Campaigners to protest against ‘racist violence and torture’ at proposed ‘mega prison’ site

Prison cell

Hundreds of campaigners are about to protest against “racist violence and torture” at a Yorkshire prison, and against the creation of a ‘mega prison’ at the same site.

Community Action on Prison Expansion (CAPE) is a “grassroots coalition of groups fighting prison expansion in England, Wales and Scotland”. And together with direct action group Sisters Uncut Leeds, it will be part of a protest on Saturday 5 June at Full Sutton prison in York. In a press release, the groups said they are:

demanding an end to racist violence against incarcerated men of colour Kevan Thakrar and Dwayne Fulgence, and an end to the 1440-bed ‘mega prison’ expansion plan, which has been opposed by local community members.

The groups say the protest will be “the biggest of its kind ever to be held at HMP Full Sutton”. This comes in the context of the government’s highly controversial Police Crime Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill.

As CAPE describes on its website:

HMP Full Sutton is also the site of one of the country’s Close Supervision Centres. These are ‘prisons within prisons’, the UK equivalent of the USA’s ‘Supermax’ prisons. They are the highest security and most repressive prison units within the country, where prisoners are held in solitary confinement in an extremely controlled environment for long periods of time.

“Cruel, inhuman and degrading”

CAPE and Sisters Uncut Leeds want “the immediate transfer of Kevan Thakrar to a safer prison, as he has been the victim of racist violence from both guards and other incarcerated men”. And they explain:

Imprisoned since 2008 under the controversial ‘joint enterprise‘ law in what his family have called a ‘miscarriage of justice‘, Mr Thakrar was held in ‘Supermax’ Close Supervision Centres (CSCs) – described as ‘prisons within prisons’ – for 11 years, restricted to his cell for 23 or more hours per day. Supporters say this treatment is violent retribution after he defended himself against a racist attack by prison guards in 2010.

Mr Thakrar has been held in a dirty segregation cell with no electricity since the middle of April 2021. In 2019, he was also stabbed four times by a known racist also incarcerated at Full Sutton.

They then quote a UN expert on the matter:

In March, Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, wrote to raise “grave concern at the indefinite and prolonged detention of Mr. Thakrar in what appears to be conditions of solitary confinement,” and expressed concern at the “prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement” in CSCs used generally within the UK prison system, “thus predictably inflicting severe pain or suffering amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture.”

And they add that:

Dwayne Fulgence, a Black Muslim man also held in the segregation unit at Full Sutton, was severely beaten by four white officers in a racist attack on the 22nd April. The prison denied Mr Fulgence access to medical treatment or a lawyer, and refused his applications to have photos taken of his injuries.

“Prisons are not the answer to serious violence in our society – they instead create more violence”

The campaign groups also oppose the building of “a 1440-bed ‘mega prison’ at the site of HMP Full Sutton”. They explain that this is “part of the government’s plan to create more than 10,000 new prison places”.

A Sisters Uncut Leeds spokesperson said:

As we see from the horrific racist attacks experienced by Kev and Dwayne, prisons are not the answer to serious violence in our society – they instead create more violence. The planned mega prison at Full Sutton means throwing more money at violence against people from marginalised communities at a time when essential domestic violence services are critically underfunded and austerity has deprived our communities for over a decade.

The Prison Estates Transformation Programme is costing the government obscene amounts of money, yet they continue to refuse to invest in preventing crime from taking place in the first place. Affordable housing, education, mental health services, domestic and sexual violence services are the solutions, not more prisons!

The Ministry of Justice cares more about profiting from the cheap labour of prisoners than they do about protecting people from harm and poverty. We demand an end to the Prison Estates Transformation Programme now. We want investment in services that help people rather than harm people!

Main article image via Pixabay