Worsening conditions for UK prisoners

The Cardiff Amnesty Group continue to be concerned about the use of excessive solitary confinement in the Her Majesty’s Prisons. We began campaigning on this issue before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the situation has only become more urgent as a result of the pandemic. Rather than the Pre-Covid situation of around 20% of UK prisoners being confined to cells for over 22 hours day, it is now the case that virtually all prisoners are confined to cells for 23 or more hours a day, every day. This situation persists, and in many cases, has worsened into February 2021.[1]

HMP Cardiff

Recent reports show that whilst much of the country is seeing a decline in infection rates, the presence of Covid-19 in Scottish prisons has doubled in a single week.[2] This has led to calls from the Scottish Human Rights Commission to reduce the prison population to cope with the outbreak. The situation is even more bleak in England and Wales where confirmed coronavirus cases have quadrupled between October and December 2020. An article from LBC[3] highlighted the genuine fear of prison workers catching the virus, describing the experience of prison workers as “lambs to the slaughter”, but little thought is given to the prisoners living in these conditions 24/7 at the proverbial “slaughterhouse”.

Perhaps the most startling effect of the current conditions within our prisons is seen in the desperation for those charged with offences, both on bail and remanded within prison, to plead guilty to the offences charged simply to get out of, or avoid, the appalling conditions in our prison system. Criminal barristers are highlighting that guilty pleas have “got nothing to do with guilt or innocence – they just can’t spend any more time in those conditions”.[4] The consequences for basic human rights of the preceding quote are stark. Not only are the 23 hour-a-day lockdowns in prisons destroying the mental health and threatening the safety of prisoners, but they are potentially causing innocent people to admit to crimes that they haven’t committed, simply to avoid spending up to 23 hours a day in a locked cell.

Cardiff Amnesty reiterates it’s call to any concerned citizens, and to Amnesty International to start taking this grave human rights abuse seriously. It is entirely right and proper for Amnesty UK to take a globalist view to human rights abuses but it cannot ignore the same evils that are present in our own country.

If you would like to work with us on this campaign you can email amnesty.cardiff@btinternet.com or follow our social media here.

[1] All sources quoted are written since 13th February 2021.

[2] Covid in Scotland: Prison cases ‘almost double’ in a week – BBC News

[3] Prison officers ‘lambs to slaughter’ as prison Covid infections quadruple – LBC

[4] Suspects awaiting trial pleading guilty to escape 22-hour Covid prison lockdowns – Mirror Online

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