Freedom News

Action report from a mega-prison blockade

Just under a month ago, an autonomous group of activists blockaded Kier’s latest mega-prison construction site at HMP Full Sutton, costing the company £250,000 today they say what happened in their own words, and why.

This was both an act of solidarity with incarcerated friends, as well as a protest against the government’s prison expansion programme – as well as Kier who are profiting from it.​​​​​​​

January 31st, 5:30am: Activists swarmed both entrances to the construction site of HMP Full Sutton 2, erecting and occupying tripods. Despite 40mph winds (and sometimes wobbly tripods!), they remained in place for over 10 hours, ensuring that no work was carried out that day. 150 deliveries were stopped, and Kier suffered £250,000 In losses.

At around 4pm – after police (unsurprisingly) went back on their word – two activists were arrested, and another three charged at the scene. It is worth mentioning that the two arrested were those who were unable to give addresses; seemingly, being of No Fixed Abode is an arrestable offence.

Despite overtly aggressive policing towards the late afternoon, activists had fun making the most of the police’s total disorganisation, running amok and causing mischief whilst the cops rushed around frustratedly trying to contain the chaos. 

Spirits remained high in spite of arrests, and all activists were home safe by the early hours of Wednesday morning. The action was celebrated, and energies are high to continue this campaign against the construction of new mega-prisons in the UK – and those who profit from them.

Investment for a dystopian future

In 2021, the government announced plans to invest £4 billion in new prison infrastructure. Their five-year plan aims to create 20,000 new prison places in the UK through the construction of at least four new mega-prisons, along with the “improvement” of 16 existing facilities. This is to accommodate the growing prison population in Britain – which the government anticipates will rise by 19,000 within this same five-year period. 

In conjunction with building new prisons, the government are introducing a tidal wave of new draconian laws aimed at criminalising protest, as well as others which target several minority groups – among those, the GRT community and asylum seekers. As the government “cracks down on crime” in increasingly authoritarian ways, we can rest assured that the 20,000 new prison places will be filled in no time. 

Already dozens of activists have been incarcerated for expressing their discontent against a system which is leading us further and further into social, financial and ecological catastrophe. Moreover, with legislation like last year’s PCSC Act the right to protest – which is essential to holding the government accountable and protecting human rights – is critically under threat in this country. Further legislation like the Public Order Bill (which is currently being debated in Parliament) will only make this more severe. It is crucial that we resist these now, or we will soon find that we are no longer able to. 

HMP Full Sutton 2 (due to open in 2025) will provide 1,500 new prison places – this alongside the 500 places at an existing neighbouring site. Notorious construction company Kier have been awarded the £400 million contract to build the prison and have also secured the contracts for several more. Kier are infamously involved in nasty projects – HS2, vivisection labs, military infrastructure and airport runways (to name a few). Consistently, this mega-corporation profits from our incarceration; from our dissection; from the slaughtering of the natural world. This is outrageous and must immediately be brought to an end. Kier ends here!

Targeting Kier tied together several important issues, but it is Kier’s involvement with HS2 which was especially significant for these activists. HS2 is the contentious mega-project currently ripping through the UK landscape, destroying 108 woodlands and evicting thousands (humans and nonhumans) from their homes, at the cost of £200bn to the taxpayer. Following a route-wide injunction which threatens anyone who even steps foot on HS2 land to prison sentences and seizure of assets, protesting HS2 directly has become increasingly difficult. This is what landed Jellytot – an HS2 protestor and friend of these activists – in prison. As Jellytot served his 131st day in prison, an action targeting Kier – who profit from both HS2 and the expanding prison system, seemed entirely fitting. 

News that Jellytot, and others inside prisons up and down the country, heard of the action on Tuesday brought great joy to all those involved, further encouraging them to continue the blockade in spite of harsh conditions.

As the government launches its most expansive prison-building campaign in over a century, we must continue calling into question the shifting and increasingly profit-driven function of prisons in our society and challenging those who profit from them (companies like Kier, G4S, Sodexo, Serco). Although this action was directly motivated out of solidarity with incarcerated activists, it acts in solidarity with all those behind bars. No-one should be incarcerated.

Prisons and policing have always been used as tools to target racial and ethnic marginalised groups as well as those who dissent against the state, disappearing those who are deviant and undesirable rather than fixing problems in society. Prisons do not solve society’s issues; instead, they do far more harm than good.

It is essential that we stand together against all forms of incarceration – and this includes psychiatric wards, detention centres and factory farms. Furthermore, abolition is not just about tearing down these institutions (or blockading their construction), it is about deconstructing why they’re considered necessary in the first place, and then addressing social issues at their roots. We don’t need prisons, we need to build strong and resilient communities, and worlds where everyone is compassionately cared for. 

As activists occupied the tripods, two huge banners were unfurled: ‘build communities not prisons’ and ‘all prisoners are political’. The message is clear: ABOLITION, NOW!

So make the most of your lock-ons before it’s too late! Soon, you’ll be in prison for less. 

Check out @HS2Rebellion on Instagram for more photos, info and action updates from the day.


Pictures by Martin Pope Photography

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