By Kam Sandhu @KamBass
Last night (23rd Feb 2016), a ‘Protect the Prisoners’ protest took place outside Holloway Prison in North London.
Sarah Reed, 32, died in the prison on 11th January 2016.
While an inquiry into the circumstances of her death is underway by the Prison Ombudsman, the family and the Sarah Reed Justice Campaign have learned that prisoners are being penalised and suppressed from speaking out and contributing to the inquiry, in a case which involved mental ill health, abuse and neglect at the hands of guards and institutions.
The Sarah Reed Justice Campaign outlined the need to hear the voices of the prisoners and appealed for people to come forward. Temi Mwale from the campaign explained:
“Also, we know after her death prisoners were protesting to say ‘we were telling you this, what happened to her?’ – clearly they’re traumatised, and its an important thing for them to feel they can contribute.
“But we’ve been made aware they are being denied their right to contribute to the prison probation ombudsman inquiry. We need to know what they saw and heard.
“The witnesses there are vulnerable. They are under the authority of the people who are giving out the abuse and therefore they’re being targeted, victimised, there’s segregation, so today we’re here to say we don’t think that’s acceptable. We’re out here to protect them.
Temi explains two people have already come forward, upon leaving the prison;
“Two people came forward. Those people were previously in the prison and are now released, but those in there are not released. We want to hear from all the people who are still in there.”
Sarah Reed’s mother attended the protest and made a powerful speech, calling for solidarity and help for the women inside the walls of the prison. You can listen below.
49% of women prisoners in a Ministry of Justice study were assessed as suffering from anxiety and depression
- Women in prison are more than three times more likely to suffer with anxiety and depression (65% vs. 19%)
- Eight in Ten (81%) women entering prison under an immediate custodial sentence commit non-violence offences
- More than half (53%) of women in prison report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child
- 30% of women have had a previous psychiatric admission before they entered prison (compared with 10% of men)
- There has been an overall increase of over 80% in all women imprisoned over the last 15 years
- BME women are more likely to be arrested, held in custody and given longer sentences than their white counterparts
In 2011 Black women made up 26.4% of the female prison population
Src: Prison Reform Trust
The Sarah Reed Justice Campaign is appealing to anyone who knows women inside Holloway Prison to speak to their relatives and friends and get in touch.
“We want to hear from all the people who are still in there, so we’re appealing to anyone who’s family members are in there – not just those who are on the ward.
“There’s 2 things, if there’s anyone who has any information in relation to Sarah’s specific case, we need to get that out there. But it’s also about evidence and cataloguing what it’s like to be inside Holloway, what are their practices, is this rare a occurrence – we strongly doubt it, but we need to hear from them.”
Temi Mwale, Justice for Sarah Reed Campaign
You can get in touch with the campaign through their Twitter
“This is a case that cuts across so many different issues. This isn’t just about being a woman, it’s not just about being a black woman, it’s not just being about being black woman with mental ill health. It’s about the conduct of the hospitals, it’s about rape and violence and sexual assault and the way women are victimised and treated, and how Sarah was being punished for defending herself against a sexual assault. It’s about police brutality and we are aware this is very intersectional which is why it is so explosive. It exposes the state for it’s true nature. One person has several different interactions with institutions and was failed by every single one of them.”