woodhill CSC Kevan, who was supposedly on a permanent lock down regime, was unlocked and allowed out of his cell one afternoon with surprisingly few guards present. Understandably suspicious, Kevan soon discovered the reason for the guards apparent lassitude; unlocked too was a dangerous mentally ill prisoner. Kevan immediately engaged the prisoner in conversation and eventually encouraged him to abandon his intention to do the guards bidding by attacking Kevan. Their plan frustrated the guards re-materialised and returned Kevan to his cell and permanent lock down again. Following an unrelenting barrage of legal actions against the prison authorities challenging his placement in the Woodhill CSC, which included an independent psychology report strongly recommending his return to the mainstream prison population on medical grounds, Kevan was transferred to the even more psychologically brutalising environment of the Wakefield CSC. The intention was clear: to bury Kevan permanently in an end of the line hell hole and allow those “supervising” it to do whatever was necessary to break his sanity and spirit of resistance. Held within the Wakefield CSC are not just prisoners who have fought and resisted the system; some are there for acts of prisoner on prisoner violence, some of whom are hard-core racists. It was from this small group that the guards staffing the Wakefield CSC recruited for their campaign of psychological harassment against Kevan. The message communicated to these willing helpers was their assistance would be rewarded with eventual “progression” to a less austere place of confinement. Kevan’s mixed race heritage now became the focus of this quisling group’s racism, expressed in constant verbal abuse and threats shouted from cell windows, as well as the throwing of urine from windows at Kevan when he exercised in the small yard just below the cell windows. The response of the guards supposedly “supervising” the place was to laugh and encourage even more the racist behaviour and abuse. Those supposedly managing the Wakefield CSC, senior managers, psychologists, etc., are apparently content to allow uniformed staff “supervising” the day to day lives of the prisoners held there absolute discretion in how their power is used or abused, providing absolute control is maintained. As a result, Kevan now faces a daily struggle against not only a de-humanising regime of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation enforced by openly hate filled guards, but also the constant racist verbal abuse of those keen to win the favour of their masters. We must do whatever we can to support that struggle and let Kevan’s captors and oppressors know that he is not alone. Please write or e-mail to the following protesting at Kevan’s treatment: HM Prison Service Headquarters Clive House 70 Petty France London SW1H 9EX public.enquiries@noms.gsi.gov.uk The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Ministry of Justice, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ general.queries@justice.gsi.gov.uk Governor: David Harding HMP Wakefield 5 Love Lane Wakefield West Yorkshire WF2 9AG Tel: 01924 612 000 Fax: 01924 612 001 Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Wakefield 9th Floor, Post Point 9.52, The Tower, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ Please write letters of support to: Kevan Thakrar A4907AE HMP Wakefield, 5 Love Lane, Wakefield, WF2 9AG – Written by John Bowden (UK)

1919_Battle_of_George_Square_-_David_Kirkwood

Investigating division and conflict amongst the poorest and most oppressed as a means of control has always been a favoured strategy of the ruling class and within it’s prisons (the laboratories of oppression) where the most disempowered experience naked repression the weapon of divide and conquer is sometimes used with murderous effect.
Read the rest of this entry »

Prison As Political Battleground

06

Either as a political issue or personal experience prison repression isn’t something the radical left in Britain is particularly familiar with or much inclined to mobilise against. Prison remains largely a working class experience targeted against the poorest and most marginalised of that class. However in a society increasingly polarised and divided between rich and poor in a political climate of growing repression and authoritarianism prisons are being refashioned more and more into instruments of political as well as social control. This will eventually find reflection in the nature and composition of the prisoner population as political activists increasingly supplement the imprisoned poor.
Read the rest of this entry »

Parole Board Stitch-up

John Bowden writes about his treatment at the hands of a megalomaniac social worker and an all too acquiescent Parole Board. Further articles by John, and others about his current situation and what you can do to help, can be found on this site.

In June of 2011, the Parole Board for England and Wales finally carried out its statutory obligation to review my continued imprisonment after 32 years of captivity. Its official terms of reference were clear and straightforward; to be reassured that I represented no risk or danger to the public, (the main legal criteria determining whether a life sentence prisoner is safe to be released or not), and that I could be safely managed or supervised in the community beyond prison.
Read the rest of this entry »

John Bowden Update

_44664059_john_bowden_226170

We’ve not heard from John since his recent court appearance on the September 22, but members of Glasgow FRFI were outside the court with placards to support him. They’ve said his next court appearance is on the October 27 and his trial date has been set for November 17. This trial relates to a ridiculous “assault” charge on a prison officer at Greenock jail, which was clearly a set up to prevent him from being progressed onto the semi-open part of the prison.
John had been transferred across the Scottish border back to England and has been transferred frequently around the prison system since – eight moves in the last two months.
Read the rest of this entry »

‘Prison As Political Battleground’ by John Bowden, radical long-term prisoner (UK)

Buscadme, poetas

Either as a political issue or personal experience prison repression isn’t something the radical left in Britain is particularly familiar with or much inclined to mobilise against. Prison remains largely a working class experience targeted against the poorest and most marginalised of that class. However in a society increasingly polarised and divided between rich and poor in a political climate of growing repression and authoritarianism prisons are being refashioned more and more into instruments of political as well as social control. This will eventually find reflection in the nature and composition of the prisoner population as political activists increasingly supplement the imprisoned poor.
Read the rest of this entry »

John Bowden Writes From HMP Shotts(2012)

chi1

John Bowden writes about his treatment at the hands of a megalomaniac social worker and an all too acquiescent Parole Board. Further articles by John, and others about his current situation and what you can do to help, can be found here and on the Leeds ABC website.
Read the rest of this entry »

WHY PRISONERS FIGHT BACK

bannerlibro

June 1990.

The Strangeways uprising, distinguishable for its intensity and duration, has generated a plethora of interpretations and analysed about what are perceived as the current ills of the British prison system and placed prisons as an issue close to the top of the political agenda. Unfortunately, none of the discussions about the cause and the rationale of the uprising, which acted as a catalyst for generalised unrest throughout the entire prison system, went much beyond the usual superficial and non-contentious issues of overcrowding, staff shortages and, of course, the existence of a ubiquitous minority of ‘subversive’ prisoners hel-lbent on disrupting prison life for purely gratuitous reasons.

Read the rest of this entry »

HISTORIES OF RESISTNCE

tumblr_mj0678DpnB1qzprlbo1_500

John Bowden was imprisoned for murder in 1980 with a life sentence. He was now served 34 years, in prison across England and Scootland. In that time he escaped for 18 months in 1992 and again in 2008 for a few months before recapture; he has held an assistant governor hostage for two days; and received countless beatings, solitary confinements and many other tactics of HMPs to quell dissent and resistance. Throughout, he has maintained fierce resistance, never backing down and for this- despite parole boards admission that he should now be in open jail, if not released – the Prison Service still keep him inside.

In recent months it has now become fully that he is being held due to his opposition to the prison system. They admit that he poses no threat to the public, yet his continuing work highlighting the denial of prisoners rights and the inhability of the prison system to live up to even its own rules, means they will not release him. Still he does not back down and capitulate to their wishes.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘The Subcontraction Of Prison Violence’ by John Bowden

10942605_438224449670033_6406739014414441313_n

Ultimately prisons exist as instruments of state violence, and no matter how legitimized by statuary law their prime function and purpose is to inflict pain and suffering in the interests of social control. They are nothing more than blunt weapons of state power and ruling class authority and for those confined within them the experience of naked vulnerability and brutality is a constant every day reality.
Read the rest of this entry »

Parole Board Stitch-up (2011)

john-bowden-stickers3

John Bowden writes about his treatment at the hands of a megalomaniac social worker and an all too acquiescent Parole Board. Further articles by John, and others about his current situation and what you can do to help, can be found on this site.
Read the rest of this entry »