Monday, June 28, 2004

Prison service 'on brink of a race crisis'

Feltham young offenders prison.

UK: Union chief's warning after 'gladiator' games claim.

Britain's jails are plagued by a culture of racism among a hard core of officers and have been rocked by allegations that black prisoners have been made to fight white inmates, [prisoners], for the amusement of warders, according to the union chief in charge of 33,500 officers.

As police launched an investigation into the allegations, Colin Moses, chairman of the Prison Officers' Association (POA), warned last night that the Prison Service was on the brink of a crisis similar to that faced by the police over the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

In an attempt to tackle what he described as a hardcore minority of warders with extreme views, Moses allowed details of claims that officers placed bets on fights known as 'gladiator games' between black and white inmates, [prisoners], at Feltham young offenders institution, [prison], in west London to be passed to Prison Service managers.

In an interview with The Observer, Moses said: 'There is still an acceptance that people will hold extreme views and as long as they are "good old boys" then that's OK.'

Reports of the racist games have also been passed to the public inquiry into the death of a 19-year-old Asian prisoner, Zahid Mubarek, who was murdered by his racist cell mate Robert Stewart at Feltham in March 2001.

The Observer also understands that the name of at least one Feltham officer has been passed to the Home Office and that he is under investigation. The Mubarek inquiry, which opens at the High Court in September, will examine how, [Mr], Mubarek was allowed to share a cell with a known racist for six weeks.

In February 2001, Stewart said that if he was refused bail he would kill his cell mate, bleach his sheets to make a Ku Klux Klan suit and walk to freedom carrying a burning crucifix and swastika. A month later he beat Mubarek to death with a table leg.

Lawyers for the Mubarek family believe there may be a case for bringing charges against officers if they are shown to have been complicit in bringing Mubarek and Stewart together or failing to separate them when they knew the young Asian was in danger.

Moses said: 'If there is any truth in them (the allegations), then that has to be brought to light. If there isn't any truth in them, then it needs to be laid to rest.

'It is my intention to reform this union and to eradicate all racism in this union. But there are those who wish to oppose me in my mission.

'The POA is changing. The vast majority of prison officers are decent, professional people doing one of the most difficult jobs in the UK. We have resistant groups who don't want change, but we have moved on and we will move on further.'

Moses said the Mubarek inquiry will have the same consequences for the Prison Service as Lord Macpherson's inquiry into the Metropolitan Police following the death of Stephen Lawrence. 'Everything has to be looked at root and branch to make sure this never happens again. We must look at the whole at the whole culture of the service as the Macpherson report looked at the culture of the Metropolitan Police.'

Imran Khan, who represents the Lawrence and Mubarek families, said he welcomed Moses's intervention, adding: 'I am used to bad things happening, but I never imagined anything could be as bad as this. It is revealing that no one is able to guarantee that it can't happen again.' The decision to pass information about the 'gladiator' game to the Prison Service has caused deep divisions in the POA, with members at Feltham passing a motion of no confidence in Moses, who is Britain's only black union leader, earlier this month.

Nigel Herring, POA chair at Feltham, said he believed the report was a 'malicious rumour' that has never been substantiated. He questioned why the allegations had only just emerged: 'Things like this don't just pop up. No one checked at Feltham before running to the Prison Service. There is far less racism at that institution than at your local police station.'

He said there was no substance to suggestions that he was helping orchestrate a campaign to oust Moses as chair of the POA.

Moses, 53, has spent his life battling against racism. The son of a sailor from Sierra Leone, he was the only black apprentice in the Tyneside shipyard where he worked as a fitter. When he joined the Prison Service in 1986, he had never met a prison officer. He became leader of the POA two years ago after a bitter leadership struggle and remains determined to see through his vision. 'We are now the subject of a public inquiry. We welcome it if it can in any way help to run a better Prison Service and must not be stigmatised by the actions of a minority.'

By Martin Bright posted 28 June 04


How detox and self-help brought suicide jail back from the brink
UK: Six suicides in 12 months made Styal prison notorious and the Prisons Ombudsman criticised the prison and its staff for serious failures. But things are changing.

Restorative Justice Practices
Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America: Part One BY LAURA MIRSKY.This is part one in a series of articles about restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation and other indigenous people of North America.

UK: The injustice of jail
UK: Give or take Alcatraz, few prisons have a grimmer reputation than Holloway. The former chief inspector, David Ramsbotham, once declared it too disgusting to assess. Others have called the jail's cockroach-infested blocks the worst in the country. Holloway, its image pitched somewhere between Dante's Inferno and the penitentiary wing of Fawlty Towers, has never seemed a candidate for a good slammer award.

Belmarsh prisoners consider suicide, says freed man
UK: The first of the Muslim prisoners released from Belmarsh high security prison after being held on suspicion of terrorism, [scapegoats for the Coalition of the Killing's resource war's in the Middle East], has [said], his fellow prisoners are suffering such 'severe mental problems' that they constantly consider suicide.

Revolving door: Criminal Law System
UK: They are just the opposite of master criminals. Indeed, in the words of Nick Davies in his latest three-part Guardian series on the criminal justice system, [? criminal law system], their criminal careers reflect "the same muddled inadequacy as they handle the rest of their lives". They were nearly all born and raised in chaos.

How the Prison Service Works
1.Abuse and torture inmates at HMP Wormwood Scrubs
2.Take years to admit a regime of violence and torture.
3.Settle 46 claims, paying 1.7 million to prisoners.
5.Carry on as before.
4.Keep 11 of the 14 prison officers responsible in their jobs.

Prisoners must get right to vote, says court
UK: The government will be forced to lift a ban on prisoners voting dating back to 1870 after the European court of human rights ruled yesterday it breached a lifer's human rights.

Cherie calls for women to be kept out of jail
UK: Cherie Booth today launches an impassioned attack on the jailing of women, warning of a 'cycle of poverty and crime' spiralling down the generations unless more female criminals are spared prison.

Blunkett charges miscarriage of justice victims 'food and lodgings'
UK: WHAT do you give someone who's been proved innocent after spending the best part of their life behind bars, wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn't commit? An apology, maybe? Counselling? Champagne?Compensation?

Prison needle cleansing programme
The Department of Health and the Prison Service appeared to be at odds last night over a needle cleansing programme designed to protect prisoners from blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis.

England tops the EU in imprisonment
England and Wales jail more offenders per capita than any other European, Union country, according to new figures. The imprisonment rate of 141 per 100,000 makes the countries the prison capital of Europe for the second year running.

Don't put mothers behind bars
If we are to arrest the soaring prison suicide rate among women, we need to look at alternative punishment.

UK Prison Abuse: Guards Holding Nooses
'We will kill you. We will get away with it... we've done it before' Prisoners tell of hanging threats by officers holding nooses.

K K K in the UK
In the documentary it is alleged an officer dressed in a Ku Klux Klan mask at a training centre in north-west England. An undercover reporter from the BBC also claimed to have taped racist comments by some officers.

Suicides and unrest have soared, admits Home Office
UK:The already overcrowded prison population is set to go on rising and will top 80,000 within the next three years, a senior Home Office civil servant warned yesterday.

My Sarah was smart and talented - Why did she die in jail?
LONDON: Sarah Campbell was just 18 when she killed herself [? committed suicide,] one of seven women to die in jail this year. Our correspondent asks why so many women kill themselves in prison [? commit suicide in prison.]