We are all suffering the effects of being confined inside our homes at the moment, but imagine how much worse it would be if you were locked in a single room for 23 hours a day.
The Cardiff Amnesty International group is campaigning to end excessive cellular confinement for UK prisoners. Amnesty International regularly calls on foreign governments to improve the conditions under which prisoners are held across the globe. Over recent weeks Amnesty International has highlighted the worrying situation in Colombia and Syria. But should we also be looking closer to home?
The humane treatment of those in UK prisons, young offender institutions, secure training centres and immigration detention settings is an issue that should concern us all.
The situation for the UK’s prison population prior to the Coronavirus pandemic was already dire. Some recent reports have shown prisoners confined for 23 hours and 15 minutes every day. The over 60s are the largest growing group of prisoners. Many of these people are suffering from serious health conditions, disability or in some cases dementia. This group are also the most likely not to have work or purposeful activity and therefore suffer excessive confinement.
Coronavirus has created a situation where the vast majority of prisoners are confined for 23 hours a day, most sharing a cell. This situation could go on indefinitely with no respite. The potential for spreading infection in the unhygienic, overcrowded conditions is also enormous. Richard Garside, Director of Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, recently said:
“If you were to set out to create an institution with the express intent of concentrating and transmitting Covid-19, it would probably look much like a prison”.
Cardiff Amnesty welcomes the important decision to temporarily release pregnant women and new mothers from prison in order to protect them and their children from COVID-19. We believe, however, that COVID-19 provides the Government with, not only the opportunity, but also the ethical obligation to release vulnerable, sick, disabled and elderly prisoners and reduce the harmful effects of overcrowding.
The Howard League for Penal Reform, Prisoners Reform Trust and Prisoners’ Advice Service are currently taking out a Judicial Review in the High Court to pressurise the Secretary of State for Justice, Mr Robert Buckland QC, to take appropriate action.
If you would like to add your voice to a campaign that calls on the UK government to take decisive steps to save lives during this unprecedented public health crisis you can sign a joint letter that has been organised by Inquest here.
Amnesty International UK AGM Motion
Cardiff Amnesty members are doing their part by writing to Mr Buckland and we would urge you to do likewise. Amnesty’s campaigning for humane treatment in prisons may be here for the long term but the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a crisis in the UK and the wider world today.
While the UK’s Amnesty International AGM has been postponed due to COVID-19 the following motion from the Cardiff group has been proposed for consideration when it eventually takes place.
“This AGM instructs Amnesty UK to campaign to end excessive cellular confinement in UK prisons (often amounting to 22 or more hours in cell per day) and to urge the UK government to establish a legally enforceable minimum standard of 8 hours a day out of cell (whether solitary or shared)”
If you believe that prisoners should be treated humanely across the globe then why don’t you drop us a line? If you are inspired to take up the Amnesty banner to fight injustice please contact Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our social media here.