Community Action on Prison Expansion has called for a day of online action to happen next Monday, 27th April. Below is the action callout.
We call this day of action on Monday 27th April to demand the release of incarcerated women and others held in women’s prisons. COVID-19 is spreading through prisons and detention centres, exacerbated by insufficient hygiene and social distancing measures. At least 15 incarcerated people have already been killed by COVID-19 in prisons across England and Wales, including one woman: the true number is likely to be much higher than official statistics. Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre has known cases of COVID-19, but the people detained there are not able to socially distance.
Prison abolition is, and always has been, a feminist struggle.
People are being locked in for 23.5 hours a day. This constitutes solitary confinement, as defined by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. This inhumane treatment is having a grave impact on those with pre-existing mental health problems. The situation is particularly serious in the women’s estate. According to the NGO Women in Prison, the women’s estate constitutes 5% of incarcerated people and 18% of recorded self-harm incidents in the year ending September 2019.
Many of those held in women’s prisons are survivors of violence: according to Women in Prison, 7 in 10 have been a victim of domestic violence and over fifty per cent were abused as children. Many experience further abuse while incarcerated, including trans women held in unsafe conditions at men’s prisons. Incarcerated women, trans, non-binary and intersex people are being punished by a system built on the back of their exploitation: a system which disproportionately punishes poor and working-class, black, brown, trans, disabled and migrant women.
To safely stop the spread of COVID-19, we must release all imprisoned people so that they can socially distance. Plans for the early release of some incarcerated people are insufficient to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the prison estate, and even this promise has already been broken. As of 7th April, only 6 pregnant people had been released: even less than the meagre promise made by the government to release 30 pregnant people. This is unacceptable, according to the prison services’ own measures. Supposed plans for the release of ‘low risk’ prisoners will be processed through assessments that systematically advantage white people over black and brown people and adhere to racist narratives that assume risk is a static fact within a person. Being selective in who receives this extra punishment of being infected by COVID-19 is nothing short of inhumane, and will be ineffective in fighting the spread of the virus inside and outside the prison and detention systems.
During this public health crisis, we need more than ever to provide humane solutions over criminalisation. We cannot continue to condemn people to death by holding them in prisons and detention centres. Instead, we must build the communities that are needed to support ourselves and one another. Echoing the feminist collective, Survived and Punished- we need: “funding for housing and non-coercive healing resources e.g. physical health services, trauma-informed counselling, substance use support, so all people have immediate and stable housing options and access to holistic, restorative care upon release.”
Now is the time for strong communities, not cages.
Get involved in the day of action!
For more info:
Facebook: Community Action on Prison Expansion