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Prison Column: Prisoners are human beings

Prison Column: Prisoners are human beings

Freedom continues its new Prison Column with a perspective from Kev Thakrar, who is detained within the inhumane Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system:

When the state disappears people, they imprison us. The whole process of becoming a prisoner is designed to strip the person of their personal autonomy. Individuality is something which must be removed and replaced with complete conformity, implemented through the oppressive control and restrictions of the prison environment. From the prison issue clothing, the degrading routine searching of the person, to the uniform design of the cells, people are transformed by this state dominance into products to be handled within the warehouses that are prisons.

When the prisons disappear people, they segregate us. The restrictions and conditions are so much more severe than anywhere else within the Segregation Units of the High Security Prisons of the men’s prison estate, deliberately so; intended to break the spirit of the men who for various reasons find ourselves detained within these punishment blocks. These environments inflict solitary confinement upon its victims often for an indefinite period of time, which means an excess of 22-hours a day locked in a cell in isolation and kept separated from all other prisoners during the brief time allowed to shower and/or get locked in a cage outside like an animal for ‘exercise’, and in my case has continued for 13 years so far. Remember how it felt to have to stay at home during the Covid lockdown, then imagine how many more restrictions you could have survived yet we must endure within segregation daily.

It would not be permissible to keep an animal in places like these, and there would be total outrage if a woman were to suffer such mistreatment, but men are culturally seen as tougher and much more deserving of this brutal inhumanity. From personal experience, I can confirm this differentiation of the sexes through the bad politics of the chauvinistic and anti-feminist approach which portrays women as ‘damsels in distress’ in need of help, and men as warriors capable of toughness only seen in the ‘stronger sex’, is absolute nonsense (it is this concept which sets the foundation for the perpetuation of the culture of toxic masculinity and misogyny that this country is drowning in). No human could possibly survive such inhumanity undamaged.

Even those good intentioned supporters of prisoners, and those opposed to the structure and/or existence of prisons, can easily fall into the trap of fighting the battle to release women and/or abolish women’s prisons which indirectly implies that the concept of prison for men is an acceptable one. Separating the sexes like this to prioritise one over the other will always harm the struggle for those who are left behind. But all prisoners are human and we all feel the pains of imprisonment regardless of whether we are seen to express them in the same, or culturally acceptable ways. Prison is a political state tool of oppression and all of us who are victims of it are therefore political prisoners, stripped of our ability to live normal lives in freedom.

This dehumanisation and oppression is not caused exclusively by the state and misguided anti-prison campaigners, organisations, and prison reformists but even by those who seek to bring compassion to the prison experience through making contact with prisoners from outside the walls. Those offering this support can miss the fact that restrictions they impose upon the terms of their communication with the imprisoned can easily replicate both the measures that the state apply and the feelings such as of inadequacy, inferiority, and powerlessness which they instil within the recipient. Although it is entirely valid to have safety/security concerns when making the initial contact with anyone, including a detained person, especially if you are the first to do so, paranoia over the potential for the prison to become aware of you is not at all helpful or necessary, and to view this potential relationship as some form of good deed, charity, or case work in which you must monitor your ‘capacity’ is extremely harmful and possibly even abusive. Despite being cages, prisons are not zoos and those of us detained within them are not animals to look at, study, or attain an anecdote to tell your social group to boost your standings through your ‘unique experience’ of having communicated with a real-life prisoner.

Being unwilling to trust the person with your real name and/or address, provide photographs so they can see who they are communicating with, give your phone number so they can call you or undergo the visitor approval process which is required prior to an in- person meeting with those held in the most hostile conditions only adds to the trauma which is inherent in the loss of liberty we face. It is common to post personal information on your social media or dating apps and give out your phone number to people you just met, so what indication do you think it gives when you withhold this information from someone? Friends do not impose such limits upon their friendships, but it seems the power imbalance seen in the dynamics of the relationship when only one of them has their freedom can all too easily lead one to a significant oversight of the potential harm they could be recklessly inflicting through these restrictions, which in their mind could appear entirely essential and innocuous, but in reality is exacerbating the dehumanisation of the imprisoned human. Where I am does not define me, prisoners are human beings who deserve the same consideration as you hope others would give to you and feel when do not get it.

If silence is violence, then what is concealing your identity like a faceless bureaucrat within the state apparatus from someone suffering directly from state physical, sexual, and psychological violence? Oppression must be resisted everywhere, even when its source is within ourselves to the detriment of others. Empathy and love can transcend prison walls and cages, but can only penetrate your heart if you are alert to the possibility and allow it.

Kev Thakrar

As well as suffering from a miscarriage of justice having been convicted under the controversial and discredited legal doctrine of joint enterprise, Kev is one of the 50-men within English prisons to be detained within the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system under Rule 46 of the Prison Rules 1999. When the Segregation Units disappear people, the CSC is where they end-up. This is the front-line in the battle against state violence where you must resist or capitulate, and Kev more than any other continues in the struggle as a champion of the people. Last year the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture raised the conditions of his detention with the government and he is taking a judicial review of the policy of allowing indefinite segregation which enables his ongoing solitary confinement due at the Royal Courts of Justice in 2023.

Please help combat his isolation and help him endure the state inflicted torture by writing to him at:

SE28 0EB

additionally or alternatively, cards can be sent to him via WWW.FUNKYPIDGEON.COM or photos through WWW.FREEPRINTS.COM, and it is also possible to email Kev using WWW.EMAILAPRISONER.COM. To help cover the costs of Kev maintaining contact with us outside, and of supporting him, please donate to: thakrar

Read more from and about Kev on WWW.JUSTICEFORKEVAN.ORG

Image: Guy Smallman

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