by Seth Olner
Cardiff Amnesty have now been campaigning against excessive cellular confinement in UK prisons since before the COVID-19 pandemic, when approximately 20% of prisoners were held in cells for over 22 hours a day. During the pandemic the situation became even more grave as the vast majority of prisoners were contained within the walls of their tiny cells for at least 23 hours a day. For most, this was done under conditions equating to solitary confinement, while others shared a cell only 3m by 2m in size with a cellmate, clueless as to whether or not either had contracted coronavirus. These conditions have been prolonged since the imposition of lockdown restrictions in 2020. As such the British government’s treatment of its prisoners is tantamount to torture and puts it in clear contradiction with the international minimum requirements, named the Mandela Rules.
Not only does this endanger the health of prisoners (despite the government’s responsibility to take precautions preventing ill health), the inability of prisoners to take part in education, exercise and contact with both loved ones and other prisoners severely hinders the chances of successful rehabilitation, doing a disservice to all parties involved.
When confronted with this information, the Cardiff group submitted a motion at the 2020 AIUK AGM that was passed, establishing an activist-led campaign on the issue. Since our first meeting in the summer of last year this working group has collated extensive testimony from prisoners regarding this cruel and inhumane treatment.
One prisoner interviewed kept a pandemic diary, and on day 492 reflected on their torturous experience as a “time of abject torture, ill health, death and no hope.”
With no widespread easing of these far-reaching restrictions within the prisons system, Amnesty remains determined to fight for an end to this inhumanity and serve as an advocate for all those unjustly affected by it.
After numerous roadblocks on the way, the campaign is still as active as ever and in the process of pressuring those in power to alleviate the torment of those detained in Her Majesty’s Prisons.
Stay tuned for further details on our campaign and please get involved. This is an issue the government are determined to keep out of the public eye and as such it is our duty to hold them to account.
If you would like to hear more about this campaign or the work of Cardiff Amnesty more broadly then email firstname.lastname@example.org .