Posts Tagged ‘Prison Abolition’

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After 18 days 7,000 prisoners in greece stop their hunger strike after the ministry of justice concedes to a series of their demands, promising to release half the country’s prison population by April 2009.

On Thursday the 20th of November more than 7,000 hunger strikers in greek prisons demanding a comprehensive 45-point program of prison reform have decided to stop their hunger strike, already on its 18th day, after the Ministry of Justice responded to their struggle and to the widening solidarity movement which in the last weeks has held several mass protest marches in the greek cities by declaring that by next April the number of prisoners in greek jails will be reduced to 6.815 from the present 12.315, thus effectively releasing half of the country’s prison population.

The Ministry’s declaration in detail states that:

1) All persons convicted to a sentence up to five years for any offense including drug related crimes can tranform their sentence into a monetary penalty. This will not be allowed in the case the jury decides that the payment is not enough to deter the convict from commiting punishable acts in the future.

2) The minimum sum for tranforming one day of prison sentence to monetary penanlty is reduced from 10 euros to 3, with the provision of being reduced to 1 euro by decision of the jury.

3) All people who have served 1/5 of their prison sentence for 2 year sentences and 1/3 for sentences longer than 2 years are to be released, with no exceptions.

4) The minimum limit of served sentence is reduced to 3/5 for conditional release and for convicts for drug related crimes. Those condemned under conditions of law Ν. 3459/2006 (articles 23 και 23Α) are excepmpted.

5) The maximum limit of pre-trial impironment is reduced from 18 to 12 months, with the excemption of crimes puniched by liife or 20year sentence.

6) The annual time of days-off prison is increased by one day. Tougher conditions for days-off are limited for those convicted for drug related crimes under Ν. 3459/2006.

7) Disciplinary penalties are to be integrated.

8) Integration after 4 years into national law of the European Council decision of drug trafficking (2004/757).

9) Expansion of implementation of conditional release of convicts suffering from AIDS, kidney failure, persistent TB, and tetraplegics.

What the Ministry failed to answer with regard to the prisoners’ demands include:

1) Monetary exchange of prison sentences longer than 5 years, especially for 6.700 prisoners presently convicted for non-criminal offenses.

2) Abolition of juvenile prisons

3) Abolition of accumulative disciplinary penalties

4) Abolition of 18 months pre-trial imprisonment for a large number of offenses.

5) Satisfactory expansion of days off, despite the fact that the application of present liberties has been tested as succesfull during the last 18 years.

6) Immediate improvement of relocation conditions of convicts

7) Holding a meeting between the minister of justice and the prisoners’ committee

Thus in a press release, the Prisoners’ Commitee announced that:

“The amendment submitted to the Parliament by the Ministry of Justice tackles but a few of our demands. The minister ought to materialize his promises for the immediate release of the suggested number of prisoners announced, and at the same time implement concrete measures regarding the totality of our demands. We the prisoners treat this amendment as a first step, a result of our struggle and of the solidarity shown by society. Yet it fails to covers us, it fails to solve our problems. With our struggle, we have first of all fought for our dignity. And this dignity we cannot offer as a present to no minister, to no screw. We shall tolerate no arbitrary acts, no vengeful relocation, no terrorizing disciplinary act. We are standing and we shall stay standing. We demand form the Parliament to move towards a complete abolition of the limit of 4/5 of served sentence, the abolition of accumulated time for disciplinary penalties, and the expansion of beneficial arrangements regarding days-off, and conditional releases for all categories of prisoners. Moreover, we demand the immediate legislation on the presently vague promises of the minister of justice regarding the improvement of prison conditions (abolition of juvenile prisons, foundation of therapeutic centers for drug dependents, implementation of social labour in exchange for prison sentence, upgrading of hospital care of prisoners, incorporation of european legislation favorable to the prisoners in the greek law etc.). Finally, we offer our thanks to the solidarity movement, to every component, party, medium, and militant who stood by us with all and any means of his or her choice, and we declare that our struggle against these human refuse dumps and for the victory of all our demands continues”.
Prisoners’ Committee 20/11/08.


All 21 Greek prisons are in the grip of prisoners 3-stage campaign in demand of 45-point reform. As part of the protest, more than 5,000 inmates are now on hunger strike.

As of Monday the 3rd of November the totality of prison across greece are under a 3-stage campaign in demand of a 45-point reform, asking amongst other things for abolition of all juvenile prisons, greater freedoms, reduction of prison service and better conditions. The first stage of the prisoners struggle in which 8,000 out of 15,000 inmates took part consisted of refusing food from the prison catering. On Friday the 7, 1,000 of them upgraded to the second stage of the campaign by going on hunger strike. The number of the hunger strikers today (11/7/08) is 5,120, 17 of whom have sewn their mouths. The third stage of the campaign, general uprising, looms over the prison establishment as outside the prisons solidarity campaigns are filling the streets of the greek cities with protest marches, concerts and various forms of direct action.

The main 16 demands by the prisoners are as follows


1. Abolition of disciplinary charges. Modification of the Penitentiary Code’s articles 68, 69, 70, 71. In any case, the disciplinary charges must be removed after served, and not accumulated nor taken into consideration when it comes to days off, work, education and discharge under conditions after they are served.
2. Reduction of the sentence limit for discharge under conditions, from 3/5 to the 3/7 of the sentence time. Immediate abolishment of the anti-constitutional treaty that increased up to the 4/5 of crimes related to drugs.
3. Once and for all 3 year reduction of all prices, to make easier the relieve of over-crowding of prisons. Rejection of the new Panoptic prisons, built isolated from the urban social body.
4. Abolition of all juvenile prisons. Adoption of open structures to take care of and protect the teenagers and youth.
5. Reduction of sentence limit of 25 years of continuous detention. Reduction of the minimum detention time to be discharged under conditions to 12 years from 16 that it is today, according to european legislature.
6. Immediate and without exceptions application of days-off, suspensions, and other benefits of the law, reduction of the minimal sentence time limits. Increase the number of days-off to 60 for those that have a right to 5 days and to 96 for those with a right to 8.
7. To end the over-use of pre-trial detentions and reduce the time limit to 12 months.
8. The para-judicial racket is known for its hysteria of the last 8 years, leading to revengeful killing sentences. We as for proportionate sentences and wide application of the measure of suspension and discharge under conditions.
9. Full, permanent and 24 hour medical treatment and respect to the patients. Creation and improvement of adequate hygiene spaces (baths and toilets). Immediate integration of the Korydallos prison psychiatric and medical clinic to the National Health System, with new aisles for women and juveniles, that lack now. Immediate transportation of patients to public hospitals with ambulances and not in police vehicles, tied up with their hands behind their back.
10. To be provided the right in beneficial work payment, education, second chance schools, technical workshops and participation in diverse similar programmes, to all prisoners proportionate and without any discrimination. To be given educational days-off, for all prisoners, that meet with the criteria and terms to study outside prison and for all levels of education and technical skills learning. Substantial amplification of withdrawal projects to all prisons.
11. Abolition of the prison no-go zone. Free access for social and political institutions, Lawyers Associations, Hellenic Medical Association and EINAP, organizations for human rights, NGOs and international organizations. Free circulation of political and educative press, with no exceptions.
12. Alternative forms of detention, amplification of agricultural prisons and of the institution of semi-free sentence as well as community service.
13. Amplification of the institution of free visits in humane conditions with respect to the personality and dignity of the prisoners and the visitors. Private place to meet with our companion.
14. Work and access to creative activities for all of us. Beneficial account of days of work in the sentence.
15. Right to selection of serving the sentence in their country of origin, for the prisoners from other countries, once and if they wish.
16. Humane transport conditions with improvement of the room in the preposterous transportation means of the greek police. More stops, improvement of the detention room in the miserable “Metagogon” ‘transfer prison’ and faster transfer to the destination prisons.


On the occasion of the third-world life conditions inside this establishment but also our treatment by the totality of the ministry of justice services, and more precisely: Inexistent medical-pharmaceutical supply. Few, to even inexistent hygiene supply (without any right to a private purchase). Inexistent basic hygiene (no warm water). Inexistent social services and care. Preposterous food, because of luck of supplies. Even first need stuff is an unknown word here. Racist treatment of the prisoners when it comes to days-off and suspensions. Injust treatment of sentence accounts for suspension proportionate to the offence (2/5, 3/5 etc). Vast delays when it comes to bringing the case to the courthouse and especially the court of appeals. The peculiar stiffness of the persons judging us, despite the recommendations they have received. The inexistent second chance we are all waiting for and most of us have a right on it, but are never given. We decided to abstain from prison food commons from 03/11/2008 until proportionate measures are taken in regards to all the above. We expect your understanding.

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Prison abolition is not som eutopian idea or activist pipedream.  It is not a call to suddenly fling open the prison doors without enacting alternatives.  Nor does it require that we wait for a revolution before we start changing things.  Abolitionists have practical ideas to reduce harm, build alternatives, reduce the need for prisons and eventually eliminate the prisons altogether.  There are many models of abolition, but here’s one approach:
Call for immediate halt to all forms of prison expansion, including building new prisons or jail spaces, increasing prison budgets or hiring more prison staff.  Redirect money to community-based alternatives.  Stop all new laws that result in prison time (e.g. hate crime laws, minimum sentences or extended detention powers).  Create time and space to develop alternatives.

MORATORUM: Ban all prison expansion.

DECARCERATE: Get people out of prison.Release as many people from prison as possible and redirect them to alternatives.  Start with children, the elderly, people with mental health issues, women and trans persons, people who have committed non-violent offences.  Those who need no supervision or support should be released at once.  Those who need no supervision but do need support or services should be released to community peer support groups through contractual arrangements.  Those needing supervision should be paroled with arrangements for transfer as soon as possible to community services by contract.  gradually release and redirect more and more people.  Use a timeline if release goals: 50% immediately, 25% within 5 years, 1010% within 10 years, etc.


EXCARCERATE: Stop putting people in prison.
Stop holding people in pre-trial detention and develop alternatives such as bail houses and community supervision.  Stop detaining immigrants abd those who have not been charged with crime.  Put caps on the number of people who can be sent to prison.  Reduce the maximum length of sentences.  Abolish indeterminate sentences and mandatory minimum sentences.  Decriminalise sex work and drug laws.  Redefine categories of crime so that minor offences do not result in prison sentences.  Provide options for prisoners to make restitution.

RESTRAINT OF THE FEW: Develop harm reduction & monitoring responses.
Develop a monitoring and review procedure for the very small percentage of people who need to be limited in movement dor some periods of time in their lives.  The process should aim to work out the least restrictive and most human option for the shortest perios of time.

BUILDING THE CARING COMMUNITY: Invest in social & economic justice.
Create a network of community supports.  Invest in social housing, education, youth services, health care, community-based mental health programs, and employment.  Provide victim assistance.  Develop restitution/compensation programs.  Develop non-punitive responses to harm and mechanisms of social accountability in the community.

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Adult & Young Offenders Prisons: There are currently 139 prisons in England and Wales (including 18 Young Offender Prisons, which could hold young people aged 18-20), 16 prisons in Scotland, and 3 in Northern Ireland.

Children’s Prisons: There are 4 “Secure Training Centres” and 14 “Secure Children’s Homes’ which imprison children aged 12-17.

Immigration Prison: There are 10 immigration “detention” prisons with space to hold 2,306 immigrant prisoners.

Secure Hospitals/Psychiatric Prisons: There are 800 high secure beds in three NHS facilities and 3500 medium secure beds in NHS and private health facilities.


The current official UK prison population is approximately:   93,208
England and Wales (1 August 2008):       83,810
Scotland (August 1 2008):                       7,858
Northern Ireland (August 4 2008):           1,540

The total figure includes those held in official prisons, police cells under Operation Safeguard, “secure training centres”, “secure children’s homes” and the three immigration detention prisons that are run by HM Prison Service (Dover, Haslar & Lindholme).  It does NOT include prisoners held in the UK’s 7 privately-run immigration detention centres, those held in forced psychiatric institutions, prisoners of war or UK nationals held in prisons abroad.  It also does does include the people held illegally in secret prisons around the world, either at the hands of, or in complicity with, the UK goverment.

In July 2007, there were 3,723 people held in secure hospitals.

In March 2008, 2,305 people were held in immigration detention prisons in the UK.  At least 1,640 of those people had claimed asylum at some stage.


  • England & Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe at 148 per 100,000 of the population.
  • The number of prisoners in England & Wales has increased by 25,000 in the ten years from 1996 to 2006.  Previously, it took nearly four decades for the prison population to rise by 25,000.
  • The number of people found guilty by the courts has remained largely constant over recent years, but the number of people awarded prison sentences has risen dramatically.  The number of persons found guilty in 1996 was 1,724,225 and 1,771,378 in 2006.  The number given custody at magistrates courts has risen from 25,016 in 1993 to 53,431 in 2006.  The number of people given custodial sentence at the crown court has risen from 33,722 in 1993 to 42,586 in 2006.
  • Many people are held in prison even though they have not been convicted of a crime.  In 2006, for example, 54,809 untried people were held in custody on remand (waiting for trial).  On in five (19%) of men and 18% of women held on remand before trial in 2005 were acquitted.  Just under two thirds of people received into prison on remand awaiting trial are accused of non-violent offences.  In 2006, 15% were remanded for theft and handling of stolen goods.
  • The rate of psychiatric imprisonment has been steadily increasing.  In 1995, the number of people detained in “forensic” health services was 2,500.  By July 2007, the number reached 3,723, a record high.


  • England and Wales has the highest number of life-sentenced prisoners in Europe; it has more than Germany, France, Italy, the Russian Federation and Turkey combined.
  • Indefinite sentences, that is life and the new sentence of “imprisonment for publci protection (IPP) have grown by 22% in the last year.
  • Theer were 10,911 people serving indefinite sentences at the end of March 2008, compared to 3,000 serving indefinite sentences in 1992.
  • Approximately 70% of the increase in “demand” for prison sentences between 1995 and 2005 is estimated to have arisen owing to chnages in the custody rate and sentence length.
  • In 2004, 18.6% of shoplifters were sent to prison from magistrates courts, compared with 4.7% in 1994.


  • The UK prison system has been overcrowded every yera since 1994.  Overcrowding pressures have led to worsening conditions, higher rates of self-harm and over-transfer/shifting of prisoners from one prison to another.
  • At the end of February 2008, at least 19,382 prisoners were doubled in cells intended for one person, and 1,207 prisoners were held three to a cell designed for two people.
  • In 2007, 60,953 prisoners were housed in police cells because of prison overcrowding.  The estimated cost of holding a prisoner in a police cell is £459 per night.
  • Records show that on 22 February 2008 the prsion population breached the Prison Service’s own safe overcrowding record.


  • Since Labour came to power in 1997, more than 20,000 additional prison places have been provided, an increase of 33%.
  • Even though there is clear evidence that massive prison institutions do not work, the Labour government plans to build ginat warehouse-style prisons, known as “Titan” prisons, which hold up to 3,000 people.
  • In December 2007, the government announced an additinal 10,500 prison spaces to be built by 2014.  This is on top of the existing 9,500 capacity programme.  The program will include up to three “Titan” prisons.
  • The new building program will bring the rate of imprisonment to 178 per 100,000.
  • In May 2008 the UK Border agency announced plans to create up to 60% more spaces to imprison immigrants, resulting in the creation of 1,300 – 1,500 extra immigration detention spaces.

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Having plundered the third world with impunity for so long, first-world capitalism has now turned its attention to the incarcerated working class in its own prisons, potentially a rich source of exploitable labour. Prisoners are paid around 30 pence per hour, but even these pitifully small wages are seen as fair game by capitalism.

The big talk from government ministers at the moment is to train prisoners in a relevant job opportunity, to give them better prospects on release. Mmmmmmm sounds good doesn’t it? As one prison guard that wrote to us said “The only problem is the Prison Service are more interested in churrrrrrrrning out bed upon bed, making more profits for companies like Airsprung and to hell with prisoners. Most staff have read your articles and support what you say, they are disgusted that the Prison Service seem hell bent on using PRISONERS FOR PROFIT TO PRIVATE INDUSTRY” and that “They are offered false hope and are worked like dogs”. Any pretense at rehabilitating prisoners and empowering them with trade skills has been abandoned.

If you write to one of these companies about the issue you will get an answer like this received from Trew Gates Ltd (who stopped using prison labour last year), “We as a company were proud to be involved in a program of training and helping rehabilitate prisoners to enable them to learn a trade for their re-introduction into society. Many men and women involved in the manufacture of these gates stated that they were happy to be part of the program and it helped to make their sentence pass by easier”. While we don’t deny that something to pass the time and get you out of your cell might be welcomed, this is low skilled work and is of no benefit to the rehabilitation of the actual individual, instead this replaces education and skill learning which have been drastically cut. These companies try to justify themselves by saying that it is good training and will help prisoners to get a job after release, but all they are interested in is profit, simple as that. The money saved is not reflected in the goods Airsprung or Wilkinson sell to the general public. If big companies like Wilkinson and Airsprung offered a reasonable rate, like say the minimum wage, then you would not see them for dust.

The Prison Service price each product using a formula which has not changed for over 10 years, they work between a break even price and a target price. The sales people very rarely reach the target selling price and usually settle for break even which just covers the cost of materials. There are also a number of instances where the Prison service buy work!! This is a situation where the company is offered a price below break even, if they can provide long term consistent work. This is exploitation at its very worst with the only benefit going to the company. Wickes Building Supplies used the Scottish Prison Service to manufacture gates. The price was squeezed so low that SPS did not even recover the material cost, they lost about £2 per item and must have lost thousands upon thousands over the 5 year period SPS did work for them. These loses of course being made up by the tax payer. As you can appreciate this is very attractive to potential customers as it ultimately means bigger profits for them.

The Scottish Prison Service also make garden furniture goods, held at their Faulhouse Depot in West Lothian, which is then sold onto to local sharks, who in turn sell it onto the public for at least double the price. As we heard “There are more fiddles going on than the London Philharmonic. These guys are raking in a fortune. Most of this stuff is touted by the SPS sales manager Anthony Apperley. This is the guy responsible for getting the guys to slave away for 30p per hour while the greedy companies get the rewards. I bet he is on a back-hander with some of these people giving them low prices as he has a high lifestyle”.

Here’s what the prisoners themselves had to say, “I was made to pack cards into plastic slips but found this hard as have Attention Deficit Disorder. Because I could not keep up I ended up on basic regime, 23 hours a day bang up, 1/2 hour visits, £2.50 canteen a week, no association”……..”I laid fabric for Wilkinson ironing boards but at the time had a medical issue so would loose a days wage each week as I had to see the doctor. Plus I would get docked if I could not complete an order. I was 300 miles away from home so had to do this work to phone my family”………………. “At HMP Lindholme I saw inmates use the toilet and not wash their hands packing mushrooms, spit on them, put boggies on them, kick them about, put flies in the pack then seal them. Also the onions were kept in moldy conditions then wiped and sealed. I wrote to Asda but got no reply. The mushrooms packed for Asda I would not eat them as health and safety in prisons is not an issue”…………” I have packed food for Asda, parts for Land Rover, packed welcome packs for hotels, nuts and bolts for DIY stores, plus have been punished for not working”……..”I packed cards and put screws in shock kits. We are meant to be getting rehabilitated but we are used like slaves for pittance then we have to shop at Aramark to buy our stuff at over marked prices”.

Aramark are yet another US import grown fat on the misery of incarceration. Over the past few years it has become ubiquitous, running prison canteens up and down the country. Everything has to be purchased from the prison canteen, this monopoly is another attractive proposition for the ever-greedy forces of capitalism. Though sometimes the “needs” created are false ones, in many prisons it is even necessary for prisoners to buy their own toilet cleaner, and they increasingly have to feed themselves.

What You Can Do

Contact your local MP and demand information under the Freedom of Information Act, an Act to make provision for the disclosure of information held by public authorities or by persons providing services for them. Potential questions people should ask are:

1. I would like to see a copy of the formula used to calculate how a product is costed, how is this formula arrived at giving a breakdown of materials and labour? I would like to know why this costing has not significantly changed over the past decade.
2. I would like to see details of how prisoners wages are calculated.
3. I would like to see all information on the Prison Service customer data base detailing all the products costs which are sold onto to private companies, so comparisons can be made against what these private customers sell onto the consumer FOR BIG PROFITS.
4. Why tax payers money was used to subsidize Wickes profits over the past 5 year? Under the Freedom of Information act the Scottish Prison Service must provide figures for this.
5. How many hours are the prisoners spending in the workshops? Are people are having to work in order to get access to education or being punished for not working?
6. Ask about the profits Aramark and other prison canteen suppliers are making.

What will happen is the local MP will write to the Prison Service asking questions on behalf of their members, the Prison Service will have to respond (reluctantly). The general public have a right to know where tax payers money is being spent. Of course the other alternative is to run a campaign alongside pushing for a minimum wage for prisoners, we know it would never happen, but if it ever did you would not see these greedy companies for long.

Find your constituency and your MP at http://www.locata.co.uk/commons

Contact the National Audit Office to ask for a full audit into the way tax payers money is being spent unwisely.

National Audit Office
Freedom of Information Team
Room BM45
157-197 Buckingham Palace Road

Write to the English Prison Service or locate the addresses of prisons in England and Wales at http://www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk
Write to the Scottish Prison Service or locate the addresses of prisons in Scotland at http://www.sps.gov.uk
Contact the Prison Management direct at Tony Simpson, Head of Prison Industries, 5 Redheughs Rigg, Calton House, Edinburgh. EH12 9HW or Paula Arnold, Deputy Head of Prison Industries at the same address or at paula.arnold@sps.gov.uk 

Look at the “Corporate Watch DIY Guide to How to research companies” which can be found at http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk

Contact some of the companies using prison labour:

– Airsprung Beds. Canal Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8RQ    penny.edwards@airsprungbeds.co.uk
Airsprung beds supply Argos with beds made by the Scottish Prison Service. The SPS get £3 per bed, Argos sell them for upwards of £100. Argos is Airsprung’s main customer regarding prison made beds.
– Bison Safety Systems. Unit 3, Calendar Business Park, Falkirk, FK1 1XR. SPS manufacture safety equipment for them.
– KDM International. 18 The Havens, Ransomes Business Park, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP3 95J. They are starting to sell a lot of garden items and are getting a special deal because they buy so many of them.
– Peter Smith Garden Furniture. Dick Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD4 8JD. Same as KDM.
– Lomax Mobility – Dundee. They buy bags and other small items.
– Other companies mentioned like Wilkinson, ASDA, Virgin, Sainsbury, Wickes.

Contact Campaign Against Prison Slavery, PO Box 74, Brighton, East Sussex. BN1 4ZQ

Disclaimer: This is all information and ideas sent to us by third parties. 

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