Saturday the 10th Feb 2018, a day that I will always remember. I had been invited to speak in relation to prison education and the arts. I was speaking to an audience alongside Jacob Huntley, a lecturer in English literature and creative writing from the UEA. I met Jacob whilst I was a serving prisoner at HMP Norwich. One of my roles at HMP Norwich was as an education mentor and I was told that there would be a new creative writing course starting, which would be facilitated by Jacob. I have always found that penning emotions onto a piece of paper allowed me to free my mind.
by Hannah Rose
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.
Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco. 1955
Aliyah has lived in San Francisco’s Mission district her entire life, which I estimate at being around twenty-eight years. Mission is the city’s working class and Latino area. She sleeps on the living room floor. The TV is on and throws intermittent light over her slumbering form, phone still in hand. I have to step over Aliyah on my way to her room—which I am renting through Airbnb for the week—and am careful not to wake her despite the blare of the TV. On the wall, beneath a tangle of half-deflated gold balloons left over from a party, is a giant poster of Whitney Houston—the queen of pop. Behind the water cooler is the silhouetted form of Michael Jackson—the king of pop—suspended on tippy-toes and ‘He Lives’ stencilled beneath.
Photographs of Aliyah and her husband smile back at me from heart-shaped frames that decorate the far wall and on a small, white canvas the words ‘Life is the Flower for which Love is the Honey’ are in poppy-red. One of a few splashes of colour in this windowless, dimly lit apartment.
by Lotty Clare
Content warning: mentions violence against women, abuse, rape, self-harm, suicide, racism, harassment, homophobia.
Last Saturday, a group of UEA students and Norwich residents travelled to a protest at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. This protest was the fifth Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) has organised to shut down detention centres. As I approached the building, hidden inside an industrial estate, surrounded by fields, in the middle of nowhere, it was just as intimidating and depressing as 6 months ago when I went to Yarl’s Wood for the first time. It looks like a prison, except that it is ‘worse than prison, because you have no rights’, as former detainee Aisha Shua put it. Some women are in Yarl’s Wood because their visa expired, others because their asylum claim was unsuccessful. They have committed no crime. And yet they can be detained there indefinitely.
by Lucy Auger
This week, Norwich Pride held an emergency demonstration outside City Hall to protest a new wave of abductions, imprisonment, and killing of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. Over 50 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to hear speeches from local activists, and to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. These acts of solidarity are vital, and it has been encouraging to see similar displays across the country, but our actions must go beyond this.
by Tara Gulwell
Content warning: mentions death row and execution.
Arriving at Angola prison is a bit like realising the horror film you’ve been watching is actually a documentary. Suddenly a landscape that was far removed from my own experience was coming into focus before me as I arrived at the gates. I’ve had family members who were imprisoned or have gone through the criminal justice system, but this was Angola. This was the Alcatraz of the South, one of the most violent subjects of intense fascination in American mythology.
by Rob Harding
Trigger Warnings: Islamaphobia, casual Ableism
Last week, an infamous mass-murdering terrorist was granted repayment of his legal costs and a court-enforced relaxing of the conditions under which he is imprisoned for the killing of 77 people. In her ruling, Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic agreed with his claims of inhuman treatment and reminded us that the European Convention on Human Rights states that the right to not be treated inhumanely applies to all people, therefore including ‘terrorists and killers’ under its protection.
by Sahaya James
Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow, is set in an anonymous business park. You can only tell it’s a detention centre because of the barbed wire.
Campsfield detention centre, near Oxford, is accessible by a nondescript turning on a nondescript a-road. The whole site is ringed by a line of trees.
Yarl’s Wood, however, is even more hidden than the rest. It sits hundreds of meters back from the road, behind a double layer of fencing, miles and miles out into the Bedfordshire countryside.
It is, essentially, a prison. Like every detention centre, it doesn’t contain people accused and convicted of crimes — it contains people without UK passports. Specifically, Yarlswood contains women and children.