Monday, 23 February 2009

Passing the Buck

I'm back from London. The protest took place outside the Home Office with a comfortable group of five people. N. provided the leaflets (thank you) and negotiated with the police so that we did not stand in the designated demonstration pens.

At the end of an hour J. and I took the letter into the main entrance. We refused to go through security. I explained why we were there.

We went up to a woman with the letter. She refused to accept it. J. , astonished, asked if she was categorically refusing to accept a letter for the Home Secretary. The Home Office employee called up a man who said it should be taken to the post room which was at the back of the building.

Unbelievably, we went out and P. came with me. We passed the side entrance with it's tight security and waved out a guard who came and told us how to find the post room. Down the side we went and turned along the back and saw nothing that suggested a post room.

At the end of the street we went up the other side and saw the same security arrangements. A lady emerged who was helpful. She said look for vans and a barrier. Also we backtracked and met two police.

They had no idea where the post room was. The policewoman gave me the number of the Events Office from where it would be sent to Downing Street. That seemed to be a good idea. We set off and lo and behold inset into the building we saw a barrier.

A workman, just inside, confirmed that this was indeed the post room. I had explained about the letter. I made to go through the barrier. An elderly man in a fluorescent waistcoat, obviously an employee left the office and walked to meet me. He was confused because it was not in an envelope and had no apparent address but agreed that 'Dear Jacqui Smith' would be enough in the circumstances. He was adamant that it would be put in the post and he would see that it got to Jacqui Smith. Thank goodness for honest British workmen I said. I felt I had been treated with patience, kindness, and dignity at the tradesman's entrance.

I can't help thinking of the 1st labour conference in Bournemouth. Every meeting I went to we told that Labour had been elected to listen to the people. I believed them. When I gave the conference report to constituency meeting I ended it saying - if this Labour government fails it will be because of our failure to communicate with them. They are going to listen to the people. How wrong I was.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Protest at the Home Office this coming Thursday 19th. February

Sadly, another woman has died in prison. We who care about justice and prisons are not going to let this go unchallenged.

As we know, the Home Office as a lot to answer for. We will be there to demonstrate outside the Home Office in London this Thursday 19th. February from 1.p.m until 2.p.m.

On such demonstrations the 'suffragette of penal reform' - our dear friend Pauline Campbell - used to hand over a letter to the person in charge of an institution responsible.

This time the letter will not be in a sealed envelope. What we have to say, this truth, is out in the open for everyone to see. Our government needs to wake up and put an end to the grief. Put an end to the pain.

Here is what we are going to say - the letter contains three important demands for change:

To Jacqui Smith,

We are demonstrating today in protest of yet another death of a woman in prison.

On the 25th. January, 2009 a demonstration was held outside Styal prison in protest against the death of Alison Colk.

On the 30th. January Samantha Dainty died in Foston Hall prison, Derby. Her death was self-inflicted.

After her daughter died in 2003 Pauline Campbell devoted the rest of her life to campaigning against the death of women in prison. Prison does not work, prisons are not safe places for women. Pauline called for alternative ways to tackle this problem.

Surely, by now, lessons should have been learned but already we have two deaths in 2009.

What is needed is courageous action.

We demand:

1. That women should be placed in smaller units so that they can be nearer their family and friends.

2. The courts should give women community based alternatives to prison.

3. The government should put the recommendations of the Corston report into practice.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Say no to Trident

A red letter day for me. I love it when I feel that I am still around and historyis in the making.I picked up my newspaper on the way back from my keep -fit class and there on the front page "Victory for the Women's Camp- court rules in favour of Aldermaston activists"I had thought that the front page yesterday had been terrific- "MP's tell Brown to give peace a chance- government urged to scrap "useless" Trident upgrade"

Here was the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp spokeswoman , the indomitable Sian Jones,saying that the ruling by Lord Justice Wall and Lord Justice Stanley Burton was not only a victory for the women's peace camp ,harrassed and threatened with eviction by the MOD for 23 years,but also an important judgement on the right to protest -and it was a unanimous verdict.

How dare our governments go on threatening the future of the planet and throwing away money that should be used for the wellbeing of all children?

Well done the Women's Peace Camp and more power to all those who protest for peace.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


BBC Today Programme
3 children imprisoned in Finland 3000 children im prisoned here in England. The age of criminal discrimination in Finland is 15 years but in practice no young person is put in prison under 21 years. Here it is 10 years ; in Scotland 8 years.

In Finland the emphasis is on welfare, education, psychiatric and medical help.60% of our childrenin prison have mental health problems.Rod morgan, youth justice board pointed out that it costs £2000 pre annum to keep a child in prison. Alternative options such as those used in Scandinavia would cost much less.

Michael Howard, however , felt that magistrates here are doing the right thing.The courts are only detaining them appropriately, children are not locked up for the first offence. According to him prison is only used as a last resort. Firm policies work; we must protect the British public.

Rod Morgan would like to see a seperate British Justice System for children and guess what- there is some interest from Ministers for looking into this.

The families of children who have suffered from the punitive violence of the state need much more action than this Why are they not being consulted?

Another piece of information on the same programme was that prisons are being used as a dumping ground for the adult mentally ill How often did Pauline say that?