Saturday, 17 May 2014

Remembering Pauline Campbell

Pauline Campbell died six years ago this week on 15th May 2008. .Her struggle for the abolition of the imprisonment of women and children should never be forgotten. She would find it hard to believe how  little progress has been made towards prison reform since then. So many recommendations made by the Corston Report have been sidelined. Vulnerable, mentally ill women are still sent to prison. She would be furious to know that inspection after inspection of children's prisons show that they are still places of abuse, where so called restraint, a  euphemism for torture, is still practised. The suffering of the families is still ignored. Inquests take just as long. Young children are still being abused, restrained and continue to die in badly run, Secure Training Centres. Young children's deaths are not even thought to be worth an inquiry. Pauline wanted to see prisons abolished and would have fought the proposed building of the largest prison in Europe at Wrexham.

In 2003, Pauline and I travelled to London to protest at the United Family and Friends Demonstration against deaths in custody and continued to do this every year until her death in 2008. She spoke eloquently and passionately in Trafalgar Square and outside Downing St. about the plight of prisoners caught up in our rotten justice system. I continued to attend this event after her death and I was upset that ill health prevented me from going to the demonstration in 2013 to remind everyone about Pauline's singular commitment to her campaign against prisons.We all need to go on and on highlighting the deaths in custody. In 2011 protesters were prevented, by the police, from handing in a letter to 10 Downing St. at the end of the annual march.They then tried to tie it to  the gates. But the police stopped them. The atmosphere turned very tense, then the protesters sat down and the police tried to kettle them but failed.  Pauline would have supported this direct action. Tension mounted further when an elderly lady, a relative of a man who had died in custody, was dragged by police out of Whitehall. Where was our freedom  to protest?

If incidents like this can happen in Downing Street, we should not be complacent about anything that takes place behind locked doors in our privatised prisons.

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