ACTION ALERT – Get Fellow Worker Kevan Out of Segregation

On 7th April Kevan Thakrar was moved to seg without authorisation. Kev has been placed in a dirty punishment cell with no electricity, no toilet seat or lid. Kev also has less access to the phone. He has been falsely accused of threatening officers and placed on “backwall unlock”. This means he has to stand at the back of the cell against the wall whilst 4 officers enter. This is triggering for his PTSD after being subject to racist abuse including being almost murdered last year.

HMP Full Sutton are failing to meet Kev’s basic entitlement and needs. Kev has no mental health support. No care plan in place. Kev’s disability is not being acknowledged.

Take action now to get Kevan moved out of segregation!   Includes sample letter.

Always Against Prison — From Hamilton to Minneapolis by Northshore Counter Info

It’s Going Down

Report back on banner drop in solidarity with five people facing serious charges following a New Year’s Eve noise demonstration in so-called Minneapolis.

This evening, we dropped a banner over highway 403 going towards Toronto in solidarity with the five people in Minneapolis facing serious felony charges in connection to a New Year’s eve noise demo in that city. Although we’re glad all five are out on bail, the arrests and charges mark a significant escalation of repression against an international anarchist tradition.

In our region, New Year’s noise demos started in 2009 in response to a hunger strike campaign by anarchist prisoners, and we have kept doing them every year since. These demos let us a share a moment of celebration with prisoners, breaking the alienation through direct action. As an international tradition, they are also a thread that connects us to anarchists elsewhere, allowing us to exchange ideas and tactics with people whose contexts are quite different than ours.

We can only imagine how the context in Minneapolis has shifted following the uprising. Struggle can seem so slow sometimes, building little by little, year by year. But then you get periods like this summer. It seems calmer now, but the same kind of state violence and impunity continues: we read about how there was another police murder in south Minneapolis this past week, and how the cop who murdered Jacob Blake in Kenosha was not charged.

As anarchists, our hostility towards police and prisons doesn’t wait for the streets to fill. Conflict with those institutions is permanent and we engage on our own terms. Going out on a freezing winter night to set off fire works for prisoners is unlikely to ever be very popular, but we all do it because it’s a meaningful expression of our values. Even if it means that repression often falls heaviest on those who don’t wait for movements to act and who don’t stop acting when they fade.

Massive movements like this summer’s are incredibly powerful though, and struggling alongside others is the best way to learn and grow. This is why international exchanges are so important, because for us here in Hamilton, if we were waiting for the streets to fill, we would be waiting a long time. And relationships of solidarity also mean you’re not alone in the hard times.

Reading reflections from like-minded people in the Twin Cities about the George Floyd rebellion has given us incredible inspiration. Although dropping a banner isn’t much, we hope to send a bit of that strength and courage back your way.

Always Against Prison!
From Hami to Mpls:
For a Fiery 2021!

URGENT ACTION: Get James out of HMP Humber

We have been made aware of a man being held in HMP Humber, experiencing severe mental health issues and being harrassed and bullied by prison officers. James (not his real name) has been diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy and depression. Since arriving at the prison he has been denied any medication for these health conditions. He has also regularly been denied essential hygiene items and opportunities to wash his clothes.

Instead of being offered support for his mental health needs, James has become a target for bullying and harassment by prison officers, who have been entertaining themselves by antagonising James and by attempting to create conflicts between him and other prisoners. This is having a severe impact on James’ mental health, worsening his depression and causing him to self-harm.

This is not the first time issues have been raised about the treatment of prisoners by staff at HMP Humber. In 2018, “official inspectors criticised HMP Humber, a Category C prison […], for 206 “use of force” incidents in the previous six months, “more than at . . . other category C training prisons””. Of prisoners surveyed by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons in 2018, 48% said they had experienced bullying by staff.

James’ sister has asked us to take action as a last resort. She has exhausted every possible avenue for getting James the help he needs, contacting prison staff, the prison governor, the Independent Monitoring Board, the prison healthcare team and James’ GP. No action has been taken by the prison and James’ sister is now extremely fearful for his mental health and physical wellbeing.

James wants to be transferred to a different prison, away from the officers who have been harassing him, so he can access the healthcare he needs and complete the rest of his sentence. Both James and his sister have asked numerous times for him to be transferred to HMP Buckley Hall, another category C prison within a reasonable distance from his family.

How you can help:

  • Write to the governor of HMP Humber, Marcella Goligher to demand that James is transferred to HMP Buckley Hall immediately and provided with medication for his health conditions.
  • Write to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, to demand that James is transferred to HMP Buckley Hall immediately and provided with medication for his health conditions.
  • Tweet HMP Humber and let them know what you think of how they treat people with mental health needs. @HMP_Humber

Please note: we are using a fake name for this action alert, to protect James and his family. However, the Prisoner Solidarity Network has contacted the prison and the Ministry of Justice about this issue, using James’ real name and prison number. This means that it will be clear to both the prison and the Ministry of Justice who your email is referring to, even if they won’t admit it!

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom: by Paul Haw.

Paul Haw is Dorset IWW Branch Secretary, a volunteer youth worker and campaigner on LGBTQ+ and disability rights.

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.

I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.

The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.

In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.

All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.

As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.

In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.

The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.

It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.

Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.

In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.

Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.

The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.

As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.

They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.

I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.

Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.

I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

– Albus Dumbeldore

Paul Haw

The Factories, The Fields, and the Firearms to Defend Them.

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

“The working class is able, once it so desires, to take control of industry and thus establish a much more efficient and satisfactory society .”

(from the pamphlet: “One Big Union,“ by The Industrial Workers of the World)

You, me and our entire class of society’s underprivileged who produces everything with very little or nothing at all to show for it have – once effectively organized – the potential within us to free ourselves from the stresses that come with the struggle for survival of material needs.

While the study below is based on research conducted in 2020, the final analysis will be found to resonate up to the hour the bell of the social revolution is sounded. It’s of the deepest importance for the masses – the have-nots who’ve been no strangers to struggling since we were born – to firmly grasp the magnificence of our Worth, and our potential and power. Our potential for freeing ourselves from being taken advantage of by the government system is overwhelmingly greater than that of the government system taking advantage of us all!

This has been a very fortunate truth for the less-fortunate of the world ever since societies have allowed governments to exist, and our social contract with the State has proven to be nothing less than a taxing, hostile machine worth defying and reducing to irreparable ashes.

The more the righteous seeds of becoming free from social & economic oppression be planted richly in the minds of the poor and oppressed who are governed, the greater the potential becomes to overthrowing the government with overwhelming resistance; especially when the rational alternative of governing ourselves (exercising autonomy) is given the necessary attention it deserves deep in the roots of our ethical nature.

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people, and the few, who make up the employing class have all the good things in life.”

– From the Preamble to The IWW Constitution.

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The Birth of Close Supervision Centres By Kevan Thakrar


When the Conservative party took control of the country in 2010, the so-called justice system was struggling to maintain the facade that it was fair, equal or anything else positive which is prohibited by its design. It cannot be said to be a flawed design, since it achieves exactly what it intends in oppressing the poor, lower classes, and non-white population whilst enabling the privileged to exploit them with impunity. The cuts that followed made the situation even worse, injustice becoming the norm for all affected in any way by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

As has always been the case, those suffering the greatest oppression are the unfortunate victims of the Injustice System who end up imprisoned. Within this group, there are greater and greater degrees of oppression, ranging from the privileged few who were too blatant in their wrongdoing necessitating a prison sentence who are allocated to cushy Category D open prisons automatically, all the way up to maximum security Category A prisons. Beyond this, is the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system which is reserved for around 50 prisoners to receive the harshest and most brutal treatment.

The one good thing that any Conservative Secretary of State for Justice has done since taking power has been to sack the sadistic failure of the Prisons and Probation Service, director Michael Spurr. This animal was personally responsible for the creation of the CSC system, having previously been in charge of running the Continuous Assessment Scheme (CAS) whereby prisoners were transferred from segregation to segregation every 30 days. Once it became obvious that the CAS could no longer be maintained due to being in gross violation of all basic minimum standards, Spurr took on a project to find a way to enable the torture of the prisoners hated most by those running the MoJ.

‘The Spurr Report,’ published in February 1996 as a restricted policy document with the sub-heading ‘Management of Disruptive Prisoners — CRC Revival Project,’ paved the way. CRC stood for ‘Control Review Committee,’ and control is exactly what they have been about, although control of the individual rather than the system as a whole. One paragraph of this report makes the intent of the CSC clear for all to see:

“[…] It is potentially important to recognise the potential introduction of the proposed new regimes in CSCs as a ‘natural experiment’ in which we can learn more about the response of hostile, disruptive and often personality disordered individuals to structured intervention. Achieving lifetime changes in personality,  thinking and behaviour will take several years. Also, these men may be serving long sentences and some may never be released. Outcome measures will need to focus on personality, thinking and institutional adjustment rather than subsequent offending in the community […]”

This ‘experiment’ of subjecting men to extreme psychological torture through permanent detention in inhumane conditions surrounded by mentally ill prisoners, operated by massive amounts of prison officers outnumbering the prisoners, with the stated objective to destroy the personality of those allocated CSC status, has been functioning since 1998. As Spurr rose through the management to become overall leader, he ensured funds were pumped into this ‘experiment,’ even through the crisis caused by governmental budget cuts. Hopefully now that he has gone, this illegal use of taxpayers money which could be much better spent elsewhere will end.

Having now spent ten years detained within the CSC, I can confirm that every victim of this sadistic ‘experiment’ has been harmed with often devastating effect. Some men have seriously self-harmed, some self-mutilated, others have been driven totally insane. Suicide has occurred disproportionately. Expendable to discover the ‘outcome measures’…

The CSC needs to be terminated, if not for humanitarian measures then because it is simply not affordable. The disgraced inventor has gone, surely now is the time for his creation to follow. His replacement has an impossible job in attempting to clean-up the disgusting mess he’s left behind, the best place to start has got to be the most inhumane. The psychologists used to legitimise the system would be much better utilised elsewhere at a time where a lack of psychological assessments is commonly cited as justification to delay the release of those due for parole, and the financial resources could be used to plug some of the gaps causing a breakdown in the prison system.

The CSC looks like a punishment, sounds like a punishment, feels like a punishment, but Spurr made clear that under no circumstances should the CSC be said to be aiming to punish. He wrote:

“This point is crucial and will be the basis of our defence in any judicial review.

If the proposals outlined above are adopted, it is inevitable that there will be a legal challenge and judicial review is likely.”

So this scumbag knew he had designed an ‘experiment’ which was not lawful from the start, creating propaganda to accompany it to enable its existence. Michael Spurr’s repulsive character is clear for all to see from his invention, only if his successor puts a stop to the CSC could they be said to be any better.

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE Close Supervision Centre
HMP Full Sutton
Stamford Bridge
YO41 1PS

Contactable via



Urgent support needed!

Our member Kevan Thakrar is currently being held in the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) at HMP Full Sutton. He is being moved to a cell next to a prisoner who recently attacked Kevan with a metal flask. The cell is in a blind spot with no CCTV, and Kevan and his family are worried he’s being set up for another attack. Kevan has repeatedly been the victim of racist attacks by other prisoners and guards during his time in prison, most recently when he was stabbed with a shank on 23 December 2019. Prison guards have previously ignored assaults, and Kevan has not been allowed to access appropriate healthcare.

We need everyone to get in touch with HMP Full Sutton to demand that Kevan is NOT MOVED TO THIS CELL. Phone calls, emails, letters all help keep Kevan safe and shows the prison governor that we are aware of what’s happening. Numbers matter! We need as many people to write and call as possible.
Write to

Prison Governor Gareth Sands
HMP Full Sutton
YO41 1PS
Or phone the prison on 01759 475100
Fax 01759 371206
Cite Kevan’s prisoner number, A4907AE.

Call script:

Hello, I am calling on behalf of Kevan Thakrar who is currently in the CSC at HMP Full Sutton. Kevan has been informed that he is being moved to a cell next to a prisoner who has previously attacked him. I am extremely concerned for Kevan’s safety and demand that he is not moved to this cell, but rather is moved out of the CSC and to a safer location immediately.

You can also email the following:

Executive Director for High Security & Long Term Estate for HM Prison and Probation Service, Richard Vince, demanding Kevan be moved from the CSC to a safer location:

Email Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Riding:

Keep Kevan updated with all your actions by email through or letter to:

Kevan Thakrar, A4907AE
HMP Full Sutton
YO41 1PS

Urgent: Protect Kevan Thakrar from racist violence

This evening prisoner Kevan Thakrar called to inform IWOC that a known racist attempted to take his life this afternoon.

Kevin McCarthy stabbed Kevan more than four times while Kevan was at the food servery. He used a wooden shank and shouted “die, die, die!” whilst stabbing Kevan. Kevan has four puncture wounds on his back and bruises and scratches after also being hit on the head. Kevin walked past two prison officers neither of whom intervened to prevent or stop the attack until Kevan turned round to defend himself. Even then, no officers put their hands on Kevin or restrained him. No alarms were pressed/no shouting for help. Kevin McCarthy actually walked back into his own cell and locked himself in. The prison failed to take him to hospital but he was treated by two nurses on the wing.

This is the second attack Kevan has experienced in HMP Full Sutton in recent months. Kevan’s solicitor had raised a complaint about Kevin McCarthy prior to Kevan being moved onto the CSC because Kevin has perpetrated racist attacks against other prisoners before. Kevan is shaken and in need of support to demand the prison move him to a safer location and take action to stop further racist attacks on his life. Feel free to use your own words as well as the sample scripts below.

Call script:

Hello, I am calling on behalf of Kevan Thakrar who is currently in the CSC at HMP Full Sutton. Kevan was stabbed four times yesterday by a known racist prisoner. Two prison officers were present and did not act to prevent or stop the attack until Kevan turned around to protect himself. This is the second attack Kevan has experienced in HMP Full Sutton in recent months and yet he is still held in the CSC.

I am really concerned about Kevan’s safety in the CSC and I am calling to demand that he is moved out of the CSC and to a safer location immediately.

Letter template:

I am writing as a concerned community member on hearing of a physical attack against Kevan Thakrar (A4907AE) that occurred yesterday, 23rd December at the Close Supervision Centre, HMP Full Sutton.

As I understand it, two prison officers were present and did not act to prevent or stop the attack until Kevan turned around to protect himself, the officers did not restrain the person attacking Kevan and no alarms were raised.

This is the second attack Kevan has experienced in HMP Full Sutton in recent months. Kevan has made complaints about threats of violence from known racist prisoners but no action has been taken. The person who stabbed Kevan is known to have racist views, and shouted ‘die, die die’ while stabbing Kevan. Kevan’s solicitor had raised a complaint about the person who stabbed Kevan before Kevan was moved onto the unit, as this person has made racist attacks on others.

In addition I believe that Kevan has not been seen by a Doctor and the person who stabbed Kevan remains on the same unit as him.

I am extremely concerned about Kevan’s safety and wellbeing in the CSC. Kevan has PTSD and these acts of violence add further traumas and I imagine he must be fearful for his life.

The environment created in the Close Supervision Centre makes it more likely for these acts of extreme violence to occur, and Kevan is at risk of further attacks there.

As per the Adult Safeguarding in Prison policy (National Offender Management Service 2016) Point 1.5 states that ‘All adult prisoners are protected from abuse and neglect, and prisons effectively discharge their duty of care towards them. Reported incidents of abuse and neglect are managed appropriately’.

I am urging you to move Kevan out of the CSC and to a safer location immediately in order that HMP Full Sutton adhere to their policy obligations.

Write to Governor Gareth Sands at HMP Full Sutton ( or phone the prison on 01759 475100.

Email the Executive Director for High Security & Long Term Estate for HM Prison and Probation Service, Richard Vince demanding Kevan be moved from the CSC to a safer location:

Email Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Riding:

Keep Kevan updated with all your actions by email through or letter to:

Kevan Thakrar, A4907AE
HMP Full Sutton
YO41 1PS

John Bowden: Now a Hostage in a Conflict Between Two Agencies of the State

Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee.

In January 2019, IWOC member John Bowden was denied parole after nearly forty years in prison. The reasons given for this denial were not related to public safety or rehabilitation but to his political activity. John writes about the decision made and the role the parole board.

On the 22nd January 2019 after almost forty years in prison, the Parole Board considered the case for either my release or continued imprisonment. In the case of a life sentence or indeterminately sentenced prisoners once such prisoners have been detained for the length of time initially recommended by the judiciary or Secretary of State, in my case 25 years. Then the Parole Board has statutory and legal obligation and responsibility to review the case for either the release or the continued detention of such prisoners. At three previous parole hearings, my release had been denied by the Parole Board claiming I was a “difficult and anti-authoritarian” prisoner, and insufficiently obedient to prison authority. My actual risk or danger to the public, the prime official criteria for denying the release of life sentence prisoners, was never cited as a reason for my continued imprisonment.

At my parole hearing on the 22nd January, this year, all the professionals employed to assess the potential risk of prisoners to the community, prison psychologists, probation officers, etc., all provided evidence stating that my actual risk to the community was either minimal or non-existent and that I could be ‘safely managed’ outside of prison. My lawyer informed the parole panel that the three main criteria were determining the ‘suitability of release’ of life sentence prisoners were all confirmed in my case. These are:

  1. Has the prisoner served a sufficient length of time to satisfy the interest of retribution?
  2. Does the prisoner represent a minimal risk to the community?
  3. Can the prisoner be safely managed in the community?

Therefore there was no real lawful justification for my continued imprisonment. Especially as I remained in prison for almost fifteen years, beyond the length of time initially recommended by the judiciary. The issues raised by the parole panel were not, in fact, my potential risk to the community or potential for violent behaviour. All of which had been assessed by the system professionals who gave evidence at the hearing and who unanimously attested that my risk of either violent behaviour or risk to the community was minimal. The main concern of the parole panel was my propensity to challenge prison authority and my association with radical political groups on the outside, specifically Anarchist Black Cross.

Representatives from the London Probation Service informed the panel that all the groups that I was associated with were lawful and none were associated were illegal activity. Moreover, in terms of my relationship with the prison system, while I continued to question and challenge what I perceived as abuses of power, I had not been involved in violent protest actions against the system for over twenty years.

After the parole hearing, the panel announced that it would deliver its decision regarding my release within fourteen days. By law, parole panels must deliver decisions within fourteen days of hearings. On the fourteenth day following my hearing the Parole Board claimed that it had not concluded the hearing on the 22nd January but had “adjourned” it and would conclude with a “paper hearing”, when my lawyer and I would not be present, on the 20th February. They also requested additional information from the probation officers responsible for my post-release supervision concerning the conditions and rules of that supervision. The probation officers subsequently provided the Board with the information and reiterated that in their professional opinion I could be safely managed and supervised in the community.

On the 20th February, the Parole Board then claimed that they had “deferred” the “paper hearing” because one of the Board members considering my release had decided to go on leave. In early March in response to inquiries from the Probation Service regarding a parole decision, the Parole Board said that they were in the process of “finalising” their decision.

What was becoming increasingly apparent was that the Parole Board did not want to make a decision, or at least a decision authorising my release, which placed them in something of a quandary.

Confronted by the evidence and recommendations of system professionals such as probation officers and prison-hired psychologists who had all stated that there was no public protection justification for my continued imprisonment. The Parole authorities were denied a legitimate legal cover for my continued detention, and obviously were extremely reluctant to openly declare the real reason for their desire to deny my release – a determination to continue my punishment for ever having dared to fight and challenge the prison system, and my refusal to compromise or surrender my political integrity and spirit.

In reality, when considering the release of life sentence prisoners one criteria is given absolute priority over all others, and it indeed is not “public protection” or the propensity, or not, of the prisoner to criminally re-offend. The most fundamental criteria governing the release decision of life sentence prisoners is the absolute obedience of the prisoner to the authority of those enforcing that imprisonment? Essentially, prisons exist as instruments of social control to tame the rebellious poor and condition them into total obedience to the system; “rehabilitation” is merely a veneer used to legitimise an institution that is intrinsically brutal and inhuman.

Extremely high levels of “re-offending” and re-imprisonment illustrate just how ineffective prisons are as instruments of genuine “public protection”. What influences and determines Parole Board decisions is more the “model prisoner” inclination of the prisoner being considered for release then whether they represent a genuine “risk to the public” or are likely to “re-offend.” In my case, therefore, while the Parole Board was probably satisfied that my actual risk to the ordinary public was either minimal or non-existent, and after being imprisoned for almost forty years the “interests of retribution” had been adequately satisfied in my case. Nevertheless, my continuing propensity to challenge the authority and power of those imprisoning me, in the eyes of a white middle-class Parole Board, rendered me “unsuitable for release.”

In 1980 I, along with two other men, was imprisoned for the killing of a fourth man during a drunken gathering of petty criminals in a South London council estate. Imprisoned for a minimum of 25 years I was cast into a jail system characterised by naked brutality and violent repression that dealt with “difficult” prisoners in an often-destructive way. An already emotionally and psychologically much damaged young state-raised prisoner and now with absolutely nothing to lose, I responded to the violence of the system with extreme resistance.

In 1983 I was convicted of taking a prison governor hostage and had an additional ten years added to my sentence. I was also consigned to solitary confinement for four years in conditions of total de-humanisation. I continued to resist and fight back, and was frequently brutalised, but also experienced profound political radicalisation and came to see my struggle against the prison system as part of a much broader struggle against state oppression everywhere.

For the next three decades of my imprisonment I committed myself totally to the struggle for prisoner’s rights, and as a result, was labelled by the prison authorities as a “subversive and difficult prisoner.” In 1992 I managed to escape and with the assistance of political supporters outside I lived and travelled widely around Europe before being re-captured two years later.

In 2007 I was finally transferred to an open prison, supposedly as preparation for release, and worked each day in the outside community as a literacy tutor for adults with learning difficulties. Then 12 months later I was “Down Graded” back to a high-security prison following a report by a prison probation officer that I was linked to what he described as a “terrorist organisation”. A subsequent official investigation established that the organisation concerned was, in fact, a completely lawful prisoner support group, and I was eventually returned to an open prison. Twelve months later I failed to return to the prison following an outside shopping trip and following my apprehension was again “Down-Graded” to a high-security jail. Eleven years later I remain in “closed conditions”. Devoid of a genuine “public protection” justification for my continued imprisonment that imprisonment is continued purely because I am perceived by the establishment as unbroken and defiant, and motivated by a political belief system that condemns me irredeemably as the other.

The reality is that although the Parole Board has little choice but to appear to review my continued imprisonment, it has no intention of agreeing to my release, at least not while I retain even a semblance of defiance and political integrity.  My actual perceived risk or danger to the community, which has been assessed by system professionals as basically non-existent, is no longer even evoked by the Board as justification for what has now become my unlawful detention.

On the 18th of March, the Parole Board finally delivered its decision that it prefaced with the admission: “All the professionals support your release on licence and do not consider your risk to the public to be imminent”. Martin Jones, CEO of the Parole Board, recently stated to the media: “We have a statutory release test that we have to apply in every case. Moreover, that releasing test is whether the parole applicant’s continued detention is necessary for the protection of the public”.

In my case, however, the Parole Board decided that I would remain imprisoned not in the interest of public protection. However, because a parole hostel intended to house and “supervise” released long-term prisoners had not given a definite confirmation that it would provide accommodation and “supervision” in my case for a more extended period than usually required for released prisoners. The hostel concerned, the London Probation Service and the Multi-Agency Public Protection Agency had all assured the Parole Board that following a specific length of time in the hostel my continued accommodation there would be assessed and an extended period provided if considered necessary.

This was ignored by the Parole Board who were determined to find any semblance of a reason or justification to deny my release. It was subsequently revealed that there was a double-edged reason for the denial of my release. Essentially my refusal to submit mind, body and soul to the authority of the prison system was the prime reason I was considered “unsuitable for release”.  However, for some time there had been tension between the Parole Board and Justice Ministry because the former had wanted the period of time that released life sentence prisoners were held in parole hostels significantly extended. While the Justice Ministry claimed that a huge demand on places within a restricted number of such hostels and a general lack of resources at their disposal made longer-stay hostels uncreatable.

The refusal of my release was clearly intended by the Parole Board to send a message to the Justice Ministry. That unless post-release life sentence prisoners are “supervised” for a significantly more extended period within parole hostels, and the resources provided for that, then more of them would merely remain incarcerated, regardless of whether they remained a risk to the community or not.

So officially my release was denied after 40 years not because I am considered a risk or danger to anyone, but only because I am now held as a virtual hostage in a conflict between two state agencies.This amounts to unlawful imprisonment and will now be judicially challenged.Britain currently has the highest population of life sentenced prisoners in the whole of Europe, and as the social and political climate here becomes increasingly more repressive and retributive that population of the civil dead will continue growing.

John welcomes letters from the outside. Write to him at:

John Bowden A5026DM
HMP Warren Hill
Grove Road
IP12 3BF