Protesters attached themselves to PVC pipes and blockaded the entrances to the construction site of the new HMP Wellingborough mega-prison, bringing construction works conducted by Kier Group to a halt for the second consecutive Friday. The multi-week campaign aims to stop the government’s massive prison expansion project and dissuade private companies, like Kier, from taking government contracts to build and operate the new prisons.
CAPE’s (Community Action on Prison Expansion) second day of disrupting construction took place only days after Boris Johnson announced a renewed commitment to building 10,000 new prison spaces across England and Wales. A campaigner with the group explains, “building new prisons and incarcerating more people does nothing to address the root causes of harm in our communities, it simply sweeps away and isolates those who have been made the collateral damage of the government’s austerity project.” The UK already has the highest prison population in Europe.
The collective explains that the 1.3 billion being spent on prison expansion should be invested in addressing the root causes rather than the side effects of social and economic problems in our communities. The construction of HMP Wellingborough alone is set to cost £253 million, which the group says should instead be spent to support social services, education, infrastructure and health care in the local Wellingborough community.
Prisons disproportionately incarcerate people who have been victims of state violence and neglect: 24% of adults in prison grew up in the care system and 29% are survivors of childhood abuse. Disabled people, people of colour and those suffering mental illness are also disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system. Campaigner Anna explains, “Companies like Kier pad the pockets of their millionaire shareholders and CEOs by locking up vulnerable people. We want the prison profiteers to drop these contracts which we know will harm communities around the country for generations.”
Campaigners with CAPE say they will continue to ramp up pressure against the government and prison profiteers to stop the progression of the government’s prison expansion project.