Tuesday, 22 June 2010

ICOPA - This week in Belfast

ICOPA XIII is taking place this week in Belfast.

Further details from here

This video report is of ICOPA XII two years ago in London.

Monday, 21 June 2010


This information was orginally published in 2004 and updated in 2007

Angela Davis is a professor of history of conciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Over the last thirty years, she has been active in numerous organisations challenging prison-related repression.

Her activism on behalf of political prisoners resulting in her facing three capital charges. After 16 months in prison awaiting trial and a mass campaign in her support, she was acquitted in 1972.

In 1998 she was one of the organisers of the "Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex" Conference. Angela remains active today exposing the racism and brutality of prison and committed not to its reform buts its abolition.

In 2003 Angela Davis published Are Prisons Obsolete? an essential read and highly recomended.

Since the 1980s prison construction and incarceration rates in the U.S. have been rising exponentially, evoking huge public concern about their proliferation and their promise of enormous profits. But these prisons house hugely disproportionate numbers of people of colour, betraying the racism embedded in the system, while studies show that increasing prison sentences has had no effect on crime.

Other recomended Davis Books are:

The Prison-Industrial Complex
Women, Race and Class
Resisting State Violence: Radicalism,gender and race in US Culture

Online links to Angela's work

Speaking at the First Congregational Church of Oakland 26th July 2003 "Are Prisons Obsolete"
The Helen Rodgers Reid Lecture at Columbia University April 2004 "The Death Penalty: Dialectics of Innocence."
Abolish prisons, says Angela Davis at Harvard in March 2004 Questions the efficacy, morality of incarceration

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The abolitionist approach: a British perspective (Part Two of Two)


The theoretical debates outlined above were reflected in RAP's interventionist strategy in the 1980's. As in the previous decade, the organisation was involved in a series of campaigns, often with other mainstream groups, to lobby for "an agreed programme of reform' (Ryan and Ward, 1990, p. 9). This meant supporting those in the traditional lobby who argued for a reductionist strategy as a response to the prison crisis. At the same time, RAP also pointed to issues which until then had been neglected by traditional reformers. The scandal surrounding deaths in custody is a good example of this process. RAP was involved in the formation of the pressure group Inquest, established in 1980 to draw attention to those who had died 'suddenly, violently or inexplicably in police and prison custody' (Benn and Worpole, 1986, p. i). Twelve years on, the work of the group has become central to this debate. The issue has also become a cause for concern in the mainstream lobby and for the Chief Inspector of Prisons himself. It also inspired the formation of a similar group in Australia in 1984, which was concerned with the general question of deaths in custody and the disproportionate number of Aboriginal deaths in particular (Hogan, Brown and Hogg, 1988). Inquest's work extended across a range of areas throughout the igHos and can be seen as part of the hegemonic process mentioned earlier. Its members picketed police stations and coroner's courts, organised meetings, arranged legal support for the families of the deceased, who scandalously were and are denied legal aid, highlighted the unaccountable and often unacceptable practices of the coroner's courts and helped to sponsor a number of legislative changes, including the Administration of Justice Act 1982 and the Coroner's Juries Act 1983. This work also began to raise broader theoretical questions, particularly around the nature of state power and the processes of institutionalised violence (Sim, Scraton and Gordon, 1987, pp. 14-15). Both Inquest and RAP worked closely with a number of other radical prisoners' rights organisations, including Women in Prison, whose goal was 'to redress the injustices presently suffered bv Britain's hitherto neglected women prisoners'. In 1986 these organisations gave evidence to the House of Commons Social Services' Committee on the Prison Medical Service which was directly linked to the Committee's recommendation which 'called for the abolition and complete replacement of Hollo-way's C Wing' (Sim, Scraton and Gordon, 1987, pp. 15-16).

The ongoing campaign for the abolition of the Prison Medical Service (PMS) in England and Wales provides another example of this joint endeavour. As I noted above, it was RAP and the National Prisoners' Movement who, because of their close contact with the confined, first raised this issue in the 19705. Both groups pointed to the role of medicine inside, not as a neutral dispenser of medical care but as a set of interlocking, disciplinary discourses built on 'less eligibility', control and regulation (Sim, 1990). By the mid-ig8os the issues involved had become so contentious that they were taken up by a range of mainstream groups, including the Howard League for Penal Reform, The National Association for Mental Health, The Royal College of General Practitioners and The Royal College of Psychiatrists (Sim, 1990, pp. 122-3). ^n April 1991 the National Association of Probation Officers and Inquest introduced into the House of Commons the Health Care of Prisoners Bill, which contained provisions for the abolition of the PMS. As I have noted elsewhere, this Bill could be seen as a 'highly symbolic measure for achieving radical change . . . which if accepted will not solve all of the problems concerning the psychological and physical health of prisoners but is a realistic starting point for raising other, more fundamental questions regarding the treatment of the confined' (Sim, 1991, p. 38). Similar themes can be identified in relation to the campaign around the privatisation of prisons, where abolitionists have supported the moves by groups as diverse as The National Association of Probation Officers, The Civil and Public Servants' Association and The Prison Officers' Association to prevent further spread of the privatised network in Britain. The points raised by this campaign, which include the unethical nature of privatisation in relation to punishment and the non-accountability of those operating private prisons, directly parallel the issues raised by two of the leading members of the abolitionist movement in Britain in the book they published on the subject in 1989 (Ryan and Ward, 1989).

These campaigns, seen alongside those discussed earlier, indicate that abolitionism has not been the marginalised and irrelevant discourse claimed by its critics. Rather, it should be understood as a hegemonic force which has been generated by and responded to the 'contingent [and] fundamentally open-ended nature of polities'. In that sense it can be seen as part of the struggle to develop a radical discourse around penality, in Gramscian terms attempting to replace 'common sense' with 'good sense' in relation to crime and punishment (Hall, 1988, p. 109). In making this argument I am not positing a simple, uni-dimensional, causal relationship between abolitionist thinking and penal reform, particularly in terms of policy as 'the emergence of policy reforms from below (as with those from above) is the result of a complex and often fractious process' (Sim, 1991, p. 33). Nor am I idealising the impact of abolitionism on the increasing authoritarianism of state power. Rather I am pointing to the specificity of the abolitionist project in Britain, which in utilising a complex set of competing, contradictory and oppositional discourses, and providing support on the ground for the confined and their families, has challenged the hegemony around prison that historically and contemporaneously has united state servants, traditional referm groups and many academics on the same pragmatic and ideological terrain. In a nvimber of areas discussed in this paper, such as deaths in custody, prison conditions, medical power, visiting, censorship and sentencing, these groups have conceded key points in the abolitionist argument and have moved onto a more radical terrain where they too have contested the construction of state-defined truth around penal policy. What this process means for the future is the subject of the last section of this paper.


The debate about the future of the prisons and the criminal justice system in general is now dominated by the issue of state-inspired reforms. It is important to recognise, however, that the movement for reform has been generated not by state benevolence but by the demands made by prisoners in different demonstrations, by grassroots organisations unwilling to accept the 'truth' surrounding the appalling miscarriages of justice that have occurred in the last twenty years, and by pro-feminist organisations demanding changes in the definitions of- and responses to - male brutality towards women. In the light of the major disruption in the prisons during the igSos two significant reports have been published, Opportunity and Responsibility (Scottish Prison Service, 1990) and the Woolf Report (1991). These documents appear to herald a new beginning for prisons in this country. In recognising that change is needed if the deeply damaging events of the 19808 are to be avoided, they propose a number of reforms, including establishing a framework of justice for prisoners, improved conditions, increased contact with the outside, better staff training and, crucially, making the confined responsible for their behaviour through introducing prisoners' contracts. Both documents have been almost uncritically endorsed in the media, and by academics and politicians as the panacea for alleviating the crisis inside.

From an abolitionist perspective there are some serious theoretical and political problems in utilising these proposals as the basis for future penal arrangements. Space does not permit me to provide an in-depth analysis, although I have done this elsewhere (Sim, 1991; 1993). However, I want briefly to point to four distinct areas which would form part of an abolitionist critique of the rhetoric of reform contained in these reports.

First, both documents either marginalise or heavily qualify the experiences of the confined. This means that alternative definitions of penal reality remain hidden and subservient to orthodox and state definitions of events. This is important because it allows both reports to transform questions of power, domination and institutionalised intimidation, which have been central to the abolitionist position, into more benign problems of administrative malpractices or individual deviance. There is a classic passage in the Woolf report which illustrates this point. Woolf points out that after the demonstration in Pucklechurch Remand Centre (near Bristol) in April 1990, surrendering prisoners were told that their arms and legs would be broken. The report notes:
There is no doubt that at the time the inmates were very frightened (I use that word advisedly) and even if the remarks made to them when waiting on the lawn were made in jest, they could, and did, cause considerable fear to the inmates. When considering these criticisms the long hours that management and staff had been on duty should be taken into account. Each member of staff must have been extremely tired and . . . close to exhaustion.
(Woolf and Tumim, 1991, p. 271)
The second problem also relates to the politics of marginalisation, in this case the failure to deal with or respond to a number of key prison issues that have arisen in the last twenty years: the unfettered discretion of staff, prisoners' rights, the accountability of prisons within a liberal democracy, the financing and cost of the service, women in prison and the sentencing process. For both documents the alleviation of the crisis lies not in confronting these issues but in the development of the responsible prisoner/customer, tied to each establishment by an agreed individual contract. Through this construction the debate is shifted onto the narrow ledge of individualism and social administration and away from wider structural questions concerning power, collective rights and democratic control (Sim, 1993)

Third, the increasing emphasis on coercion and militarisation as strategies for maintaining order means that the proposed reforms, even if they are accepted on their own terms, are unlikely to marginalise the ideological and material support within the state for these strategies. Prisoners will now receive an extra ten years for what is quaintly described as 'prison mutiny'. As Kenneth Baker has maintained, they must learn that rioting is not a 'cost-free option' (cited in Sim, 1993).

Finally, current reformist rhetoric misses a central issue raised by abolitionists and others in the last two decades, namely that unconditional support for limited change mystifies broader structural questions around the prevailing definitions of criminality that operate in this society, and vvno is punished as a result of these definitions. The first national survey published by the Prison Reform Trust in December 10,0,1 showed that unemployment, homelessness, lack of education and psychiatric disorders were prevalent in the prison population, that prisoners were overwhelmingly males aged 17?40, that 16 per cent of males and 26 per cent of females came from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, and that this group was serving substantially longer sentences than white prisoners, in the case of the women over twice as long. The report concluded that imprisonment 'exacerbates those very disadvantages which . . . led the person into crime in the first ' place' (Prison Reform Trust, 1991, p. 6).

Historically and contemporaneously, the prison has overwhelmingly contained the detritus generated by this society's hierarchical arrangements. In making this point T am not denying the impact that crimes committed by many of the imprisoned can have, nor am I positing a model of behaviour in which human beings are propelled in a positivist sense by forces outside of their control. Clearly, there are important philosophical and social psychological questions to be discussed concerning free will, responsibility and personal accountability, although given the abject recidivism rate in prisons the institution's supporters can hardly defend its track record in encouraging responsible behaviour in the confined. Having said that, I do want to make the point that today's age of penal improvement is simply reinforcing conventional definitions of criminality, and that the prison of the twenty-first century is likely to operate at an ideological and symbolic level in the active construction and reconstruction of very precise and narrow definitions of criminality and social harm. As abolitionists like Mathiesen have maintained, the prison has to be understood both as a material place of confinement and as an ideological signifier. Not only does the institution encourage and reinforce bifurcation, powerlessness and stigmatisation, but it also establishes 'a structure which places members of one class in such a situation that the attention we might pay to the members of another is diverted' (Mathiesen 1990, p. 138). Distracting attention away from crimes of the powerful and aclively constructing particular images of criminality, however fragmentary and contradictor that process might be is, in Mathiesen's view, central to the continuation of the prison and to the reinforcement of a 'pervasive ideological mystification' around crime (Mathiesen, 1990, p. 141). This argument is particularly relevant to the debates around dangerousness. One of the most depressing elements in recent academic debates in criminology, which in my view can be directly linked to the reformist rhetoric of the state, is that in the rush to take crime seriously and to rediscover aetiology, the symbolic place of institutions like prisons as cultural signifiers has been neglected. This continually allows the debate on dangerousness (and crime in general) to take place on a conventional terrain clearly marked out in the discourses of state servants, government ministers, most media personnel and in the common sense of popular consciousness. Consider the brief passages below, describing two events separated by only eighteen months that occurred in the late 1960's

Tex's final thrusts were suddenly interrupted by a frantic shout from Katie. While Tex and Sadie had been focusing their attention on Frykow-ski, Folger had freed herself from the noose and was making an effort to escape. Katie caught her, but was losing the battle until Tex got there. He clubbed Folger with the pistol and then stabbed her until he thought she was dead. Between his dash from Frykowski to Katie, Tex saw Sebring moving, and paused long enough to make several knife thrusts into Sebring's body. Once Folger was down and apparently dead, Tex returned to finish the job on Frykowski. (Emmons, 1988, pp. 244-5)
When children came running to them for sweets, they scythed them down with automatic fire. They herded mothers and babies into bunkers and threw grenades in after them. They raped and sodomised Vietnamese girls and then sliced open their vaginas with bayonet or knife. They scalped old men and women, beheaded others, slit throats, cut out tongues, sliced off ears, and hacked off limbs . . . Some wanted the dubious honour of being a 'double veteran' -American army slang for raping a woman and then murdering her. (Knightley, 1992, p. 40)
The first passage describes the murders committed by the Manson family, the second those committed at My Lai in March 1968. Despite the appalling brutality of both actions, the response to them was (and is) very different: Charles Manson is still serving a life sentence, William Callcy, one of 'C' company's officers, served four-and-a-half months. There are a number of significant sociological questions to be raised here, not least of which relates to the culture of masculinity within which these actions can be contextualised and perhaps understood. For the purpose of my argument it is important to recognise that twenty years on, the Manson case reverberates symbolically as a chilling example of how serious crime and dangerousness continue to be denned in conventional and narrow positivist terms, while the Calley case is effectively closed. As Barbara Hudson has noted, 'serious crimes and crimes which are taken seriously are not necessarily the same . . . seriousness of law enforcement. . . does not relate to seriousness of crime if the latter is to be judged by any rational calculus of harm as suggested by the more liberal justice model theorists' (Hudson, 1987, p. 126). This argument can clearly be extended to other activities that remain effectively unpoliced and unpunished: large-stale commercial fraud (Levi, 1987), the criminality of the state in terms of espionage, assassination and conspiracy (Barak, 1991; Gill, 1994); and at more micro levels, violent male behaviour underpinned by power, militarisation and the culture of masculinity (Tift and Mark-ham, 1991). Even when fraud cases are prosecuted, poorer and powerless offenders 'are more likely to be imprisoned, pound for pound stolen, than is a fraudster' (Levi, 1989, p. 107).

Critics of this position will no doubt say (as they always do) that even if the definition of crimes of the powerful is extended and recognised, abolitionists and other radical critics still fail to confront the fact that there are some dangerous individuals, overwhelmingly men, who in the conventional sense need to be confined. This view can be challenged at two levels. First, as I have already noted, many of those involved in the abolitionist movement in Britain have been confronting the issue of violence at least since the early ig8os and have been pointing to the problems that those defined as conventionally dangerous, for example, male rapists, have brought to the lives of particular groups. Second, British abolitionists have never advocated simply 'tearing down the walls' of the penitentiary Rather they have maintained that incapacitating conventionally dangerous individuals such as rapists through detention does not necessarily guarantee an alleviation of violence, either at an individual or collective level. Imprisoned rapists are likely to be confronted by a prison culture which will do little to change their behaviour, heighten their consciousness or the consciousness of those in the wider society concerning the 'intimate intrusions' which face women on a daily basis (Stanko, 1985). The first major study of imprisoned rapists in the UK supports this argument. Tt showed that only 32 out of 142 men believed that raped women had been harmed, while less than half displayed any compassion for their victims (The Guardian, 5 March 1991). While some exemplary work has been done with sex offenders in institutions such as Grendon Underwood and Wormwood Scrubs, supported by individually well-motivated prison officers, which perhaps will be consolidated by the newly formed national system for the treatment of sex offenders, it could be argued that there is a danager that at an ideological level this work and reform simply reassert the 'therapeutic discourse', which conceptualises 'male violence as an irrational act of emotional ventilation' rather than as behaviour based on intentional motivation and the will to dominate (Dobash and Dobash, 1992, p. 248). A similar point has been made in relation to the most recent proposals for reforming police practices concerning domestic violence, which are based on the reassertion of traditional family values (Radford and Stanko, 1991).

My scepticism towards these reforms does not mean resorting to incarcerating the powerful as a way forward. Clearly that would defeat the politics and the objectives of abolitionism by implying that the phenomenon of a 'fair incarceration rate' exists (Thomas and Boehle-feld, 1991, p. 249). It does mean, however, recognising that the oper-adonalisation of power, its interpersonal and structural abuse and its mediation by social class, gender, race and sexuality needs to be responded to; it is how we respond that remains the key question for abolitionism. I believe that current reformist proposals, because of their marginalisation of the issue of power, do not come close to addressing the philosophical, sociological, psychological and political nuances generated by this question.


This paper has quite deliberately covered a lot of sociological ground, because I wanted to illustrate the importance of abolitionist thought in this country and the diverse range of concerns of its supporters. I do not therefore take the pessimistic view that abolitionism has offered nothing or continues to offer nothing towards the prison debate. As Jim Thomas and Sharon Boehlefeld have noted: 'struggle is as long as history . . . the outcomes of our resistance to unjust forms of social control are rarely immediately visible' (Thomas and Boehlefeld, 1991, p. 249). Indeed, the abolitionist argument remains a powerful one, as Willem de Haan's critical dissection of traditional forms of punishment has indicated (dc Haan, 1990). Similarly, Pat Carlen's cogent argument for the abolition of women's prisons as 'one small step towards giving the criminal justice and penal systems the thorough shake up they so desperately need' also provides a clear theoretical and pragmatic view of the way forward in this still neglected area (Carlen, 1990, p. 125). As Thomas and Boehlefeld point out, a theoretically refined abolitionism can offer a new way of thinking about the world and a vision of the future which contrasts sharply with traditional methods of penality based on incapacitation, deterrence, punishment and rehabilitation. It directly confronts the 'cynicism and anomie' of postmodernism, it reaffirms the argument that prisons don't work 'either as punishment or as a means of ensuring the safety and stability of the commonweal' and it recognises that predatory behaviour needs to be responded to and dealt with within the structural and interpersonal contexts of power and politics (Thomas and Bochlefeld, 1991, pp. 246-49). That vision can be compared with the present situation here and elsewhere, which is evoked in the words of George Jackson: 'The ultimate expression of law is not order - it's prison. There are hundreds upon hundreds of prisons, and thousands upon thousands of laws, yet there is no social order, no social peace' (Jackson, 1975, p95). Jackson's posthumous thoughts provide a fitting description of both the politics of British prisons and the increasingly factious and divided nation they help to legitimate and sustain in the late twentieth century.

Thanks to Anette Rallinger, Dave Brown, Jenny Rurke, Russell Dobash, Paul Gilroy, Paddy Hillyard, Tony Jefferson, Mirk Ryan and Tony Ward for discussing different aspects of this paper with me.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The abolitionist approach: a British perspective (Part One of Two)

by Joe Sim
Among social scientists there seems to be considerable disillusionment, and, indeed, a turning away from the goal of abolition -more or less as if it were a youthful and confused prank from the late sixties which the middle aged and wise can hardly uphold. I have, however, never understood why a negative political trend -be it increased armaments or expanded prison systems - should lead one to conclude that the trend in question no longer constitutes a point of fundamental attack and final abolition from a radical position.
(Mathiesen, 1986, p. 84)
The title of this paper, 'The abolitionist approach: a British perspective',1 will probably seem like an anachronism to many. For those concerned with the daily grind of criminal justice and penal policy, abolitionism is likely to be regarded as an esoteric, academic luxury which is irrelevant to the delivery of penal services both to the confined and to the wider society. The British demand for 'facts' as opposed to historically, theoretically and philosophically grounded analysis, whether of an abolitionist nature or not, is as prominent in the prisons debate as it is in other social policy debates. A number of academics in the UK, no doubt, will have other, but no less critical views. Abolitionists are now regarded as sociological dinosaurs, unre-constituted hangovers from the profound but doomed schisms of the late 1960's, who are marginal to the 'real' intellectual questions of the 1990's. Like Marxism, abolitionism appears to have been left behind on the sandbank of history while the river of modernity - or as many intellectuals would have it, postmodernity - flows progressively forward producing wave after consumerist wave of choice, opportunity and desire. Social formations now need realistic economic and social policies in general, and penal policies in particular, to respond to the new times flooding the planet, which in turn require research that is relevant to the service orientation of the newly reformed state and its subject/customers both inside and outside the walls of the penitentiary.

Superficially, there appears to he strong sociological evidence to support this contention. Abolitionism, it seems, has failed to impact upon the direction of penal policy or the debate on crime and punishment. Indeed, the modern prison, despite 150 years of 'monotonous critique', as Michel Foucault put it, has not only endured but expanded to become materially and ideologically critical in the remorseless struggle to enforce law and maintain order. The institution's presence on the landscape of British society appears to be so deeply embedded that it has become almost naturalised in popular consciousness and state discourse as an immutable barrier, which despite crises and contradictions protects the law-abiding from the swamping encroachment of the desperate and degenerate in the same way that it was thought to protect the respectable from the ravages of first the parasitic delinquent, and then the dangerous classes in the nineteenth century (Garland, 1985). This conception of the prison has continued into the late twentieth century. Whatever social index is taken - the rate of imprisonment, numbers detained, expenditure, time served or judicial sentencing patterns - the prison, despite the occasional drop in the average daily population, is on a relentlessly expansionist course.

This perception was confirmed in 1991 by the former Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker. In an unwitting affirmation of Foucault's maxim that the prison 'is always offered as its own remedy' for its internal problems, Baker pointed to the steps involved in his government's 'programme of prison reform'. In England and Wales this included raising expenditure to £1.4 billion in 1992-93, recruiting an extra 4,100 prison officers and opening thirteen new prisons bv January 1994 at a cost of £900 million (Hansard, 1991, col. 168). Expenditure on law and order in general was expected to rise by 11 per cent in 1992-93 taking it up to £6 billion, still a clear exception to the prudent monetarist axe which successive Conservative governments have taken to public spending as the austere prerequisite for the economic, political and ideological resurrection of the nation. There has been a parallel growth in the range of alternatives to custody, which was supplemented in October 1992 by curfew orders and the cybernetic electronic tag (Muncie, 1990; Vass, 1990). By the year 2000 the number of prisoners will have increased by 25 per cent, reaching 57,500 in England and Wales. This figure includes a 44 per cent increase in the remand population (Home Office 1992, Table i)

Abolitionism also appears to have been further weakened by the state's strategy for reform, developed in the wake of the furious demonstrations by prisoners in the mid-1980's. Within this discourse the mistakes of the past have been recognised and prison regimes will be modified so that the disasters of the 1980's, such as those at Strange-ways (in Manchester, England) and Peterhead (in Scotland) will never be repeated. Even those on the left who might be broadly sympathetic to abolitionists have been highly critical, describing their 'anarcho-communist' position as 'preoccupied with abolishing or minimising state intervention rather than attempting to make it more effective, responsive and accountable' (Matthews, 1989, p. 5).

This paper will challenge this pessimistic reading of abolitionism by exploring three themes. First, I want to analyse the theoretical and political contribution of British abolitionists and to illustrate the hegemonic impact of this contribution on the traditional, more conservative reform lobby in this country. Second, the paper will explore the specificity of abolitionist thought in Britain and will illustrate the sociological influences on abolitionists here which took them along a different theoretical and political path to abolitionists in other countries. Finally, the paper will focus on the state of British prisons today and will discuss the reforms now being proposed to alleviate the perennial and debilitating crisis in the system. I will argue that these reforms will do little to alter 'the fiasco' that is the prison system (Mathiesen, 1990, p. 140). The paper concludes by reasserting the need for an abolitionist perspective in which the starting-point for changing prisons is changing the inequality in power, both at the micro and macro levels, in a society that is deeply and increasingly divided along the fault lines of class, gender, race and sexuality.

ORIGINS 1970-80

Willem de Haan's recent overview of abolitionism provides a useful starting-point for tracing its development in Europe and North America. It emerged at the end of the igGos as part of a destructuring movement whose main objective 'was to soften the suffering which society inflicts on its prisoners' (de Haan, 1991, p. 204). Since then abolitionism has developed along a number of different dimensions. Theoretically, it has rejected the claims made by defenders of the conventional criminal justice system that it protects people and controls crime. The prison is 'counter productive, difficult to control and [is] itself a major social problem', and crime should be understood as a complex, socially constructed phenomenon which 'serves to maintain political power relations and lends legitimacy to the expansion of the crrne control apparatus and the intensification of surveillance and control'. Strategies such as redress, compensation and reconciliation need to be introduced into a decentralised criminal justice system. Politically, abolitionism has called for the 'fundamental reform of the penal system [which] presupposes not only a radical change of the existing power structure but also of the dominant culture'. Finally, social problems, conflicts and troubles should be taken seriously bvit not as crime. This means arguing for 'social policy rather than crime control policy' within a framework of 'decriminalisation, depenalis-ation, destigmatisation, decentralisation and deprofessionalisation' (de Haan, 1991, pp. 205-14).

This general history of abolitionism's development is, I think, well known. However, there has been much less discussion about how-abolitionists have operated within the specific context of British politics, the issues they have confronted and perhaps most importantly, the nature of the interventions they and other radical prisoners' rights organisations have made in the last twenty years. Close examination of these issues highlights a number of significant theoretical, political and strategic differences between abolitionism in this country and elsewhere.

The first abolitionist group, Radical Alternatives to Prison (RAP), was established in Britain in 1970. As Mick Ryan has noted, RAP's initial position on prisons was straightforward: it was out to abolish them. For the group reform was highly problematic; 'by improving conditions prisons are made more acceptable, they are legitimised in the public mind' (Ryan, 1978, p. 138). It is important to recognise, however, that despite this hard-line position RAP was involved from (he beginning in a series of campaigns around specific issues. As I noted above, this point has rarely been discussed in the literature on abolitionism, yet it is critical for understanding the influence of British abolitionist thought and the nature of its political and humanitarian concerns.

In May 1971, RAP convened a conference on women in prison. From this meeting a campaign was organised against the rebuilding of Holloway women's prison as a secure hospital which would have minimal custodial facilities. There were demonstrations and exhibitions and a pamphlet, Alternatives to Holloway, was published in May 1972. The pamphlet pointed to the facts of female crime and argued that too many women were remanded unnecessarily in custody, that many offences could be dealt with by other means, and that women should not be imprisoned for offences such as alcoholism, child cruelty and petty theft. Instead, RAP suggested that community-based projects should be introduced which would 'make prison for women seem irrelevant'. The new Holloway was a £6 million 'folly' which would detain women 'unnecessarily labelled as criminal and then treat them in an institutional setting which was almost bound to fail' (Ryan, 1978, pp. 102-5).

What is interesting, I think, is the outcome of the campaign. At one level, it could be judged to have failed as the prison was rebuilt, though it is worth noting that it did nothing to alleviate the problems of confined women in the ensuing years. The repressive nature of the regime, particularly the notorious Ci wing, the 'Muppet House', resulted in a series of gruesome self-injuries as women responded to the particular pains of imprisonment they endured and the patriarchal discourses which underpinned diem (Padel and Stevenson, 1988, p. 72). At another level, 'there is very little doubt that the campaign made the problem of women in prison more visible that it had been in the past' (Ryan, 1978, p. 106). This visibility was to be reinforced and sustained over the next fifteen years, first in the proliferation of academic work in the area (Carlen, 1983; Dobash, Dobash and Gutteridgc, 1986); second, through the formation of the pressure group Women in Prison in 1983; and finally in the impact that these early campaigns had on the traditional reform groups, who had previously ignored this issue.

Ryan also points to a second early campaign which was mounted against the notorious psychiatric Control Units, secretly opened by the Home Office in July 1974 to discipline those labelled as subversive trouble-makers. Removed from the general population, they were kept in strict isolation twenty-three hours a day for ninety days, followed by a second ninety-day period when they were allowed to mix with; others in the Unit. If an individual prisoner broke any prison, rule, however minor, he went back to day one, stage one, to start again.

It is important to recognise that RAP campaigned for the closure of the Units alongside other, more traditional reform groups, including the government-sponsored National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and the Howard League for Penal Reform. In October 1975 it was announced that the Units were to be discontinued. In one sense, this could be seen as a victory both for interventionist politics and for RAP's uncompromising position. On the other hand, as Ryan notes, the extent to which the campaign's pressure moved government policy 'is genuinely difficult to say since what actually happens inside our prisons is surrounded by secrecy, a secrecy which is well-served by the ambiguity of official statements' (Ryan, 1978, p. 137).

These initial campaigns were followed by a number of others which took place against a background of an ever-deepening crisis in Britain's prisons (Fitzgerald and Sim, 1982). They included highlighting the use of drugs to control prisoners, pointing to the role of the Prison Medical Sendee in this control, defending the philosophy and practices of the Barlinnie Special Unit and establishing alternatives to custody such as the Newham Alternative Project, which showed 'the possibilities of achieving genuinely humane as well as potentially negating reforms with the most limited resources' (Cohen, 1980, p. 6). In January 1979 RAP began publishing its journal, The Abolitionist, which was to run until 1987. Its first editorial pointed out that while the organisation did not have a blueprint for the future, it did believe that its:

ideas about and approach towards antisocial behaviour (as opposed to 'crime') arc much more relevant and credible than the established logic which reflects and only serves to perpetuate an unequal and exploitative social system. It follows that we seek to remove such sentiments from the ephemeral regions they tend to inhabit and translate them into an effective force for social change.
(The Abolitionist, No. i, p. i)
This editorial position, which came very close to that of European abolitionism, was not to be sustained. By the beginning of the 1980s RAP, while still maintaining that radical structural change was the key to dealing with crime and punishment, nonetheless underwent some important changes both in personnel and in its theoretical position, which in turn had repercussions for its political strategy. If the 1980s was to be the decade of law and order, arguably it was also the decade in which a more theoretically sophisticated and politically astute organisation made a significant impact on many traditionalists involved in the debates around penal policy.

The refinement in RAP's position took place against an intensification in the prison crisis which I mentioned earlier. The interlocking nature of the crisis was apparent in the overcrowded and appalling conditions in short-term prisons, in the challenges to the state's definition of penal truth mounted by radical prisoners' rights organisations, in the violent confrontations in long-term male prisons, and in the vociferous, widespread industrial action taken by prison officers. These, in turn, were underpinned by a more general crisis of penal legitimacy (Fitzgerald and Sim, 1982). More widely, the election of the new Conservative government in May 1979 underlined the collapse of the social democratic consensus, the emergence of a strong state and the consolidation of the new right as the hegemonic bloc in society, held there by the ideological cement of authoritarian populism (Hall, 1988). At the same time, those social movements which emerged at the end of the igGos and which stood outside of both organised left and state-defined political action had also consolidated their position, competing with and contradicting dominant discourses surrounding race, gender, sexuality and ecology (Gilroy, 1987).

RAP's response to these profound events was outlined in The Abolitionist by two members of its editorial collective. First, Tony Ward, the journal's editor, dealt with the perennial issue of reform and argued that the immediate priority was to 'gain support for reforms of the penal system which while making it more humane will also show up its inherent limitations and contradictions' (Ward, 1982, p. 22, emphasis in the original). Ward also wrote the editorial outlining the organisation's goals. He maintained that while many reforms amounted to 'a sugar coating on a toxic pill', it was nonetheless important to argue for the immediate reform and abolition of particular parts of the system, including the use of drugs as control mechanisms, solitary confinement, the system of security classification, secrecy and censorship. The Barlinnie Special Unit indicated, for WTard, what could be achieved by a 'less authoritative and restrictive approach'. He concluded by differentiating the politics of RAP from those in the traditional reform lobby, so that while many of RAP's medium term goals were shared by the traditionalists, they did not share 'our political outlook':
RAP's fundamental purpose is, through research and propaganda to educate the public about the true nature, as we see it, of imprisonment and the criminal law; to challenge the prevailing attitudes to crime and delinquency; and to counter the ideology of law-and-order which helps to legitimate an increasingly powerful State machine' (The Abolitionist, No.12, p2).
The second article, written by Jill Box-Grainger, critically evaluated RAP's first ten years, pointed to the recent sociological and political influences on the organisation and outlined RAP's developing strategy for changing prisons and the wider criminal justice process. This strategy included supporting 'negative' reforms such as disbanding the Prison Medical Service, prohibiting the use of drugs to control prisoners, removing the disciplinary role from prison Boards of Visitors, abolishing parole and introducing greater accountability through ending prison secrecy and the censorship of mail. These reforms were underpinned by the demand for a moratorium on prison building, a reduction in maximum sentences, curtailing the power of scntencers, decriminalisation of certain offences and the implementation of radical alternatives to prison. Finally, and contrary to the ill-informed assertion that radicals have not been concerned about victims of crime, she pointed to RAP's call for a re-evaluation of the 'significance of criminal restitution [and of] the relationship between the offender and the victim' (Box-Grainger, 1982, pp. 17-18).

The article then moved on to discuss the perennial and key issues of serious offenders and dangerousness. This debate had been fuelled by two developments. First, there was the apparent bifurcation in llrhish penal policy which was leading to an expansion in the numbers and rate of turnover in short-term prisons, and the simultaneous increase in the numbers and length of detention in long-term prisons. Second, (he deba(e was increasingly influenced by (he philosophical, epistemological and political questions raised by the women's movement, particularly the demand to be protected from 'oppressive and gratuitous street and domestic violence'. RAP therefore was '(quite healthily) ... forced to consider "what should be done" with the serious offender if it is to be at all responsible to popular demands (albeit that RAP continues to underline the fact that serious offenders constitute a very small proportion of all offenders)' (Box-Grainger, 1982, p. 21).

The organisation also began to reassess its position on radical alternatives, particularly the place of 'the community' within the framework of an alternative model of justice. Constructing the problem of prison abolition through community alternatives assumed a homogeneity of values within society in general and in working-class communities in particular. It was therefore important to distinguish between (he long-term interests of working-class people, where there 'may be enormous similarity', and short-term interests, which were 'frequently antagonistic'. This had serious implications for women: '[community] has always involved the re-assertion of the role of the family, the basic unit of the community and ultimately the containment of women in the home. That in the short term the interests of a son may be in conflict with a mother's own interests is not only a theoretical problem but potentially a barrier against "community" support for radical alternatives' (Box-Grainger, 1982, p. 16).

RAP's consideration of this issue was underlined by the formation of a Sex Offences Group within the organisation. The group maintained that it was hazardous to attempt to construct a definition of dangerous individuals. Rather it argued for a policy of exemplary or retributive punishment 'as an appropriate response to sow offences. The important thing then is the viciousness of the act not the actor . . .' (The Abolitionist, No. 10, p. 4, emphasis in the original). It also argued for a radical restructuring of both sentencing policy and wider social relationships. Again influenced by the impact of feminism, the group confronted the sentencing issue in its evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee's Working Paper on Sexual Offences. It asked 'how can the law emphasise the unacceptable nature of rape and indecent assault without resorting to excessively long prison sentences for rapists who are not representative of the majority of those who rape?' Additionally, could sentencing protect women from rape at all? The group made ten proposals to deal with sentencing and imprisoned rapists and concluded:

"RAP recognizes that the above proposals are only a brief outline of a possible sentencing practice for convicted rapists, where all custodial sentences are shorter and where custody is not so debasing and destructive as at present. And again we would stress that this type of sentencing can only be effective if it is used against a background of real equality of opportunity for women - an equality that offers women economic independence, political, ideological and sexual determination."
(The Abolitionist, No. 10, pp. 6?7)

It is important to recognise that the change in RAP's strategy and political orientation was mirrored in a series of more general theoretical debates that occurred at the beginning of the 1980s. In particular, the question of reform as initially discussed in Mathiesen's seminal Politics of Abolition (1974) was addressed as a theoretical and political problem. In 1982, Mike Fitzgerald and I, while arguing for an abolitionist position as the answer to the enduring crisis in British prisons, also maintained that the 'positive' and 'negative' distinction made by Mathiesen did not address the subtleties and ramifications of particular reforms. For us 'reform by its very nature contain both positive and negative possibilities' (Fitzgerald and Sim, 1982, p. 164, emphasis in the original). In 1985, Dave Brown and Russell Hogg developed a similar critique. Pointing to the issue of legal rights, they asked if introducing due process was a positive or negative reform. The answer was not straightforward:
"reform measures or lines of advance cannot necessarily be adequately specified or evaluated a priori by reference either to some positive/ negative calculus or to some general theory of law. . . state . . . capital . . . legitimation . . . legal right etc. Ii is not necessary to embrace (lie ambiguous assumptions of 'the justice model' . . . or 'rights' discourse ...to recognise that the introduction of legal representation, procedural and appeals rights into internal disciplinary hearings presents a possibility of 'bringing power to particular account' . . . On the other hand detailed practices of discipline and normalisation, surveillance, differentiation, classification, assessment, segregation, deprivation within the site of the prison are not adequately contested simply through attempts to 'legalise' the prison.
(Brown and Hogg, 1985, p.73)
Brown and Hogg developed this analysis in a number of other papers which raised a series of theoretical questions about abolitionism. They pointed out that abolitionism tended to posit common political interests, usually built on class affiliation, between the unpro-ductivc (prisoners) and radical fractions of the working class. There were problems with constructing a unified class subject in this way in (hat this construction underestimated power networks which divided, differentiated and classified populations on the 'basis of sexual differentiation or grids of normality, age, health, etc.' (Brown and Hogg, 10,0,2). This differentiation had real effects: 'the success of the prison and other agencies such as the police at constituting an "alien and dangerous" criminal class is real and cannot be reversed by a simple assertion of common class interests. It is always a question of co/M/n;r(-m^allianccs often in very specific, localised and short-term ways. There is no necessary underlying unity waiting to be recognised' (Brown and Hogg, 10,0,2, pp. 154-5, emphasis in the original).

Tony Ward has also argued that within the specific context of Britain, struggles around and resistance to penal power are better understood by reference to Foucault's 'oppositional model of action' rather than Mathiesen's concept of 'contradiction'. He points to the strategy of opposition developed in the probation service and maintains that the clear division within abolitionist thought between control and welfare agencies, while 'theoretically attractive', is 'politically untenable in Britain'. The largest support for abolitionism has come from the voluntary agencies, social workers and probation officers whose everyday activity 'inescapably involves mixing care and control. To present these people with a stark choice between providing "pure" control within the penal system or "pure" help outside it could simply play into the hands of those in authority who are eager to reassert the importance of control as the system's primary role" (Ward, 1991, p. 161).
Along with Mick Ryan, Ward has also highlighted other theoretical currents which influenced abolitionism in the 1980's, including feminist theory and the campaign around rape launched by Women Against Rape. It was from this 'difficult but productive debate' that a range of other questions arose concerning the role of the state, the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy and, following Foucault, the problem of denning the nature of power and crimes of the powerful:

No longer did the world appear to be neatly divided between the 'powerful' and the 'powerless', nor were 'crimes of the powerful' the sole prerogative of the ruling class, once the concept was extended (o take account of the power of men over women, of white people over black and of adults over children. (RAP was one of the first groups in the lobby to engage seriously with the issue of child sexual abuse).
(Ryan and Ward, 1990, p. 7)

Thursday, 17 June 2010

No respect for the working class

The following first appeared in the Newspaper "Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!"

On 10 January, the government announced its much trailed, ' Respect Action Plan'. According to the official press release, police and local authorities are to be given 'tough new powers to deal with families who blight communities with unacceptable behaviour'.

These powers include 'a new house closure order temporarily sealing properties that are the constant focus of anti-social behaviour'- and 'parenting orders where a child's behaviour requires it'. These 'parenting orders' can be applied for either by schools or by local authority housing officers or community officers. There will be 'sanctions' for those who 'refuse help', including fines and withdrawal of benefits.

Once again Labour is trying to show how tough it is. One of the slogans that helped propel Blair into power was 'Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.' He's certainly kept to his word on the first line; the prison population has almost doubled since Labour came to power in 1997 and now, by flexing their muscles in the direction of the under-privileged and their children, New Labour are again showing us just how tough they are.

For, make no mistake, although the action plan occasionally speaks of 'proposals' that will, 'provide help and support' for families and' and support for people 'struggling with the challenge of parenting'; by far the bulk of the text is concerned with the punitive measures that will be imposed if this 'help and support' is not accepted.

Not that we needed this new plan to tell us how fixated this government is with punishing the young dispossessed. Not when Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are scattered among the poor like confetti at a wedding. In some cases these orders are issued to kids whose learning difficulties are so severe that they cannot understand the conditions they are supposed to comply with. In one recent case-exposed by a Panorama documentary a boy with such problems was arrested for breaching his ASBO because he took part in a five-a-side football match. His order forbade him from associating with more than three people.)

ASBOs are issued on the strength of evidence that would not be accepted in a court of law. Hearsay evidence, often from unknown sources, is read out by a council officer, and, in many cases the recipient is only aware of the order being issued when it is actually presented. In other words, people are being tried and sentenced in their absence. In some instances, particularly in Greater Manchester, where the council slavishly follows the New Labour doctrine by issuing more ASBOs than Greater London, the photographs of young children who have been given orders are printed on leaflets which are posted through neighbourhood letter-boxes. Shades of wanted notices in the Wild West.

As if this demonisation of the poor was not enough, we have the spectacle of 'problem families' being evicted because their children have been subject to ASBOs Let us imagine for a moment that, in such a case, the child has indeed behaved badly - does anyone really believe that the answer lies in putting the family on the streets? Clearly those responsible for home office policy do.

"Dispersal Zones' are now the order of the day in many cities, again with Greater Manchester leading the way. In these no-go areas, people can be forcibly dispersed because they are guilty of congregating on the streets. They do not have to be committing a crime, or even causing a nuisance, the fact that they are there clearly implies that they are up to no good.

What has been the response of the media towards this outright attack on the poor? Predictably, the right have welcomed the proposals, but so have parts of the so-called liberal press. Will Hutton, writing in The Observer, says that Blair's line on respect 'deserves better than the buckets of bile poured over him by left and right alike'. Hutton quotes the Chief Constable of Strathclyde, who says that he can identify the houses that will 'incubate the next generation of criminals 'He says that the combination of out-of-control children, desperate poverty cheek-by-jowl with great affluence, the impossibility of even rudimentary success at school and a delinquent peer group are toxic'. Amen to that, but why don't the Chief Constable-and Hutton suggest that we do something about the affluence instead of giving the poor even more problems?

Just in case there is anyone out there who doesn't believe that this respect agenda is class-based, consider this: during the reign of this government we have seen the children of the powerful and privileged clearly seen to be behaving badly. From the Prime Minister's son drunk and throwing up in the streets, to Jack Straw's lad procuring drugs and the next-in-line to the throne taking them, along with dressing up as a Nazi. Did anybody suggest slapping an ASBO on those three, or evicting their families from their homes?

Perhaps that question ought to be asked of the new 'Co-ordinator for Respect', the head of the taskforce which will supervise the whole agenda. Step forward, Louise Casey, who has been chosen for the role on a salary of between £75k and £159k. Not the first time that Ms Casey has been chosen as an overlord. In 1992, when she was the Deputy Director of the charity Shelter, she was appointed to head the government's Rough Sleepers' Unit and earned the nickname, 'homelessness tsar?. She immediately declared that handing out soup and sleeping bags to those living on the streets was merely perpetuating their misery and began a campaign to stop people giving to the homeless. The number of homeless people now stands at record levels, more than 101,000.

Again demonstrating that it is one law for the rich, in a widely leaked and reported after-dinner speech last year, Louise Casey said: 'I suppose you can't binge drink any more because lots of people have said you can't.... I don't know who made bloody made that up, it's nonsense...Doing things sober is no way to get things done.' The respect agenda is in good hands then.

Amidst all the spin words and phrases trotted out in this agenda, one line of sense stands out. 'Respect cannot be learned, purchased or acquired-it can only be earned' They might have added that respect cannot be 'punished into' people.
Eric Allison

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
BCM BOX 5909

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Report - HMP Send: prison-death demonstration held on 20 September 2007

This report orginally appeared on the NMP website in 2007

Pauline Campbell writes:

Prison-death demonstration - Thursday 20 September 2007 to protest against the tragic death of the young mother Lisa Doe, aged 25 who died on 11 September 2007 while in the care of HMP Send, Surrey

  1. The protest on 20 September 2007 was the 26th demonstration to be held since protests began in April 2004.
  2. Lisa Doe is the seventh woman to die in prison so far this year.
  3. The appalling death toll: 39 women prisoners * (including Lisa Doe) have died since Sarah Campbell's death in 2003. Lessons are not being learned.
( * 12 women died after Sarah Campbell in 2003; 13 died in 2004; 4 died in 2005; 3 died in 2006; 7 deaths so far this year = 39)

[Figures refer to apparently self-inflicted deaths; England and Wales]


  • A small group of protesters held a peaceful 3-hour demonstration outside HMP Send and, for part of the afternoon, were joined by two relatives of Ms Lisa Doe, who laid flowers in memory of their loved one.
  • At 2 pm, Mr Andy Peacock, Head of Reducing Reoffending (Duty Governor for the day) emerged from the jail, and spoke to protesters, but said he was unable to comment on Ms Doe's death.
  • At 3.45 pm, a Serco prison van (BW04 VZH) was stopped as it attempted to enter the jail. The driver was informed that protesters considered the jail to be unsafe, in view of the recent death, and he was asked to take the women to a place of safety.
  • Surrey Police were summoned to the prison. Officers 1905 and 2751 attended; sergeant 1905 indicated that Section 14, Public Order Act 1986, would be invoked if the prisoner transport van was not allowed to proceed into the jail. The Serco vehicle was eventually allowed to enter the prison, and no arrests were made.
  • A number of visitors to the jail spoke to protesters, and expressed concern about the physical and mental wellbeing of their loved ones held in HMP Send.
  • The Conservative MP for Mole Valley, Sir Paul Beresford, was invited to attend the demonstration, but did not respond to the invitation.
  • The protest was attended by Sky Television; local reporters and photographers, and was also covered by local radio.
  • At the end of the afternoon, protesters left bouquets of flowers and a memorial placard at the prison entrance, in memory of Ms Doe.

"Another woman has died, and another family is left to grieve."

"This latest death at HMP Send brings into sharp focus the prison's custodial care record. Two young mothers have lost their lives at Send Prison this year: Emma Kelly on 19 April 2007, and Lisa Doe on 11 September 2007. It is particularly worrying that both women were on 'suicide watch' when they died."

"Courts must act responsibly and stop sending women, many with psychiatric and drug-dependency problems, to the punitive regime of a prison, when they are in need of treatment and care. Unless and until this inhuman practice stops, more families will have to deal with the tremendous pain and anger resulting from the death of their loved ones."

[Pauline Campbell]

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Child Abuse - The British State's Continued Guilt

Child Abuse - The British State's continued Guilt

By: John Bowden. (Noranside Prison. Scotland)

Britain has a long and pernicious history of abusing and brutalizing working class children confined to state institutions, so it was hardly surprising recently when a statutory instrument amending the rules governing the treatment of children in "secure training centres" legitimized the use of so-called "physical control in care restraint techniques", one of which authorized staff to inflict blows to the face of children, euphemistically called the "nose distraction technique".

Of course the use of overt physical violence to control socially marginalized and powerless children in penal-type institutions is nothing new and for decades Borstals and Detention Centres operated regimes that were intrinsically brutal and designed to teach a "tough lesson" based on fear and intimidation. The death of a child in the notorious Reading Detention Centre in the late sixties partially exposed the regime of terror that operated in such places, although the state was always careful to maintain the illusion that it neither sanctioned or created the violence routinely inflicted on children in such custodial settings. More recently the extraordinarily high incidence of suicides, self-harm and death in suspicious circumstances of children in Feltham Remand Centre suggest that intimidation and brutality remain the standard methods by which children in custody are treated and controlled.

Thirty children have died in penal custody since 1990, the youngest, Adam Rickwood, was just 14 years old. Just over a third of boys and girls in custody have felt unsafe at some time. One in ten boys and girls in prison say they have been hit, kicked or assaulted by a member of staff.

Traditionally the state has never publicly admitted or condoned the deliberate use of violence against children in custody, which is why the statute authorizing the use of overt brutality in subduing "disruptive" children inmates was so disquieting and shocking. In fact, so horrific was the scenario of state-sanctioned thugs physically brutalizing children in a prison setting that the more liberal elements in the government in the form of the Parliamentary Joint committee On Human Rights announced that it would be reviewing the use of such "restraint" methods in children's' prisons, claiming that such methods had been introduced without any reference to human rights legislation. Subsequently children's minister Beverley Hughes announced that she was suspending the methods pending a report by a panel of medical experts. Her concern was obviously not based on any moral reservations about beating up children in prison, but simply a worry about possible legal consequences.

In October of 2007 the Prison Officers Association offered it's own enlightened contribution to the issue of controlling disturbed and already brutalized children in jail by calling for a change in the rules that would allow prison staff to be able to use batons on children as young as 15.

The psychological damage inflicted on children in custody is well-researched and well known; 85 per cent of prisoners in youth custody institutions show signs of personality disorder, with 10 per cent exhibiting signs of severe psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. Into this mix of mental suffering and pain the state wants to throw some good old fashioned physical brutality. This by any definition is child abuse and it is systemic and organized, and thousands of working class children are irreparably damaged by it.

The state's assault on the rights and freedoms of working class children under New Labour has been sweeping and vicious, and the number of 15 to 17 years olds in prison custody has increased by 86 per cent since Labour took office. In tandem with this mass criminalization of already socially disadvantaged children is the creation of prison regimes openly designed to brutalize them even more.

The media and tabloid press, usually very keen to whip up hysteria and a climate of hatred against child abusers when campaigning for tougher laws, have remained consistently quiet about the abuse of children in closed institutions, creating a silence and invisibility around these children that increases their vulnerability and ill-treatment. Each year over 70,000 children are dealt with through the criminal justice system and around 12,000 of them are incarcerated in penal-type institutions that are no more than training grounds for the adult long-term prison system. This represents the wholesale destruction of young working class lives in the interests of a system that is itself inherently anti-social and predatory towards the poor and powerless.

The imprisonment of children is barbaric and one of the worst forms of state cruelty, and unless we speak out and campaign against it we are all in some way complicit in it.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Probation Officers - Social Workers Or Agents Of Control?

By Charles Hanson,
HMP Cornhill
August 18th 2004

Today, like no other time in the history of the probation service, probation officers are increasingly being seen as taking on the role of agents of control with their remit as public protection officers as their function moves closer to that of a prosecutorial authority.

Gone are the days when the probation officer ethos was to befriend and assist offenders to lead a non-offending lifestyle and to encourage and intervene where necessary in promoting a sense of social justice.

The one time social work ethos of probation work has now been replaced by tough talk and policies that further increasingly marginalizes and isolates offenders with all the features of 'Big Brother' as extreme forms of monitoring - surveillance - supervision and control takes over from concerns about social equality and inclusion.
Those most concerned about social problems are not quite at one with themselves in their desire to change them. For solving problems would necessitate a change in the organisational mores from which they arise.

The liberal for all his or her allegiances to humanitarian mores remain members of our society and as such under its organisational mores.

They wish to improve the conditions of victims but not interfere with the structures which create them.

Until they abandon their attachment to those organisational mores and structures they must continue to be seen as the perpetrators of the social ills, injustices and inequalities and thus the causes they seek to remedy.
No one loses by giving verbal expression to humanitarianism and probation staff are perfectly adept at this but many would lose out by putting humanitarianism into practice and certainly someone would lose by any conceivable reform.

They must therefore continue to treat the symptoms without removing the causes.

Nowadays, released prisoners who are subject to parole licence and this accounts for a substantial number of prisoners re-entering the world outside of prison and more likely than not liable to be labelled as if they were still offenders. Thus seems to justify a total scrutiny of their lives in the community after the completion of their sentence.

I do not suggest that there are offenders who will not always pose a risk but to propose that all ex -offenders fall into that bracket which justifies blanket concerns and controls is misleading and alienist and closer to a Tory party conference agenda than social work practice.

Current probation practice is now characterised by the almost paranoid high level of attention it gives to the issue of risk. An interest more in keeping with Conservative 'moral panic' and exaggerations but unlike the conservative whose language is one of less government and less interference in the lives of people. The National Probation Service seeks an increase in the attention it gives to individuals thus aligning itself with the 'nanny state' of control from the cradle to the grave and always searching out those areas where people require the interference of 'experts' on how to live, love, work and play.

We now live in a world in which it appears that no place or situation is safe or risk free - the 'risk society' is now upon us with children being deprived of play activity because of some perceived danger, to the hysterical obsessions with diet, playing, loving, working even dying.

It seems that everything is a risk which probation officers have not been slow to adopt in dealing with ex-offenders and forever the world around us must be cocooned against those who are perceived as being a threat to it with the full might of the 'nanny state' being brought into play as a method of control.

This necessarily requires 'tough talk' by probation officers whose concerns are less to do with rehabilitation, reform, social justice and inclusion and more to do with policing and moral control. The service now largely directs its energies at the level of the individual offender, rather than the world around him or her. The idea that offenders should be helped has now but almost disappeared.

Gone also are the days of being 'tough on the causes of crime'.

By a disregard for the causes of crime and the encouragement it provides to probation officers to treat these as irrelevant. Social workers ill-equipped to argue on the basis of values, rather than of technical management, against the possibility of their being expected to take on a more overtly repressive, controlling role are being progressively excluded from meaningful participation in criminal justice.

An extreme example of the transformation comes from California where in the early 1990s probation officers had to choose sides - between being social workers attempting to stop offending and without jobs or crime-controllers with both jobs and guns.

They chose the Smith and Wesson Model 64 .38 calibre and ammunition that had the maximum stopping power.

The probation officer's vision statement then suddenly became rather desperately. 'Arming Probation Officers Doesn't Change the Agency's Mission'.

The point is not that British probation officers and social workers are imminently likely to be asked to choose their weapons, but that social workers who see their work in purely technical, systems management terms may not be able to argue coherently against changes which are plausibly presented as an aid to more efficient system management.

What is also emerging is the attack on both civil and human rights, by probation staff on those under their supervision, through the attachment of conditions to orders and licences. Which restrains offenders and in many instances prohibits the normal forms of rights and expectations which all other members of the community come to expect in a free and democratic society. Often based on no more than a perceived risk. a notion often arrived at on dubious criteria and suspect evidence that has no place in the order of natural justice or sentencing exercises, but sufficient to justify a revocation of a parole licence and further imprisonment.

With violent crime on the increase, the subculture of violence might continue to be seen by some offenders as being a more powerful response to societal injustices and inequalities than the controls like public protection which seeks to curb it thus promoting and producing more harm that it sets out to remedy.

For offenders to have any confidence in probation officers, there ought to be a closer relationship than currently exists, rather than the employment of coerced offending behaviour programmes, which are considerably closer to control and removes the necessity for any relationship between probation officers and those under their supervision.

Those most at risk of current probation practises are released life sentence prisoners whose sentence never expire and renders them liable to recall to prison at any time, based on a perception of risk arrived at, on no more more than a value judgement, but for the lifer it can amount to many years of further confinement from which he or she may never again emerge.

This in spite of the fact that lifers as a group have always had the lowest reoffending rate of all offender groups and is at presently at 2%.

Concerns of probation staff which might render a lifer to recall may involve prohibitions and restrictions which are now seriously open to challenges in the courts under the Human Rights Act and may yet render them as being incompatible with the Act.

The 1953 Royal Commission on Capital Punishment reported that lifers on release ought not to have blanket requirements attached to their licences and that such conditions were a retrograde step and that save for notifying a change of address to the Central Aftercare Association, released lifers should be able to make a fresh start without interference and this was allowed uncontroversially.

Today, lifers can be recalled at the whim of probation officers for behaviour construed as being 'a risk' of offending even if the likelihood of such offences can in no way be linked to or of the nature of the index offence or considered a risk to life or limb.

The Stafford judgement (ECHR 2002) went some way in challenging recall criteria when the applicant who had been on a mandatory life sentence licence had been reconvicted of offences of fraud and sentenced to a term of imprisonment which also revoked the life licence.

At the expiration of the fixed term. Stafford remained in prison under the terms of the life licence recall.

The ECHR took the view that as Stafford had originally exhausted the punishment part (tariff) of his life sentence. That it would be difficult to understand why he had been released in the first place from the life sentence, if he had still posed a risk and that further detention for the fraud could not be justified beyond the fixed term. Simply because the Home Secretary considered Stafford at risk of committing further non-violent crimes or the type of criminal conduct unrelated to the original offence of murder.

As the liberal elite fascists dig in deep with their visions of a society under continual surveillance, monitoring, assessments of individuals. The indeterminate incarceration of the mentally ill and psychologically disturbed there are now moves to bring the children of prisoners within the sphere of risk assessment.

On the 16 August 2004, it was announced that Home Office Minister Hazel Blears was proposing the introduction of legislation to monitor the activities and behaviour of children of prisoners and that such monitoring and supervision involving social services and public protection officers (probation staff) would continue until the child's 16th birthday.

It was estimated that at the present levels some 125,000 children are likely to become subject to fascist nannies.

There has already been some disquiet in 2004 with the Probation Service's role in the proposed administering of polygraph (lie detector) tests on convicted sex offenders.

Whilst the public would reasonably argue that children have a right to be protected from paedophiles and that we should endorse any measures to curb such offences taking place The reality is that there has already been condemnation of this proposed measure and none more so than from experts in the USA where the use of polygraph results have yet to be admissible in the American courts.

Yet, in the UK such a measure would give probation officers the clout they would require to order the recall to prison of a sex offender who appeared to render positive results without the protection of the courts. Put simply. an unacceptable form of surveillance would imprison a suspected offender.

The implications of the acceptance of polygraph testing is not that it might come to be seen as an acceptable form of monitoring for suspected sex offenders but begs the question. who next, the unemployed. the homeless. the socially excluded, the mentally ill or benefit claimants?

Also in 2004, we saw the introduction of two unelected bodies - The Multi Agency Public Protection Panel (MAPPs) and the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Panel (MARAPs).

These will comprise of police officers. probation officers, social workers and representatives from other bodies whose remit will be to monitor the activity initially of sex offenders but has now come to include all lifers.

Many offenders who now have less faith in probation staff than perhaps they once had might also believe that as long as they conform to the conditions of their parole licence that they should not engage probation staff in social problems or concerns for fear of them being misinterpreted as a 'risk' and of them being taken into custody, that probation staff no longer being social workers cannot be trusted to assist them in addressing their needs and might by being too open and honest unwittingly become victims, victims of arbitrary probation practice.

Charles Hanson
VV 1638
HMP Cornhill
Shepton Mallet

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Statement of No More Prison's Aims

This is the statement of aims for No More Prison which was agreed at the members meeting on the 1st April 2006

No More Prison

Prisons are failed institutions that do not work. They are places of pain and social control and are brutal, abusive and damaging to everyone who is incarcerated in them. Prisons are fundamentally flawed and all attempts to reform them have failed. We are committed to their abolition through:
  • Exposing the reality of imprisonment today;
  • Stopping the building of new prisons and the expansion of existing prisons;
  • Highlighting the fact that prisons not only fail prisoners but also have a negative impact on families and friends, victims and survivors and the whole community;
  • Campaigning to close existing prisons;
  • Opposing the criminalisation of young people, working class and minority ethnic communities;
  • Promoting radical alternatives to prison that focus on social and community welfare rather than punishment.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Children in jail - the numbers

Originally published on NMP's website in 2003

Children in jail - the numbers

Home Office Statistics show that prison establishments have just under 1,000 admissions each months of children. (Home Office 2002a, 2002b, 2002c) The latest figures for Novemember 2002 show a population of 2,516 boys and 110 girls in prison. 454 of these are on remand and 2,172 sentenced. The numbers of children have been increasing and these figures represent a 11% increase on the previous year.(Home Office 2002c) Nacro (2003) has pointed out that there has been a rise in the number of children sentenced to detention over the last decade whilst recorded offending has reduced by 20%.

It is likely this increase will continue. As Bright (2003) has reported that since 1997 the Labour Government have created over 300 new crimes and that dozen more crimes will be created by bills currently before Parliament. It is not only the numbers but the nature of offences that Labour has changed. The anti social behaviour bill is seeking to make it an offence for two or more youths to gather on a street corner in an 'intimidating' manner. By intimidating it is meant a situation where a police officer believes a member of the public might be 'intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed' as a result of their presence. In such circumstances a failure to disperse when instructed by the police would leave the child liable to a 3 month prison sentence (Bright 2003) It also allows the police to 'order out' of an area a non resident for 24 hours. (CRAE 2003). It will be interesting to see to what extent this power is used against black children entering a white neighbourhood.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Demonstration to protest death of Kelly Hutchinson in New Hall Prison

This report originally appeared on the No More Prison website in 2006

Report on a Demonstration held outside HMP New Hall, Nr Wakefield on Wednesday 10 May 2006 to protest against the death of Kelly Louise Hutchinson, aged 22, who died on 1 May 2006

  • 3 hour demonstration, attended by ten protesters, including ex-prisoners, representatives from 'No More Prison', and FRFI (Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism).
  • Letter sent into the prison asked if the Governor would come out to meet the protesters. Governor did not emerge from the jail.
  • 17th demonstration to be held since April 2004.
  • Prison van MV04 DZX (Global Solutions) was halted at 3 pm, as it attempted to take prisoners into the jail.
  • West Yorkshire Police attended the scene (two male officers); I was arrested at 3.25 pm for an alleged breach of the peace, taken to Wakefield Police Station, and released without charge after one and a half hours.
  • Photographs taken by one of the protesters show a "very brutal" arrest, during which one officer lost his set of keys, which he later found in a patch of grass in the prison grounds.
  • I was handcuffed - behind my back - by the two male police officers.
  • The two policemen arrived in separate cars. Following my arrest, our departure from the prison was delayed until the officer found his keys.
  • At the time of arrest, my 'rights' were not read out to me ("you have the right to remain silent", etc).
  • There were a number of disturbing features about this arrest [and my detention in the custody suite], which will be detailed in a separate report and circulated as appropriate.
  • Local press attended the demonstration.
  • I was allowed to contact a solicitor during my detention, and spoke on the telephone to Messrs Hickman & Rose, Human Rights specialists, London.


"Since my daughter's death in 2003, a further THIRTY women have died apparently self-inflicted deaths] in the 'care' of prisons in England. Despite this being my 12th arrest since April 2004, I remain undeterred. Where there is injustice, there will be protest.

"There are certain principles on which there can be no compromise. The right to life is one of those. Kelly Hutchinson was owed a legal duty of care, and was sent to prison to lose her liberty, not her life. Eleven women have died in the 'care' of HMP New Hall since 2002. It is time, in my view, to consider the closure of this jail."

Pauline Campbell

[Mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the 'care' of HMP Styal, 2003]

Thursday, 10 June 2010

British Prisons in Ireland: Some historical notes (Part Two)

Part two of two   (for part one click here)

By Mike Tomlinson and Patricia Heatley
This article orginally appeared in "The Abolitionist" The magazine of Radical Alternatives to Prison No 15 in 1983

In fact this problem with the final stage of the reforming process explains the appearance of the intermediate prisons. In Crofton's words, 'the object of the intermediate establishments was this: the Irish public were more hostile, if possible, to the ticket of leave than the public in England and one had to consider how this could be met. Employers would not take any man from an ordinary prison and we felt that if we showed some confidence in their training in the intermediate prisons, the public would be more likely to aid us'. In the 1860s there was a fierce argument between Jebb and Crofton over the intermediate prisons, sparked off by Crofton's suggestion that England had much to learn from the Irish system. Jebb responded by accusing Crofton of pandering to the Irish and failing to show confidence in the beneficial effects of separation and hard labour. The dispute went further than this and reflected not only different philosophies regarding the purpose of imprisonment but also different approaches to Ireland itself.
Progress through the Irish convict system was constantly monitored and measured by means of a marks system, the 'scientific' tool by which privileges or punishments were applied. If the carrot was graduation to the next stage, the stick was the ever present threat of regression reinforced by all the usual dietary deprivations and cellular punishments in the 'dark cells', and by the occasional flogging. Maconochie, who had developed the marks system on Norfolk Island, felt that Ireland, with its 'superior and centralised police' and general social conditions, more closely resembled the far-flung colonies than England. It therefore required novel institutions such as the intermediate prisons. Maconochie saw Jebb's approach as producing 'obedient and submissive prisoners' rather than 'active, efficient, industrious and well-disposed free men'; Jebb represented control as opposed to the remoralisation of the individual. This was an exaggerated dispute in many respects since the vast majority of convicts never came near the intermediate prisons, but Jebb's view prevailed with the closure of Smithfield in 1869 (supposedly for want of customers) and Lusk in 1886.

Prison Struggles and the Republican Movement

In criminal jurisprudence, as well as in many another thing, the nineteenth century is sadly retrogressive; and your Beccarias, and Howards, and Romillys are genuine apostles of barbarism - ultimately of cannibalism.
This seemingly radical dismissal of the tyrannies of the new prison discipline comes from an entry in John Mitchel's prison diary for 3rd February 1848. Mitchel, the son of an Ulster presbyterian minister, was in Bermuda at the time, awaiting shipment to South Africa and finally Australia. He was reflecting not only on his own fate but on the 'convict industry' as a whole. In rejecting the prison reformers, Mitchel was a hard-headed traditionalist and a fervent supporter of less-eligibility. He made a clear distinction between himself as an unjustly transported political activist and the mass of 'robbers, burglars and forgers' around him for whom he declared 'hang them, hang them'.

Mitchel represents the tail end of a Republican tradition tied to the presbyterian radicalism of 1798. In the intervening years it had become increasingly infused with conservatism and romanticism. The Young Irelanders of 1848, while holding to the belief in the need to oppose British rule through force, had few solid links with the Catholic peasantry. Over the next 30 years, the Republican movement was transformed. The formation of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (the fore-runners of the Irish Republican Army) and its Irish American support group, the Fenian Brotherhood, laid the basis of a mass secret organisation which eventually became firmly wedded to the social issues and struggles of the peasantry. The Fenians, as the whole movement became known in the 1860s provided a threatening accompaniment to the more constitutionalist campaigns for land reform and Home Rule. At one stage they claimed to have several thousand members serving in the British Army.

These developments were to make the nature of imprisonment a major political political issue. There had always been a degree of muted resistance to the new prison order, such as the symbolic defiance of tearing down notices of the prison rules. Beneath the formal regulation of daily life, the rule of silence was flouted or circumvented, and systems of smuggling developed. But this was all low level stuff. It seems that during the early years of the convict system, very few prisoners were prepared to risk insanity by protesting to any great extent. Insanity, suicide and death through illness were, after all, regular products of the prison regime. Anew challenge, however, emerged in the shape of Republican activists. When the producers of the Fenian journal, the Irish People, were imprisoned in 1865, the British government was aware that it had on its hands a group of highly committed "and politically determined militants enjoying popular support. The army and the Castle administration apparently felt it was too risky to confine such men in Ireland and so they were removed to Pentonville where the authorities could be relied on to administer an especially vindictive regime. It proved to be a wise precaution on the part of the government because two months later the founder of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, James Stephens, was able to escape from Richmond jail with the assistance of two warders.
It is evident from the accounts of Thomas Clarke and O'Donovan Rossa that the mental and physical destruction of the Fenian prisoners in English jails was a conscious policy. Clarke, confined in Chatham in the 1880s, records that the Irish prisoners were known as 'the Special Men' and treated accordingly. The exceptionally defiant Rossa, whose mind survived to tell the tale and who was elected as MP for Tipperary without his knowledge while in prison, was subjected to treatment which even the conservative Spectator described as 'barbaric', calling for a separate and more relaxed regime for political prisoners. Many of the Fenian prisoners died or were transferred to lunatic asylums. Their presence in the prisons had consequences for other prisoners. Regimes were stiffened and a special cage was introduced for visits. As Marx reported, 'the convicts say it was a bad day for them when the Fenians were sent to the prisons'.
Public outcry over the treatment of the Fenians led the government to set up the Devon Commission.This inquiry allowed the state to explore ways of dealing with Irish political protest which legitimated oppression as 'a lawful custom' in the full glare of English politics. Irrespective of their political motives, it was argued, the Fenians were still criminal lawbreakers and their incarceration was therefore beyond question. This logic prevented the opening up of wider issues concerning the nature of the judiciary and the rule of law in Ireland. Marx dryly noted, 'in England, the judges can be independent, in Ireland they cannot. Their promotion depends on how they serve the government. Sullivan (Rossa's prosecutor) has been made master of the rolls.'

Although the Devon Commission had aired the question of what sort of regime was appropriate for the 'political prisoner class', little had been resolved. The issue was next advanced by a series of protests mounted in Irish prisons by supporters of the Land League, imprisoned under the Prevention of Crimes Act in the 1880s. The prisoners began to refuse to have haircuts, to have their beards shaved off and to wear prison uniform. The impetus for this form of protest appears to have stemmed from inconsistencies within the prison system itself.

Again, the protest was a low-key affair and most of the prisoners would reluctantly accept uniform when threatened with punishments, restraints such as handcuffs, or force. But the issue was a sensitive one given the serious agitation on the land question and the British parliament's moves towards Home Rule, so yet again a government inquiry was established.

Prison protest became much more collective and intense after the turn of the century, With the more decisive rising of 1916, there was so much more at stake for political prisoners with the immediate prospect of liberating Ireland from British rule and the ruthless suppression of Republicans under martial law. The form of protest, whether against imprisonment, internment or military detention, changed dramatically. The war outside the prisons was matched by a life and death struggle inside the prisons. The hunger strike became the dominant form of protest.

The contrast between the treatment of the Fenians and the 1916 rebels shipped over to English jails and the Welsh internment camp could not have been starker. At Stafford jail (which was being run by the army as a military prison) the prisoners managed to negotiate. amongst other things, free access to newspapers, food parcels. free association by day and night (the cell doors were permanently unlocked) and were able to create and administer their own rules to govern their daily activities. The War Office had insisted that letters be addressed to 'prisoners of war' and the rebels had used this to demand the same rights as agreed between Germany and England for prisoners taken in the First World War. The rights were conceded on the condition that the prisoners elected a commandant who was to be responsible to the governor for discipline. Similar rights were' granted to the' prisoners held at Reading jail.

Conditions were not so easy in the internment camps or in the Irish prisons, either before or after the partition of Ireland. Hunger striking may have been the most prevalent form of protest but to achieve specific minor short-term changes other tactics were used such as riots, refusal to work and flooding the formal complaints procedure.

The hunger strike was first used in Ireland by Connolly on his arrest in 1913. Both he and the pacifist Sheffington were released, Although the British government had some experience of prison hunger strikes from the struggles of the suffragettes, no coherent policy seems to have emerged on how to deal with them, The political crisis was such that one moment a person could be sentenced to death and the next released. This, for instance, was the case with Thomas Ashe who took part in the 1916 rising. Likewise, there were uncertainties over the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers. Ashe himself, on hunger strike in 1917, died as a result of force-feeding, yet two years later the practice was not carried out on MacSwiney, the Mayor of Cork. MacSwiney who was serving a two year sentence, died after a hunger strike lasting 73 days.

During the civil war, hunger striking was used as a mass tactic either to demand unconditional release or political status, Both types of demand were usually granted after the ritual death of one hunger striker. Perhaps the most remarkable campaign was the hunger strike launched by 425 men and women in Mountjoy in August 1923 in which around 8,000 prisoners participated at one stage. The aim was 'unconditional release in the defence of the Irish citizens' right to set up their own government and their own courts without voluntary allegiance to any power or authority hostile or inimical to the Republic of Ireland.'


In one of the lectures first delivered to his only cell mate Joe (a pet blackbird), Michael Davitt. one of the leaders of the Land League, listed no less than 49 'coercion Acts' passed between 1830 and 1882 which were used by the British to maintain control of Ireland, Davitt summed up the Castle system by saying,
its judges are mistrusted, its juries generally believed to be packed, its police hated, its authority defied and the name and power of the British government......held in undisguised detestation by four-fifths of our population........While the imprisoned popular leaders are loved and their names cheered by the people, their Castle jailers are hated, and the mention of their names groaned at every public gathering
The' Irish prisons of the nineteenth century were the bastilles of the Castle system. The disciplines and the surveillance they brought to bear on a hostile people were seen first and foremost as products of an alien power. Ultimately such prisons were not simply the tools of a colonial power, but expressions of the search for a new type of authority and control which was in progress throughout Europe and America. In Ignatieff's words, the penitentiary was 'a response, not merely to crime, but to the whole social crisis of a period ... part of a larger strategy of political, social and legal reform designed to re-establish order on a new foundation.' Initially, this new order seemed inimical to the dominant mode of production and the form of class relations in Ireland. In many areas, the Protestant ascendancy preferred the suspension of civil rights and the open authority of the militia to the closed discipline of the penitentiary. But it was no accident that the industrial north-east was the first to sponsor a large purpose-built monument to the separate system.

Clearly, history provides many parallels as well as contrasts with the prison situation today, but the debate between those trying to rehabilitate the prisoner to the status of free wage labour and those more concerned with punishment, deterrence and control - the tender and tough faces of British rule in Ireland - has been largely resolved. Nowadays, every issue of prison policy and administration seems to revolve around the question of 'security'. We hope to explore this theme in a subsequent article.

(An extended version of this article appeared in Hillyard, P. and Squires, P. (ed) Securing the State: the politics of internal security in Europe, Working Papers in European criminology No.3, Bristol 1982.)