WHAT IS PRISON?

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By David Breakspear

  1. Prison – noun – a building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they have committed or while awaiting trial.
  2. One of the Ministry of Justices’ four strategic priorities is “A prison and probation service that reforms offenders” (Ministry of Justice).

Number one is definitely the case, but what about number two? Well, based on the latest government figures in relation to self-harm, violence, and suicides, I would suggest that the Ministry of Justice is not delivering on one of its key strategic priorities.Continue Reading

PROFIT BEFORE PEOPLE

by David Breakspear

Whilst going about my daily ritual of spending hours in front of a computer screen researching in a variety of areas, one of which being the criminal justice system, I came across this piece with the headline ‘Mental health trust takes back contract for more serious conditions at Norwich prison’. It was a report in an edition of the Great Yarmouth Mercury.

I have served as a prisoner for a good number of years at HMP Norwich, and as someone who has a complex mental health history, I came into contact with the mental health team on a regular basis. I was also a trained listener and would have dealings with the team as a third party on behalf of individual prisoners.

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RATS TO RICHES

by David Breakspear

CW: suicide

“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time!”. In terms of reform and progress within our penal system, the proverb is about as much use as eating soup with a fork. For a start, how would you know?

Unfortunately, we do need prisons. Ever since Eve – reportedly – ate the forbidden fruit from the garden of Eden, crime has been in existence in human narratives. Crime, either directly or indirectly, affects us all; victims of crime or the family/loved ones/friends of the victim, perpetrator of crime, or, yet again, the family/friends/loved ones of the perpetrators. You may even pay higher insurance premiums due to crime. Crime affects all, therefore, crime is the responsibility of all, especially the prison system.Continue Reading

PRISONS BECOMING A DEATH-SENTENCE FOR ROMA

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by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article contains strong language, ethnic slurs, and graphic descriptions of death, suicide, prison environments and torture.

On April 9th 2018, the day after International Roma Day, a crowd gathered outside the doors of the Murcia Regional Government building in Alicante, Spain. They were not there to celebrate, but to mourn and demonstrate about the unexplained death of twenty-eight-year-old Romani man, Manuel Fernández, on 22nd October 2017. His case is one of many unexplained deaths of Roma in prison.Continue Reading

SPAIN AND THE LAW ON CITIZEN SAFETY

by Gunnar Eigener 

The Spanish government continues in its relentless pursuit of Catalonians who dared to seek further autonomy and independence. An international warrant was issued from Madrid for the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan separatists, and his recent arrest in Germany has sparked new demonstrations, reigniting the Catalan debate. Puigdemont faces charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds – all of which means he could face the next 25 years in prison.

However, for him to be extradited successfully, German judges need to assess if the charges are punishable under German law. He could be extradited but only to face the charges that are criminal under German law. Five other arrest warrants for other separatist politicians have been issued; some already have been arrested in Spain and sent to prison awaiting trial. Continue Reading

FROM PRISON TO PODIUM

by David Breakspear

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.Continue Reading

GENERATION AIRBNB – SAN FRANCISCO

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.Continue Reading